The presentation titled “Empowering Every Woman” focused on what can be done to uplift and empower women who may have marginalized intersecting identities.
The program was hosted by Emily Sheehan and Laura in Sykes Ballroom B starting at 3 p.m. and ending at 4:30 p.m. on Friday, Oct. 20.
The program featured 15 people, along with several staff members from the Center for Women and Gender Equity.
Both hosts serve as graduate assistants at the Center for Women and Gender Equity.
Sheehan is a second-year graduate student currently pursuing her master’s degree in higher education counseling and student affairs at West Chester University.
Laura is a third-year graduate student in business and marketing management and currently serves as a global ambassador.
She also works as a peer educator in the Center for Women and Gender equity.
The presentation was delivered through Powerpoint and group activities, as well as discussion where people were able to share their stories of “empowerment,” “disempowerment” and the ways in which women can uplift other women on campus and in their communities.
The first activity consisted of giving students necklaces with tags on them, not being able to look at their own tag.
Students were told to “interact silently” with the others in the group as everyone turned their tags over.
Some students shook hands with each other, some smiled while others were ignored.
This exercise was to show that they were never told directly to do as the nametags said— only to “interact silently.”
The presenters then went on to discuss how we can break the status quo of what we think we “should” and “should not” do when interacting with others.
The presenters showed a Powerpoint about Halloween costumes and what costumes are considered “cultural appropriation” that could further “disempower” other women.
Examples included costumes of Native Americans, Japanese kimonos and sugar skulls in the tradition of the Mexican holiday, Day of the Dead.
Afterwards, students got into groups and discussed examples of empowerment and what empowerment looked like in action.
The presentation then went on to define “empowerment” and “disempowerment.”
Examples of “empowerment” included uplifting the voices of other women and spreading positivity. Examples of “disempowerment” included taking credit for other women’s accomplishments (with examples such as Kylie Jenner) and expecting women to follow beauty standards.
When asked what students would do when they saw someone being disempowered, students replied with examples such as validating those women and standing up for others.
Following these examples, the presenters went on to discuss strategies for empowering women on campus.
They suggested showing up to events that focus on equity and empowerment for other women, such as the Women Leading Up session titled “Building Up a Good Resume.” This event will be held on Nov. 17 at 3 p.m. in the Sykes Ballrooms.
To end the discussion, students discussed moments when they feel empowered, and how they would act to empower other women. Statements included “I feel empowered when people listen” and “I will empower by uplifting other women.”
Sharon F. George was a former graduate of the class of 2012 at West Chester University. She discussed her experiences of feeling very disempowered at her previous job where she was often talked over.
After a period of time, she realized she was “excellent at what [she] did” and proved herself as a leader. Since leaving her previous job for “lack of growth opportunities,” she now works at Sherwin Williams and worked for their Management and Sales training program for “business minded grads.”
Through support from leadership, she was able to gain confidence in her role when she was an assistant manager at one of the stores.
Now, she works as a recruiter for seven of their districts because of her “empowerment” from her previous experiences.
Emily Sheehan, one of the two hosts of the program, believes that women have different obstacles, and that their struggles are very unique from one another.
She was inspired to be an activist for women after taking a “Women in American Politics” class, where she was able to read feminist literature about intersectionality.
When asked why she wanted to host this program, she said, “when we look at empowerment, we only look at it through one lens.” Sheehan hopes that events like these can inspire and uplift women of all different backgrounds.
The Center of Women and Gender Equity is located at 220 Lawrence Center. They can be contacted by phone at (610) 436-2122 or via their website at wcupa.edu/womenscenter.
Samantha Walsh is a second-year student majoring in special education and English with a minor in autism studies. She can be reached at SW850037@wcupa.edu.