Student organization engages campus community in chats about gender equity

Academics,

At Lake Erie College, a new student organization is choosing to tackle tough conversations about gender equity head on.

Created by LEC student Isabel Rodriguez ’19, the Gender Equity Club seeks to “put an end to discrimination, mistreatment and disadvantages based on gender,” both on campus and more broadly.

Rodriguez, a political science major, felt inspired to create the club after reflecting on how she has been treated as a female over the course of her life. “The group turned into something much bigger very quickly, as I didn’t want to exclude men or discourage them or anyone else from learning about gender equity,” she said.

She seeks to open discussions about the contentious gender wage gap, among other issues.

Data from organizations such as the National Center for Education Statistics (NCES) and the American Association of University Women (AAUW) may catalyze these discussions. For instance, according to the NCES, women, as the most educated demographic, take on more education loan debt than men. On average, women hold $833 billion of the nation’s $1.3-trillion student debt, nearly 2/3, compared to the $477 billion that men hold (AAUW). Despite this, women’s wage-parity slides a few years after graduation. By discussing social inequities, norms and barriers surrounding gender, the Gender Equity Club hopes to increase awareness as a means for effecting change.

“I want to find a group of people on campus who are interested in anything that falls under gender, who want to learn more and help educate,” said Rodriguez. “All students can participate by just showing up to our meetings, contributing their ideas, or even sparking a conversation on anything pertaining to gender.”

Rodriguez, originally from West Dundee, Ill., has drummed up a sense of community as a college ambassador, Academic Affairs Student Advisory Committee representative, resident assistant and LEC bookstore worker in addition to her role as founder/chair of the Gender Equity Club.

One of five siblings raised by a single mother, she strives for progress.

“My mother has always tried to instill in me a sense of assertiveness. She is unapologetically herself wherever she stands,” she said, “and is always learning more and seeing what she can do to better herself and the opportunities she gives her children.”

Rodriguez also recognizes Kim Robare, director of student life and engagement, as a female role model at LEC. The student leader believes that educated women in positions of authority need not walk the precarious line of being seen as overly assertive versus compassionate.

“Kim has set a great example for young women on this campus and has taught me that it is a good thing to vocalize when I am not okay with something,” she said. “I do many things that force me to be comfortable with being uncomfortable, which is how I know I'm growing and coming closer to my goals.”

Though still new, the Gender Equity Club, advised by Assistant Professor of Communication Nichole Kathol PhD and Graduate Assistant Katherine Holden, has already begun making a difference. The club recently collected over 150 items in a drive for the Domestic Violence and Child Advocacy Center in honor of Domestic Violence Awareness Month.

Lake Erie College applauds students like Rodriguez who lead diplomatic, inclusive social action, giving opportunities across demographics and challenging apathy and antipathy alike.

Along these lines, LEC recently launched a minor in gender, sexuality & women’s studies. Learn more about that here.

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