The world feels heavy right now. Even heavier than it has felt these past weeks and months. As women, our daily lives are filled with the burdens of a society that values us as less than. This has been evident and discussed at length since March 2020, as the pandemic has had a disproportionate impact on women and a regressive effect on gender equality. Feelings of anger, sadness and despair are elevated after the recent leak of the Supreme Court’s draft opinion to overturn Roe v. Wade, but as educators we are agents of change in so many ways. We can lift each other up with everyday acts of affirmation and resistance.
On the day the news of the leaked draft opinion hit, I doomscrolled and absorbed the outrage and the analysis. I honestly would have stayed under the covers if I didn’t have a collegewide event to coordinate that afternoon. I, of course, carried out my responsibility and headed to the event. Unsurprisingly, the event buoyed my spirits. Spending an afternoon with a group of community college educators dedicated to a socially just world where their students and their communities can thrive felt like an act of resistance.
We work in an industry that was created for white male landowners. We’ve made some progress, but not enough. As a white, cisgender female with considerable privilege, I am a work in progress while I work to develop habits and ways of being that are small acts of resistance. I’ve also gotten things wrong with grace.
How about you? What can you do today that is a small act of resistance? How are you seeing colleagues assist in promoting equity? As you head to campus or your computer, think about what your capacity is for mindfully elevating women at your institution. Resistance and assistance don’t have to be big gestures. Options can include acts such as:
- Inventory your strengths and communicate them—shining a light on your strengths increases your confidence. We need to take up space.
- Tell a woman you admire the strengths you see in her.
- When asked to speak on a panel, inquire whether other women, especially BIPOC women, are included. All-male and all-white panels perpetuate the underrepresentation and misrepresentation of women and women of color as well as transgender and nonbinary colleagues. If the panel does not include diverse representation, consider making it a condition of your participation. (Google “manels” and “wanels” to learn more.)
- Intentionally build your network of other women. Women need the support of other women to combat inequities. If you are a man, advocate for increased gender equity in your networks.
- Find a community of like-minded women or create one, such as an affinity group, a book club, a women’s network or a community of practice.
- Learn about issues around equality that interest you and share what you learn. Take an intersectional approach and support BIPOC and LGBTQ+ authors, teachers and leaders as part of your learning strategy.
- Create boundaries around the uncompensated, invisible and emotional labor of your job, such as managing your own feelings in order to manage others or advising BIPOC students about navigating a predominantly white campus.
- Create boundaries around your availability.
- Commit to getting the sleep, nourishment and rest you need.
- Intentionally facilitate meetings so women are heard.
- Amplify the work of women at your institution through awards, recognition, assignments or social media.
- Set an expectation that white men in positions of authority will intentionally use their privilege to amplify women’s contributions.
- Offer to mentor an employee or student.
What inspiring acts of resistance and assistance are you seeing right now? What is one thing you can do to resist or to assist, even if it is small?
Kim Burns served for 26 years in leadership and administration roles in Massachusetts community colleges. She now provides expertise and support to institutions and individuals as a certified coach and consultant drawing on a wealth of experiences. Learn more about her at drkimburns.com.