Feminism redefined for a new generation

It’s the beginning of my final semester at Tech and I found myself with a senior design group composed of myself and five guys. Say hello to the infamous Tech ratio.

It is hard to believe that it was only slightly more than 50 years ago that the first female undergraduates were enrolled at Tech. And they had to fight hard for it; the first co-ed proposal from then-President Van Leer was rejected, and for the first 15 years, admission was limited to programs such as engineering that were not offered within USG. Today, our presence at Tech feels like an entitlement, a right that we do not even question or take the time to be grateful for. Should that enough for us?

This fight is about being able to prove myself as a person regardless of my gender

The underlying issue we still face today, beyond harmless sexist jokes or outright gender discrimination, is that whether we like it or not—having to put in more work to gain the same level of recognition or respect, or attributing your success or failure to you being a woman. At the end of the day, our performance and what we do is constantly defined by our gender; we’re ‘doing well for a woman.’ And I feel that we’ve come so far in the last 50 years that we would be doing a disservice to our forefathers, or foremothers, by settling for that.

To me, this fight is about being able to prove myself as a person regardless of my gender. Fighting for equality isn’t being one of the guys, or trying to be more like a man. It’s about gaining respect for yourself because of what you do rather than be judged by your gender, to be judged along the same societal standards and not having to work so hard to gain the same amount of approval a man has to work less for.

There weren’t any societal norms about how girls were supposed to behave.

I grew up with three sisters and parents who had very modern mind sets. I had Barbie dolls and Hot Wheels race tracks, I attended both ballet and karate lessons. There weren’t any societal norms about how girls were supposed to behave. Both my parents worked full-time jobs and managed the household together. I remember my mum taking my then two-months old baby sister along with her for an overseas business trip. That was the high standard of a modern, independent woman I was raised with, and to believe that there was nothing a man could do that I couldn’t do.

But statistics of woman in the workplace are depressing. Although we make up 50 percent of the work force, only three percent of the Fortune 500 CEOs are women. Even now, the income disparity between genders is gaping. Sadly, much of it is attributed to not being able to keep up to the same work ‘standards’ as men due to maternity leave or family commitments.

Feminism today shouldn’t be about trying to do it all, balance a high-flying career while chaperoning children between practices and juggling impossible expectations of the modern, independent woman. It should be about having the freedom and power to shape the way we want our lives to turn out. Not having to settle for anything less than what you deserve.