Greek Life empowers women

Credit: Anna Boyle/Art Editor Credit: Anna Boyle/Art Editor
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You might have seen the headlines. Harvard University banned single-gender organizations in May 2016, but they are now being enforced for the first time. Those who decide on single-gender organizations are barred from holding leadership positions, including athletic team captains. This ban came after Harvard's poor policies regarding sexual assault came to light. But Harvard's banning of single-gender organizations takes away powerful female-only spaces, leading to the #HearHerHarvard movement, which is one I proudly support.

The #HearHerHarvard focuses on the positives many women have found in sororities across the country. Even at Carnegie Mellon, I've seen students who are not a part of Greek Life question its importance. But here, just as in Harvard, Greek Life can serve as an important part of someone's undergraduate experience. Greek Life is not for everyone, but it has given valuable skills and experience I simply would not be able to find elsewhere.

While Carnegie Mellon currently has more first-year females enrolled than first-year males, Carnegie Mellon was a traditionally male school, and females in Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (STEM) still have to combat stereotypes daily. Being in a sorority, I've seen firsthand the commonplace discrimination, especially of women of color, within STEM fields. Without the space afforded to me by Greek Life, I'm not sure I would have been as aware of the workplace discrimination these women face.

But Greek Life has also provided sorority women the opportunities to help break the glass ceiling. Last semester, the Panhellenic Council provided a session with Professor Linda Babcock, who taught us how to negotiate for better salaries to help lower the wage gap. I would not have learned this information if it were not for Greek life.

Greek Life has also provided a space to talk about sexual assault, which is, unfortunately, a glaring issue at Carnegie Mellon — while the fraternities' role in sexual assault is often brought up, I'm not going to comment on this at this time; it's far too complicated of an issue to try and discuss in this article. My sorority has also provided a space for women to talk about these issues. It's not just recommending resources; I've had plenty of conversations in the living room of my sorority house on not only how we can better support survivors but also how we think we can terminate rape culture here at Carnegie Mellon. If it wasn't for Greek Life affording me this female-only space, I probably wouldn't be having these conversations, nor would I have realized how widespread an issue sexual assault is here at Carnegie Mellon.

My sorority has also given me the basic ideals we were founded on: sisterhood and service. Last year, the Greek Community gave back to Camp Kesem and raised over $100,000. Through the philanthropy I've been able to participate in thanks to my sorority, I've realized my passion for service. Its also given me sisters who have been there to be my shoulder to cry on and celebrate my greatest moments so far as an undergraduate.

But, I will also agree that Greek Life can make improvements. We could do a better job with diversity and intersectionality, and this is a concern we are trying to address as a community. When Greek Life is done well, it can have tremendous benefits for not only its members but also its community. Greek Life at all schools is not perfect, but I have seen Greek Life here benefit its members in ways that are indescribable. I never once felt unwelcomed (or hazed, for that matter), and my sorority has allowed me to grow as a student, leader, and person, giving me a space to talk about women's issues. When they say "it's not four years, it's for life," they're not kidding; I will forever carry the lessons I have learned and am continuing to learn as a member of the Greek Community for the rest of my life.