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While UNC aims to empower female leaders, the gaps still persist

Alli Whitenack (left) and Jessica Bolin are the new co-presidents for Campus Y, their term started March 9 — the day they received the keys for their new office.  

Alli Whitenack (left) and Jessica Bolin are the new co-presidents for Campus Y, their term started March 9 — the day they received the keys for their new office.  

Though the majority of the students on campus identify as female, students and faculty are seeking to close the gaps that still persist, especially in the University system. 

57.6 percent of undergraduates, graduate and professional students are female, compared to the 42.4 percent of this population that is male. But out of the University faculty, 48 percent are female and 52 percent are male. 

The faculty of the biology department, too, is disproportionately male compared to its population of female students. Department chairperson Victoria Bautch said the department has been working proactively to increase the representation of women. Even when female students are equally qualified, unconscious biases about the stereotypes of leaders often affect the ease with which a woman assumes a leadership role, Bautch said. 

“If they’re not socialized or coached to that, it doesn’t happen,” she said. 

Jessica Bolin and Alli Whitenack, the newest co-presidents of the Campus Y, praised female faculty members in leadership at the University level, but they are seeking justice in the other overlooked aspects of gender dynamics. 

Both Bolin and Whitenack cited a need for increased diversity in leadership. They said they have been fortunate to gain leadership positions in communities of male allies or female students, but these organizations still lack representation of women of color. 

“The more women and the more women of color that the University hires and promotes, the more empowered women and women of color on the campus will be,” Whitenack said. 

In addition, Whitenack and Bolin agreed that some of the insidious ways that female students are marginalized is the University’s handling of sexual assault. 

“While the University has a lot of great resources for this, from the Carolina Women’s Center to Title IX, I think UNC from an administrative standpoint could be doing a lot more to make women and other people from marginalized genders feel safer on campus from assault, specifically with holding fraternities accountable,” Bolin said.

Whitenack echoed this sentiment. As a former co-chair of Carolina Advocating for Gender Equity, she spent a lot of energy advocating for policies that benefit women.  

“There’s just a lack of belief, lack of support and a lot of victim-blaming that happens on this campus,” Whitenack said. “Men and sometimes other women tend to not take you seriously or kind of push your work aside as unimportant,” Whitenack said, specifically referring to a prevalent idea that many women are falsely accusing men of sexual assault. 

This is a myth, Whitenack said, and sexual assault false reporting is one of the lowest percentages of all crimes in terms of false reporting. 

When Susan King, dean of the School of Media and Journalism, she graduated school and entered the journalism field, she was normally the only woman in the newsroom. 

When she began applying for jobs, King was not asked what she could do, but how fast she could type. Available jobs for female professionals were scarce, so King began her professional career as a secretary. Soon, though, there was a push for greater visibility of gender equality in the workplace. 

“I sort of rode the crest of the women’s movement,” King said. “All of a sudden there was a big push for women in the workforce, particularly in television, where there was a high visibility.”

Workplace representation of female students in journalism has improved, and there are a lot of strong figures in newsrooms. But as far as leadership positions, King said there are not enough women at the top. 

In the School of Media and Journalism, King started a women’s leadership program and speaker series, and she aims to have female speakers as often as possible. She said she aims to increase mutual respect among students of all genders, and put success stories in front of young women.

“(Women have) got to be prepared, they’ve got to have the skills, they’ve got to work hard, they’ve got to have the talent, they’ve got to have the drive," King said. "No one’s going to do it for them.”

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