Student Projects Examine Attitudes Towards Women in the Workplace

Maddi Demaree
Women’s Issues Reporter

          Principia professors offer ample opportunities for student choice when it comes to projects. Some students take these opportunities to study relevant and important issues regarding women in the workplace.  

          In the Social Science Research Methods class, junior Marcella Nshimiyimana, sophomore Ronalyn Tiw-ac, and junior Caroline Gathogo are using skills they’ve learned throughout the semester to examine data about what Americans think a woman’s role in society should be.

Tiw-ac thinks the pay gap that exists between men and women is, “a result of how we see women and perceive their abilities compared to men.” She has been surprised to find that the data does not show a definitive answer to the question, “Should women have the same opportunities as men?”

The group was originally inspired to study this topic because of the great disparity that exists between numbers of female and male CEOS. Nshimiyimana states, “a change is made when everyone believes that women are capable of fulfilling higher positions [in the workplace] and we wanted to study what people think about this.”

All three of these women are international students, and they were surprised that the United States is far behind other countries in terms of representation in the legislative branch. Nshimiyimana explains, “my country (Rwanda) is actually number one in the world. 60% of our Parliament members are women.”

She is surprised by the fact that people in the United States are often fighting for minority rights but still have such poor representation of women in their elected representatives.

The students’ project will conclude at the end of the semester and will include a report on what more they discover about attitudes towards women in the workplace.

Senior Elaina Cokinos also worked on a project studying the treatment of working women in the education course, Teacher as Leader. Cokinos read the book Lean In by Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg and created a series of exercises for her classmates to complete as part of her presentation.

Through these exercises, she hoped to help her classmates develop a better sense of self-awareness “so we can understand when things are happening when they shouldn’t, we [can] be aware of people who are hurting in certain situations, and become successful by being more self-aware.”

Cokinos was interested in this project because, as she says, “I’ve always been passionate about business, but I’ve always felt like I’ve had to prove myself a little more than everyone else.” Lean In brings awareness to prejudices that women face in the workplace and shares practical steps that women and men can take to get closer to gender parity in terms of opportunity and pay.

The exercises that Cokinos conducted revealed that all students in Cokinos’ class had witnessed chauvinistic behavior towards women. However, the students were divided on other topics such as, “is it appropriate to tell a woman in a leadership role that she is pretty?” This topic prompted a very interesting discussion. Cokinos notes that the objective of the class was just to get people thinking and that some guys were baffled by the statistics and challenges that women face in the workplace.

These two projects are just a couple of examples of how students at Principia are using opportunities in their classes to raise awareness of gender biases that they wish to see changed.


Image courtesy of culture zone