Saint Mary’s Communication Studies department to explore intersectionality with ‘Why Don’t Women Rule the World?’
Hannah Thomas | Friday, November 8, 2019
Terri Russ, a communication studies associate professor at Saint Mary’s, will teach a new spring semester seminar on “Women, Leadership, and Communication” beginning in 2020. The seminar is titled “Why Don’t Women Rule the World?,” taking its name from one of the course texts.
“I used to teach a seminar focused on female beauty and how it operates as a discourse controlling women’s bodies and existence,” Russ said in an email. “While beauty as a discourse still operates in this way, I decided to reframe the class to focus on women as leaders.”
This seminar was inspired by the distinct difference in the number of male executives to female, Russ said. Women, especially women of color, have still faced inequality in leadership positions, she said.
“There exist many reasons for this inequitable gendered distribution of leadership positions, including the fact that American women today are still enmeshed in a history of cultural practices that dictate how we should behave and appear,” the syllabus reads.
This seminar will address the expectations women are held to that preclude them from assuming executive positions.
“Daily, we [women] are confronted with these discursive double blinds that demand we be quiet and dainty at the same time we are strong and confident,” the syllabus reads. “These then are the assumptions on which this course is based … that even today women, despite greater access to educational resources, still confront inequitable access to formal leadership roles.”
The course will begin by examining Kimberlé Crenshaw’s concept of intersectionality and “the role it plays in how we ‘do’ identity and how all identity expectations are formalized through systemic and structural mechanisms that reinforce dominant gendered norms,” the syllabus states.
Crenshaw coined the term “intersectionality” in 1989 to describe the intersection of race, gender and social status within identity.
Many more topics and discussions will take place to get students to think critically about career development for women and the barriers they could potentially face, Russ said.
“I hope they will gain a comprehensive understanding of the various obstacles they are likely to face as they enter the world after college and dare to take on the label of ‘leader,’” Russ said.
Russ said she hopes students will be more prepared for their futures as they work towards their goals, keeping in mind they might face challenges that could potentially limit their ambitions.
“One of the key things this class offers is opening a space in which students can reflect on what it means to be a woman in 2020 and hear about the experiences of women who are actively engaging with being a leader during a time when women are still considered lesser-than,” Russ said.
There will be guest speakers throughout the course to offer different perspectives into being a female in today’s workforce.
“I am excited to have the opportunity to not only discuss what it means to be a woman leader at this moment in time, but also to allow for multi-generational collaboration and support,” Russ said.