Placing women in positions of power would make for a better campus, society and world. As International Women’s Day has come and gone, it is important to remember all the work that has been done to support women throughout our University’s history, along with all the work that still needs to be done.
Since Olivia Davis became the first woman to graduate in 1905, and Merceds Garig was hired as the first faculty member in 1909, the University has made huge strides toward empowering women. The recent implementation of programs such as the Period Project, along with breastfeeding rooms around campus show that the University has taken small steps towards accommodating women to the extent they deserve.
The Office of Diversity has worked hard on programs like these to try and make the campus a place for all—not just the historically advantaged. However, there is still institutional change needed.
The LSU Board of Supervisors is the ultimate decision-making body for the LSU community. Even though the majority of the student body is made up of women, only two out of the 15 board members are female, meaning a meager 13% of the decision-making board is comprised of women.
Descriptive representation is essential to fixing the systematic problems women face in any large organization. We need more women in the top levels of leadership throughout LSU in order to start solving problems that women have faced for decades.
One of the most pressing problems for women on campus is a lack of support for those in administrative positions. LSU junior Alaysia Johnson identified the problem when she stated, “We have more seats at the table but no resources for those women.”
Outside of the University, the state of Louisiana is also plagued with gender inequality. A report from the American Association of University Women shows that Louisiana ranks 51st nationally for the largest gender wage gap in the country. Louisiana women are paid 69 cents for every dollar that men make, and women of color are paid just 54 cents to the dollar.
These statistics showcase a problem often overlooked by those in non-marginalized communities: the problem of intersectional identity. Many women are not only discriminated against on the basis of gender, but also for their race and sexual orientation. Black queer women have had the cards stacked against them in almost every community imaginable. Representation cannot just stop at gender; we must help women of color and those in the LGBTQ+ community as well.
Additionally, the conditions of paid sick leave and maternity leave are dismal in Louisiana; women all over the state are left without these essential protections. Gender norms and expectations dictate that women should simply quit when going through motherhood, putting their careers on hold.
It is time we quit these gender stereotypes and put protections in place, so that women can be free to live and pursue any life or career path they wish without having to sacrifice a family for a career, and vice versa.
The solution to these problems is not complex. Put women in charge. If the University wants to create real change and make the campus a better place for the majority of students, the best place to start is by considering a woman for the president position. De facto gatekeepers can keep women out of key leadership positions by simply refusing to consider them. The current leadership must conduct a fair and open search for the next president and chancellor of the University, and should seriously consider female candidates.
As the days of March pass, Women’s History Month passes with them. The historic significance of women who have fought for change cannot be understated. However, the fight is not over. The problems women face have been mitigated, but not eliminated.
Across the world, people are rising up and protesting the treatment of women. Activism and protesting is a viable way to raise awareness, but the real change must come in how the public treats women every day. Celebrate this month and celebrate the women in your life, but don’t let the status quo ever be enough when there is so much more to do.
Cory Koch is a 20-year-old political science senior from Alexandria, Louisiana.