It was the summer of 2012. I had just started volunteering with an organization that was working to provide vocational training and employment to women from a remote Indian village to give them some means to empower themselves. I grew up in a city; sheltered from the harsh realities of the outside world. I had heard stories of gender inequality and discrimination, but had somehow convinced myself that it didn’t exist anymore in the modern world. To me, the plight of those women, the hardships and hurdles they faced to even voice their opinions, was disturbing, shocking and a rude awakening to reality. I saw women being oppressed and kept in denial of all rights to live as equal citizens. I realized that it wasn’t just in this remote village in India that women faced such inequality. It was a global phenomenon lurking even in the biggest organizations and powerful nations; threatening the values of equal human rights to all people.
Through my work in this project, I was also fortunate to work with extraordinary women who took every obstacle as an opportunity, challenged adversities and overcame hurdles to make life better not just for themselves but for the larger community around them. It gave me hope to look forward to opportunities to grow beyond obstacles.
At Whitman, I found such an opportunity in serving as the newly appointed President of the Whitman Women in Business (WWiB). This club brings together both men and women who are passionate about business and who believe in their talents and abilities and their rights to be equal. I work with a diverse executive board comprised of immensely talented and strong women, each with big dreams and the drive and commitment to chase after them. Each club meeting has served as a space for us to speak our mind, and learn from one another. Most importantly, this opportunity to discuss our challenges and successes that we face has allowed us to grow with each other.
We are aware of the difficulties that lie ahead of us, of the gnarling glass ceilings and the subtle yet ubiquitous presence of discrimination. And, as an organization, we believe that this is our chance to make a difference; this is our now! It may not be huge, it may not be loud; but we are working to make a change in our day to day lives.
Through reading groups, co-curricular activities and personality building exercises, we are empowering ourselves with knowledge, talent and abilities that make us better every day. Through social activities, organizing events and collaborating with local businesses and entrepreneurs, we are encouraging each other; finding our strengths and building on them to be the best that each of us can be. Every day, we remind ourselves of the wonderful things that we are capable of doing and find strength and inspiration to chase our dreams in the achievers and wonderful women we meet through our club activities. We are becoming cognizant of the walls built around us and we, in our own small ways, are knocking those walls down!