Gender studies should include men

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On a campus that boasts “the odds are good, but the goods are odd,” the need for gender studies seems to become more apparent with each passing day.

Despite deliberate efforts by Admissions to enroll more women, Carnegie Mellon still maintains a healthy — or not so healthy — 3:2 men-to-women ratio. With what seems to be stagnant growth in the female population on campus, the Office of the Dean of Student Affairs has continued to develop its Women’s Leadership Program (WLP) to “stimulate thinking about what it means to lead as a woman in all contexts.”

While the Women’s Leadership Program seems like a wonderful idea, offering workshops in “The Meaning of Gender,” “Gender and Leadership,” “Women’s Issues in History,” and the like, the way in which the programs’ participants are chosen is only the first in a list of concerns surrounding the program. Women on campus must first be nominated by a member of the faculty or staff (or a colleague, though there have not been communications to students on campus as to how they can nominate someone for the program). Then they are required to fill out an application. If chosen, they are permitted to attend five workshops throughout the semester promoting women as leaders.

With issues as important as gender studies and women’s empowerment on the line, why are students excluded from the program? Female students who aren’t nominated do not have the chance to attend any of the beneficial workshops, and men are not even eligible. Given the limited size and the intended intimate nature of the workshops, shouldn’t all students on campus, male and female, be given the chance to learn something about gender and leadership?

To some it may seem obvious: A women’s leadership program should only be for women. But teaching women to be leaders is simply not enough. Our society, as a whole, could benefit from teaching men to respect women as leaders. How can the University offer workshops that examine the role of gender in leadership positions and exclude 60 percent of the undergraduate population without even so much as a blink?

The program seems to be working towards filling a hole in the school’s curriculum by providing some of its students with a brief introduction to gender studies. But what about the men? Why have no efforts been made to introduce gender studies to some, if not all, men on campus?

Well, “efforts” were made. An e-mail was sent out to a few male students, asking if they’d be interested in participating in a “Men’s Gender Study Program.” That seemed to be as far as the program went. Perhaps the men’s program never took off because there was a lack of response and support from the male community. Perhaps the program never took off because there were organizational problems. Whatever the case may be, there are no avenues on this campus for men to participate in gender studies, and that is reprehensible at a school of Carnegie Mellon’s caliber.

Regardless of the flaws in the WLP’s participant selection process, a tremendous amount of good can be done by encouraging women to become strong and talented leaders. Perhaps one of the women participating in this year’s program will eventually lead her own gender studies workshops that include both genders.