I don’t know much about the field of STEM. I have never been interested math and science, so I never once tried to learn more about STEM or look into a major in that discipline. However, while talking to one of my best friends in the engineering school about her lack of female friends in her major, I realized that I was part of the problem. Women are the minority in STEM, but other women, including myself, don’t help the situation. With this in mind, I asked different women in the Engineering School about what helps them create a cohesive support system within this male dominated field. The Society for Women Engineers was the overwhelming response, so I talked to the president, a fourth year student, Rachel Kumar.
1. What is your position in the organization and what do your responsibilities entail? As the president of SWE at UVA, I identify strategic goals and lead their execution. I also serve as the liaison between national and regional levels of SWE, and I am the main point of contact for other organizations, including the Center for Diversity in Engineering and the Engineering School.
2. What are the goals of the Society for Women Engineers? What does your organization do to achieve these goals? We aim to inspire women to achieve their full potential in STEM fields, in which women are traditionally underrepresented. Our goal is to support the success of women in engineering through professional development, social activities, and community outreach. Over the past few years we’ve promoted professional skills development through workshops in design thinking, interviewing, entrepreneurship, and more. Our social activities include Charlottesville must-dos like apple picking at the scenic Carter Mountain and hiking Humpback, and also unique opportunities like having dinner at the Dean of Engineering’s house in the spring. We also have especially strong outreach programs.
3. How does your club differ from other engineering clubs? SWE differs from other engineering organizations because we don’t necessarily focus on the technical aspects of engineering, but more on invaluable soft skills such as networking and effective communication that are often overlooked in an academic setting. SWE is also unique in that it provides the opportunity for women to network and collaborate across disciplines; our members come from all engineering majors. Finally, what’s wonderful about SWE is that members’ involvement in SWE can continue beyond college– no matter what stage of life you’re in you’ll have a support system and people advocating for your success.
Even though our celebration of International Women’s Month is coming to a close, women should be celebrated all year round. On the grounds of UVA, we have some of the most intelligent, innovative, and compassionate female minds in the world. Many women that have walked UVA grounds, of all ages and backgrounds, are breaking ground and activating change. Here are 5 UVA women who are particularly inspirational and exemplar of women we should look up to:
1. The Cavalier Daily 126th term Managing Board The Cavalier Daily has been the University’s premier daily newspaper since 1890. While this may not be just one single woman, the 126th managing board of the paper made great strides for UVA women as a team. What makes the 126th managing board (from last semester) so important is that for the first time in the history of the paper, it was an all-female staff. It took 126 years of managing boards before The Cavalier Daily saw an all-female board and it comes 43 years after the first woman was ever elected to the managing board. The 126th Cavalier Daily managing board shows that every leadership position at the paper was deserved and won by women.
2. Alyssa Dizon One UVA woman’s accomplishments have united the community of Charlottesville and UVA in the name of entrepreneurship. Alyssa Dizon, a fourth-year College student, is the former managing director of HackCville. HackCville is a community “clubhouse” that supplies members with skills that benefit them in careers in entrepreneurship and startups. As managing director, Dizon introduced HackCville to the UVA community and turned it into a student-run organization. Her efforts made HackCville what it is today. The organization reports that over 1,500 students attend their workshops per year on topics like business, tech, design, media, and career development. Dizon’s work with HackCville earned her a 2016 Venture for America Fellowship.
It was my third Sunday spent in Spain, my second time eating out, and perhaps my first time venturing out on my own into Valencia, the city that was to be my new home. A few weeks into my semester abroad, I finally started to feel at home – I didn’t get lost very often anymore, was no longer intimidated by the city, and found myself okay with the statement “lo siento, no entiendo español” (I’m sorry, I don’t understand Spanish). So, at 11 am on that beautifully sunny morning, I headed out to meet a friend for brunch. Excited for pancakes and happy to be alive, I smiled at the sky and the birds and the group of elderly people who were walking past. One of the old men, in his 70s or 80s, greeted me with “buenas” (Good morning), to which I responded with a customary “buenas”. Then, he quietly mumbled some words, with his two buddies of the same age curiously watching. I resorted to my catch phrase, explaining that I didn’t understand what he said. He, in turn, resorted to the simplest Spanish he could speak. “Si haces sexo, te pago”. If you have sex with me, I’ll pay.
Spain was beginning to feel like home, but I was not starting to feel any more Spanish than the day I arrived. My accent, my clothes, my skin… everything about me is completely un-Spanish. In fact, the only thing that this gentleman knew of me was precisely that I am not native. So, what made him approach me at 11 am on a Sunday morning, wearing a conservative dress, with minimal make up on, and confuse me for a prostitute? Could it have been the fact that I was following Googlemaps on my phone?
