Women of TRU share tales of gender imbalance in academia

TRUSU Equity Committee launched project to bring women’s experiences of inequality to light

Starting back in January, the TRUSU Equity Committee launched the Women of TRU project to provide women in academia the platform to share their experiences and stories of gender barriers and inequalities.

By interviewing seven women of all walks of life on campus, the Women of TRU project was able to discover some issues on campus around the mentorship of women, promotion, tenure and pay equality and sexualized violence.

In a three-page letter written to TRU President Brett Fairbairn, Sierra Rae, TRUSU VP Equity, invites the TRU administration to take into consideration these women’s stories for future campus improvements. This letter was comprised of the interviews of the project and an open conversation held in celebration of International Women’s Day on March 8.

The social media project had quite a large reach, racking over 34,000 hits on social media platforms and sparking conversations that might have been kept quiet due to stigma.

Among the seven women interviewed was Dean of Students Christine Adams. Adams is the leader of a vast array of professionals in charge of supporting students’ personal, academic, social and career development.

Adams spoke of her grandmother’s sacrifices that lead to the privilege of education she has spent the majority of her adult life immersed in.

“I realized that the hard work she and my grandfather had done created a foundation that allowed my mother to get a nursing education which thereby allowed me to access both undergraduate and graduate studies,” said Adams in her interview with the Women of TRU project. “She was humble, incredibly talented and a reminder to me of the privilege I have had to have a life based in education.”

An international student hailing from South Africa, Patience Nyoka, spoke of the hushed and stigmatized conversations of sexualized violence that often go without justice.

“It can be scary, especially for a woman of colour. You are often fighting two battles at once —how the world will react and what people think of you. As women, we don’t tend to believe in ourselves as a community,” said Nyoka in her interview. “It’s only petty differences that separate us. We can achieve so much more when we are working together.”

In the letter directed towards Fairbairn, Rae pushed the idea of providing mandatory gender equality courses in male-dominated paths such as trades, STEM and athletics, to help combat the “bystander effect” that passively encourages gender discrimination.

“When creating this sense of community and team through athletics there is absolutely no room for gender discrimination,” said TRU journalism alumni and events coordinator for the TRU WolfPack, Miranda Pham, in her interview for the project. “Every woman on campus deserves this level of support and I’d encourage women to reach out and talk about the struggles you face to help build that support network with other women.”

Rae is confident that this letter will spark some changes within the campus community. While there hasn’t been a response yet, Rae lists the Equity Committee’s strong relationship with the TRU administration as a positive support system.

To read all seven interviews you can find them at trusu.ca/news/equity/what-we-heard-women-of-tru/.