The university is hosting panels, speakers, a leadership retreat and more to celebrate Women’s History Month to honor and explore the role of women throughout history.
“It’s always useful to have at least a month to focus and say, ‘Hey, what’s happening with women’s contribution to culture and history?” said Jaime Harker, director of the Sarah Isom Center for Women and Gender Studies. “For us, it’s really just a great opportunity to remind people that (women’s history), just like black history, is not just one month but all year.”
This year marks the first Women’s History Month since national attention has been brought to sexual misconduct of powerful individuals such as Harvey Weinstein and Kevin Spacey that spearheaded movements such as #MeToo and Time’s Up.
“What you’re witnessing right now are a bunch of social movements that are unfolding where people are finding their voices and they are finding their voices through the bravery of (Tarana) Burke,” said Theresa Starkey, associate director of the Isom Center. “They are opening up this space where suddenly voices are heard. Those that have been sort of silenced are now finding that and there is something sort of brave and fierce about that.”
This year’s keynote address will be delivered by Burke, who created the #MeToo movement.
“The #MeToo movement has been such an influential movement that, I think, bringing in the founder is a really nice opportunity to think about it more broadly,” Harker said. “University is supposed to open up the world of ideas to students, so when you have the opportunity to bring folks who are smart, interesting and doing things that are having a huge cultural impact, it’s always a benefit for students.”
Burke’s address will be part of the fourth annual Women’s Empowerment Awards, and she is expected to speak about the genesis of the #MeToo movement.
The event’s organizers attempted to include topics pertaining to women nationally and here on campus.
“It’s sort of this collaborative effort of people coming together and talking about important issues, specifically dealing with women and recognition and helping to tackle the problems that we see in our culture and especially in terms of thinking about what we see women dealing with,” Starkey said.
Law professor and Housing Clinic director Desiree Hensley will lead a roundtable discussion hosted by the Isom Center today. She will speak on the lack of affordable housing in Oxford and its relation to gender.
Other events later in the month include a March 26 town hall to discuss the lingering wage gap at the university. It will be focused around a wage gap report that was recently released for the first time in 10 years. On March 28, there will be a discussion on the best practices for helping women through the promotion and tenure process.
Women’s History Month will be capped off with the 18th annual Isom Student Gender Conference, scheduled to be held April 4-6.
This year’s calendar is dedicated to the founding director of the Sarah Isom Center for Women and Gender Studies, Joanne Hawks, who died in July 1998. Hawks, whose tenure lasted from 1972 to 1998, was a professor of history and the last dean of women at the university.
A full list of events can be found at the Isom Center’s website.