The word “foreign” has been popularized and transformed into a culturally and socially addictive term, used to describe anyone or anything deemed different, exotic, or unknown. But it has two very distinct connotations. When used to describe cars, drugs, pornography, or women, it is synonymous with sexy, attractive, or good. When it is used to describe immigrants, religions, or cultures abroad, it is scary and unknown. But both definitions share a dehumanizing effect that works to divide “us” and “them”, distancing the normal from these “foreign” objects.
In his hit radio anthem dedicated to “foreign” women, Trey Songz sings “Same old thing, yeah you know that shit’s boring / American, you know I had to cop that foreign”. In Drake’s song “Crew Love”, The Weeknd sings “Rooftop closed with a handful of girls and they all so foreign”. And Pitbull and Chris Brown’s “International Love”, perhaps the song with the most pop influence, uses stereotypes and wordplay such as “Down in DR they’re looking for visas / and I ain’t talking credit cards if you know what I mean” and “In Lebanon yeah the women the bomb” to describe a wide variety of foreign women. Ca$h Out’s “Another Country” features Future rapping “I’m driving in a space coupe, It was made in another country (foreign), If you see me with a bad b*tch, I guarantee she from another country (she foreign). In yet another radio hit “Say it”, Tory Lanez constantly refers to his foreign cars, opening with an honest introduction of “you wouldn’t want a young N**ga if I wasn’t in this foreign”. The list goes on and on.
The theme of this year’s Academy Awards was unofficially #OscarsSoWhite. For the second year in a row, there were zero black actors nominated for acting awards, despite the bevvy of prolific films that came out featuring black actors—including Straight Outta Compton, Beasts of NoNation, Creed, and Concussion. The elephant in the room was the lack of diversity in the theater and it certainly did not go unnoticed by host Chris Rock, as well as many of the night’s presenters and winners. Despite no nominations for black actors, the message was glaring; the discrimination that black actors face was front-and-center on Hollywood’s biggest night of the year.
Here are Top 5 moments when black actors won the night with their message for increasing diversity:
Chris Rock’s opening monologue was ten minutes of unforgiving jokes on racism and its existence beyond the award show.
He made light of the tense controversy, but while doing so emphasized that while no black actors being nominated is unfair, there are far more disturbing examples of racism towards black people that no one is talking about, but should be. “In this year’s ‘In Memoriam’ package,” Rock said “We will be showing black guys shot on their way to the movies.” Racism is real and Rock made us uncomfortably laugh while stirring dialogue in a necessary way.
The skit where black actors replace white nominees. One of the night’s video skits reimagined nominated movies with black actors. Including Whoopi Goldberg playing a janitor in Joy and telling Jennifer Lawrence to “say something!”, Tracey Morgan playing the title character in The Danish Girl, and Chris Rock getting stuck on Mars and purposely ignored by NASA in a Martian-parody. In this case, Eddie Redmayne probably was a better casting choice…
On February 26, the New York based organization Soapbox, Inc sponsored a feminist camp in Charlottesville. The original feminist camp is about a week long, but ours was only a day. The agenda consisted of multiple speakers, small groups, and times in between to talk amongst ourselves about the issues presented. Feminist Camp is a transformative program designed to expand and connect feminist networks. Soapbox, Inc began holding these camps in 2006.
The camp was devoted to the feminist topic of intersectionality, the idea that our identities lie at different intersections (gender, race, class, etc). The day was more conversational than presentational, letting the group really get to know each other in a short period of time.
I only had the luxury of covering the first portion of the day until lunch, but I learned so much in that short period of time. To start out, we introduced ourselves and then had a teleconference with the Democracy Now! staff. It was interesting to speak with an independent media source and learn how they function very differently than corporately-sponsored media, focusing less on getting the viewer to the commercial and more on issues that matter to the organization.
Then, we spoke with Jamia Wilson who works with Women, Action and the Media. She was a compelling speaker – candid, real, and gave us great advice on pursuing feminist careers in the real world. Wilson inspired me to own my major and to explain my passions to others in a way that helps them understand. I have a tendency to bend the truth about my major to certain people (expanding it to a more general Sociology as opposed to Women, Gender and Sexuality) if I think they’ll judge me negatively for it. Jamia made me realize that being judged by someone for following my passion only says something about the insecurity of the person judging, not about the lack of credibility of my degree. As a major advocate of feminism, I need to start openly standing behind it to the general public, not just behind a computer screen through my articles. Jamia gave us tips to meld tradition with feminism (including details of her wedding ceremony) and ways to help make it more accessible to the larger population.