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Luncheon brings together award winners to discuss gender equity

Laurie McNeil talks about her contributions to pursuing gender equity.
Laurie McNeil talks about her contributions to pursuing gender equity.

The event was organized by Clare Counihan, the program coordinator for faculty and staff at the Carolina Women’s Center.

She said the idea behind the luncheon was to increase the recognition given to previous UAAW winners and to give them a platform to share their ideas with the public.

“We wanted to expand the celebration, and then the other thing we wanted to do was really draw on the knowledge that previous winners represent,” she said.

“They have all accomplished remarkable things in their various corners of the University.”

The four previous award winners in attendance were Robert Pleasants, Laurie McNeil, Terri Phoenix and Jenny Ting. Each brought their own perspective to the overall discussion of gender equity.

Ting, a professor in the UNC School of Medicine and program leader at the UNC Lineberger Comprehensive Cancer Center, said she attended the event to tell her story in an effort to inspire women to advance their careers and society in general.

“I just thought: It’s important that you come and tell people your experience, so people can say ‘Oh if she can do it, I can do it,’” she said.

“I’ve actually frequently had people who’ve said ‘If you can do it, I feel like I can do it,’ and I don’t think I’m anything supernatural or special.”

Geography Ph.D. student Sertanya Reddy said seeing just how much progress the previous UAAW winners have made in their positions motivated her.

“It’s inspiring for me as a young student, who’s starting off my career as an early professional, to learn from people who are further along in their careers and to learn lessons about how they’ve advocated for women’s rights and done important social justice work,” she said.

Although the UAAW awards are dedicated primarily to the advancement of women, Phoenix, the director of UNC’s LGBTQ Center, said people should strive to expand gender equity beyond just men and women to include all gender identities.

“I think looking at what you are doing and paying attention — where am I and what am I doing, am I leaving out someone and how can I change what I’m doing so that I’m not leaving out someone?” Phoenix said.

Ting said she was pleased with the outcome of the event and was happy to have been invited to participate in it.

“I think this was a great reason to have senior members come and talk, and it’s great that there were two female faculty, one male faculty and one transgender (staff member) come and discuss the challenges each one has or what each one tried to promote for the whole campus,” she said.

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