Five female undergraduates shared their time and perspectives as part of an informal Friday-afternoon chat on women’s issues. Their candid observations and willingness to share deeply personal experiences revealed the very real concerns young women harbor today. While they talked about a variety of issues, their overriding concern centered on the objectification of women and the ways that leads to assumptions about their intelligence, abilities or intentions; unwanted advances or commentary; an overall lack of respect and equality; limits on their freedom; and, in the worst circumstances, human trafficking and acts of violence.

Yet, for as indignant as they feel about the unfairness of how women are treated or viewed by society, they also express gratitude for the opportunities and empowerment they feel as women in this generation. Other than the limits they feel others impose on them, they embrace a sense that anything is possible and within their grasp with enough effort and determination. Their hopeful and bright view of the future doesn’t dismiss the potential for obstacles, but instead they feel fully capable and equipped to meet those challenges as they arise.

The panel included:

Senior Amira Saleh (political science)

Junior Sujoud Badwan (nursing)

Senior Sarah Rose Werner (digital media, writing)

Senior Amy Jorgenson (psychology)

Junior Oluwatomisin “Tomi” Ladeinde (accounting)

Amira Saleh

“Especially in a male-dominated society, we feel like no matter how educated you are, you can’t have a strong enough voice because you are a woman. So it’s important for women to know that education goes beyond paperwork; it goes to say that you can do something amazing with your life and make a difference in the world.” 

 “I was in intern in D.C. this past summer and attended an event. I had makeup on and did my hair. One man thought I was an escort. He asked, ‘Who are you here with? Where are you staying? Are you someone’s date?’ A friend told mine told me if a woman looks a certain way she won’t be taken seriously. You have to go to the best school, like Harvard, to really prove yourself there.”   

“I was talking about politics with a male student. He said, ‘This is cool. You’re the first girl who ever wanted to talk politics with me.’ I looked at him and went off on him, ‘Why would you actually say that out loud’?”

“They think that if a girl looks a certain way, then she has to explain herself. I say, don’t teach girls to lower themselves or cover themselves; instead teach boys to have respect and manners. If I wear makeup, a guy should not say or try something.”

Sujoud Badwan

“I feel like our generation is very strong and can have huge impact on society if we actually do something. When I go to the mosque, men there say this generation is very strong and has the potential to make a huge difference, but you actually have to get out and do something. So I feel we do have a role and responsibility to be the first to change what is wrong, then everyone who comes after us is going to change, too. But if we continue the way things have always been, then it’s never going to happen.” 

“I feel like we’re equal, but we are not like men, and men are not women. So we are not the same that way, but we should be treated equally.” 

 “A woman tries to look good because what society wants, but she has to look another way so they don’t think or assume anything about what she’s doing or her character.” 

“You basically have to prove yourself a lot. Right when you get into a room where you think there are people who will judge you because you’re a woman, you really have to prove them wrong.” 

“For me, when I see a successful woman, I become proud because I’m a woman.” 

“If we come together as one and unite, then we can make a huge difference, but if we’re just talking and putting others down, it will always be chaotic.” 

Amy Jorgenson

“We’re guarding our minds, and we’re guarding what we stand for. Stritch is helping us do that. If we went to bigger school, we wouldn’t have as much of a voice, whether you’re a guy or a girl. We’re able to do what we want.” 

 “I’m now in social psychology with a professor who is a super feminist, who believes in equality in every way. It’s hard because I don’t know if it’s possible, but if it happens and I see it, I’ll believe it.” 

Oluwatomisin “Tomi” Ladeinde  

“I have God, and God has blessed me. I don’t have to have a man in my life for me to feel accomplished. It’s good if it happens. Amen, I’m all for it, but, if it doesn’t, I can’t sit and beat myself up, asking ‘What’s wrong with me?’ So, for my younger sister’s generation, I’m saying, ‘Sit upright. Stand up for yourself. You’re strong. You’re awesome. You’re beautiful. You’re great. Don’t let what other people tell you bring you down. Make YOU happy.’” 

“Back home in Nigeria, they are like, ‘Be smart, but don’t be smarter than the guys. You can be good but know your limit.’ Both men and women say this although it’s more perpetuated from women, and I’m told to be submissive and subservient.”  

“The culture influences how women are treated everywhere. In my American household, my mom tells my brother to do the dishes. But if we go home to Nigeria, I have to do dishes and the cleaning.”

“Most people see education as a lifeline. It’s something you can’t take away. I may not be athletic, I may not be this, I may not be that, but I’m smart. And it’s mine and there’s nothing you can do about it. People try to tell you your place is in the kitchen, but thank God for my 21st century parents.” 

“We as females put ourselves down. We try to hurt other females so we seem better. Success is not when you’re looking down at other people and they are crying, but when you’re pulling other people up. We all need to build each other up.”