By Vinitha Raj
This week, social media newsfeeds have been full of pictures of Hoyas posing with written testimonies of their HeforShe commitments. HeforShe is a United Nations initiative to promote gender equality, specifically drawing men into the movement. Launched in September 2014 by UN Goodwill Ambassador Emma Watson, the campaign petitions men to go online and sign a pledge to be ambassadors for gender equality. Another part of the campaign, the HeforShe IMPACT 10x10x10, chose 10 governments, corporations, and universities as international partners to be ambassadors within their own communities. Georgetown was one of two American schools chosen.
In a February 2016 press release, Georgetown announced its three goals for its role in this campaign: a commitment to gender justice through its Institute for Women, Peace and Security; an understanding of sexual misconduct on campus, specifically through the campus climate survey; and a support of the Georgetown’s Women’s Alliance, a community for women across campus.
The direction for HeforShe at Georgetown comes from the UN Women HeForShe IMPACT report, which highlighted three areas in which universities can improve to give women a greater chance at equality. First, the ratio of men to women in university faculty and administrative positions is disparate. Next, the fields of study chosen by men and women are divided, often based on stereotypes about which kinds of careers each gender should pursue. Finally, equal access to academic resources at universities must be provided to females. These three issues have been problems for decades, and fixing them will greatly increase females’ access to higher education, which opens doors to future careers and empowering women in all aspects of life.
Additionally, HeforShe issued a special announcement related to gender violence, including the often-cited 1 in 3 statistic of women worldwide who have faced physical or sexual violence. Universities especially must make conscious efforts to prevent these incidents from happening, as well as to provide support and justice to survivors.
Georgetown’s HeforShe made its mission transparent by asking members of the Georgetown community to make a commitment to personally foster gender equality in our campus as the school year began. As hundreds of Hoyas posed with their written pledges, goals included standing up for women, pushing for equality in fields where women are underrepresented, and allying with women of color.
Seeing these petitions has been truly inspiring. The photos of various community members captured the diversity among Hoyas, just as what was written on the piece of paper united our community through one common goal of equality of the sexes. It will be interesting in the future to see whether and how students keep their promises, as well as to learn about ways they have stood up against inequality thanks to this Georgetown-specific campaign.
The most interesting result from the HeforShe campaign is the comparison of universities around the world. The HeforShe report showed that Georgetown and other Western and American countries were higher than many others in terms of equal enrollment of genders in undergraduate programs, but that the number of females compared to males pursuing higher education sharply declines. Exploring this and related phenomena by region will provide a basis for improving gender issues in each specific area and will allow countries, whether closing the gender gap or facing serious continued disparities, to strategically work toward progress.
The HeforShe campaign raises awareness on a global scale, and each of the 10 IMPACT organizations localizes the solution to the problem. Starting change from the individual level around the world can create waves that can change an entire generation.
Like Georgetown University HeforShe on Facebook to learn more about on-campus initiatives and to play an active role in giving everyone an equal chance to succeed on our campus!