April 17, 2014

Collegiate Perspective: Be the Next Martha Foote Crow

Unfortunately, women are sometimes stereotyped as shy and quiet. However, in today’s society—where there is so much opportunity for success—it’s dangerous to succumb to this stereotype. As a female university student, you may have hesitated to raise your hand in a room full of male peers—even when you know the answer.
I was victim to this stereotype until very recently, but I built closer connections with my professors, made sure I completed the readings and backed up my points with facts in class discussions. Not only did I raise my hand more, but I was also not afraid to speak my mind. I even participated in classroom debates instead of sitting silently.

 I also gained confidence by getting involved with different groups on campus. I chose to affiliate with various women’s rights and activist groups, one of them being the “Because I am a Girl” UofT Chapter, which helped educated me on the state of women, both locally and globally. These experiences pushed me to work harder in all aspects of my life; not only did I realize that I was privileged in many ways, but I realized the potential for global change. These groups allowed me to network with my community and peers. I gave presentations and was able to work with many great individuals. They helped me step out of my shell.

Many researchers say that women who have role models of the same gender can also help to break out of these stereotypes. So that amazing female professor in your science class, or that enthusiastic chapter advisor that you admire; go see them during office hours or meet them for coffee. Ask these women or other women in your lives for guidance and support. Every day is a learning experience, and it’s never too late to start or get involved.

I’m not saying these stereotypes don’t still affect me, but I now know there are ways to build my self-confidence and buffer these effects. Remember that you have a voice and an opinion; don’t silence yourself for fear of public opinion. Remember that you’re an Alpha Phi, and as Alpha Phis we come from generations of strong, independent women who are leaders in academia and the community. Whenever you question your talents and worth, think of our Founders who took such a big step in creating Alpha Phi—and in a male-dominated society, that was no easy task.

Be the next Hattie Florence Chidester Lukens or Martha Emily Foote Crow and be the leader of tomorrow. Stand up for yourself and speak your mind. You’ll be wrong sometimes, but don’t let that stop you. Mistakes are only mistakes if you don’t grow from them.

Sukhe Mann is a collegiate member at University of Toronto (Xi). Learn more about Sukhe by clicking here.