On March 14, West Chester University hosted a Ruth Bader Ginsburg film event in honor of Women’s History Month. Sponsored by the College of Business and Public Management and the Center for Women and Gender Equity, the event showed the documentary “RBG,” and followed with a panel discussion.
The panel consisted of female professionals, who took questions from Dr. Susan Fiorentino on gender in the workplace. For the first question, Dr. Fiorentino asked the women how they keep a work-life balance. Dr. Neal McFall responded that work-life balance changes, and with kids at home, it helps to have a supportive significant other. She quoted the Ginsburg book, stating that “the obligation for working mothers is a very precise one,” and elaborating that this is not a realistic standard for women.
Next, Dr. Fiorentino asked the panel, “Have you seen or experienced sexism in your education or workplace?” Judge Lazarus shared an anecdote when she worked as a law clerk, there was no maternity policy; “One of them wouldn’t have thought of a maternity policy if it had fallen on his head,” she said. However, another boss had a much better maternity policy, which was “to take three months off, then come in on the baby’s schedule.” Referencing the film, Lazarus believes that “Justice Ginsberg set the tone for equality that trickles from the top down.”
Richmond, J.D. weighed in, stating that in her experience, “It’s microaggressions that happen as the result of unconscious biases.” For example, she explained that she prefers to take time to think about her answer to a question in the classroom and that men have spoken over her in these situations. She advised that women take note of what Ginsberg did when she experienced sexism: when a professor made advances on her by giving her test answers, Ginsberg gave the answers back and called him out on his mistake.
Dr. Monturo added that a previous supervisor made advances towards her. When she denied him, he began to constantly write her up. When she brought this up to human resources, she was told, “You’re a nurse. He’s a physician. He wins.” She left the position.
The panel was then asked, “What is the one piece of practical advice you would give to someone starting in their career?”
Dr. McFall: “Choose your priorities. Focus on what’s important to you.”
Dr. Monturo: “Take one thing that feeds your soul and do it every day.”
Lazarus: “Sometimes taking a C on the exam and doing what you need to do in your life is just as important as getting an A.”
Robinson: “Always ask for more. Protect your reputation.”
In response to the question “Why do you think RBG has become such a cultural icon?” the women said:
Richmond, J.D.: “RBG contributed to the commodification of feminism; millenials have helped to create her as a cultural icon.”
Lazarus: “When RBG writes a dissent, that’s what the law becomes. She shows our human voice to us every once in a while, and she redefined the role of a mother.”
Dr. McFall: “The law was not her job; it is who she was. She had the ability to hear everyone’s perspectives, and that goes a long way.”
Alexis Lincoln is a third-year student majoring in English writings with a minor in journalism. AL892562@wcupa.edu