March Activities Put Spotlight on Women’s Issues
It’s March, and that means it’s Women’s Awareness Month at Georgia Tech.
The program, now in its 16th year, has become so established that many people don’t realize it’s a student-run initiative specifically for Tech, said Melanie DeMaeyer, coordinator of the Women’s Resource Center (WRC).
“Women, Science, and Technology (WST) always partners with us, but other activities will pop up that we may not even know about that’ll say ‘In Honor of Women’s Awareness Month,’” DeMaeyer said. “It’s always interesting to see that.”
Women’s Awareness Month is sponsored by the WRC and is designed to bring attention to women’s issues that might otherwise go unexplored on a predominantly male, technology-focused campus, said Melissa Gerrior, a graduate assistant in the WRC who served as advisor for this year’s student planning committee.
“Because Tech is such a STEM [science, technology, engineering, and mathematics] institution, there isn’t a lot of discussion surrounding more activist-y kind of issues,” Gerrior said. “So, we want the student body to be more informed about things like sexual violence, body image, and living in a society that sometimes marginalizes women.”
Events can and do vary from year to year, but several have become “signature” programs, DeMaeyer said.
Some years, like this one, the month actually kicks off in late February with Women’s Night on the Wall, a joint initiative with the Georgia Tech Campaign for EveryBODY.
To mark Women’s Awareness Month on the academic side, WST, in cooperation with the School of History, Technology, and Society, is hosting a research panel to discuss Women in the Middle East and South Asia (March 7) and a talk by Distinguished Lecturer Fiona Murray (March 27).
Perennially, DeMaeyer said, the most popular event for both men and women has to be Take Back the Night. Held at the Campanile and attended by anywhere between 400 to 600 students a year, Take Back the Night is a candlelight vigil to honor survivors of sexual assault and educate the campus community about issues related to rape and sexual violence.
“I think folks come together to really support their friends who are speaking out,’” DeMaeyer said. “You’ll have everyone from faculty to campus administrators and students out there, and you’ll have whole Greek organizations or other student groups come if somebody from their organization is speaking out. It’s just a really great program that shows the community of support that survivors have on our campus.”
Women’s Awareness Month grew out of the desire to “really put women out front” at a time when women weren’t as well represented at Tech as they are now, DeMaeyer said.
“Now, I really think it serves as an opportunity to help us create a strong community of women,” she added.