June 4, 2019

BLOG: End of Year Reflections from GWA HoyasForShe Fellow Katie O’Hara

When I first told people I chose Georgetown for graduate school, I received a lot of comments asking me if I will be able to “adjust” to working and living with men. I was not Wonder Woman raised by Amazonian warriors, but I had elected for my undergraduate degree to go to a women’s college.

Katie O'Hara (G'19) on the Lauinger Library steps
Katie O'Hara (G'19) on the Lauinger Library steps

The choice of a women’s college confuses many people. Some people told me that I was locking myself away, missing out on the “traditional college experience,” and hiding from the real world. However, no college is the “real world,” as Smith likes to remind people, and Georgetown is not an exception. While this has been treated as a detriment to the students, I ask why can’t the real world be more like college? Why are we so quick to balance the merits of going to a women’s college to find your voice or going to a coeducational college to teach you about compromising that we forget that these lessons we learn in college are not carried out elsewhere when they should be?

When I started at Georgetown, I was concerned that Georgetown would be more like “the real world,” where it feels like gender inequality takes a back seat. However, within my first month, I found Georgetown’s HoyasForShe program and applied for it. I was excited by the opportunity to work with Georgetown on gender inequality. I had experienced gender inequality in my coeducational high school days, and my women’s undergraduate school gave me the tools and vocabulary to address these issues but no place to actually apply them. At Georgetown with the HoyasForShe program, I found a place where I could combine both of these experiences and apply my knowledge on gender issues. In many ways, the conversation on gender inequality is discussed more at Georgetown than my women’s college because there is more opportunity for involving men in the process of solving gender inequality.

O'Hara graduates from Smith College
O'Hara graduates from Smith College

One of the reasons I chose the HoyasForShe program was because of the HeForShe motto of including men in the fight for gender equality. While some mistake feminism for misandry, that is far from the truth. It is important to acknowledge that men are equally hurt when women suffer. Thus, the more solidarity women gain from men, the more everyone of any gender thrives.

This semester I was paired with the Georgetown Women’s Alliance (GWA), where I learned that as part of the mentorship program, they sometimes pair mentees with male mentors. Moreover, part of my role was to send out the biweekly email on events happening on campus, and my goal was to make sure that I used inclusive vocabulary to make sure people of all gender identities were welcomed to the conversation. Furthermore, my position at the GWA required me to learn about how to be inclusive of not just men, but of people of all levels of abilities, as part of my position required learning about alternative text for text-to-speech computer tools.

Lastly, as part of my position at the GWA, I was privileged to see all the work behind the events that my fellow students at GWA and HoyasForShe hosted. Many GWA events were co-sponsored by other campus organizations that my HoyasForShe fellows were working with like the Georgetown Institute for Women, Peace and Security; the Gender+ Justice Initiative; the Office of Institutional Diversity, Equity & Affirmative Action; and the Women's and Gender Studies Program.

Reflecting at the end of this year, I come back to this question of why are we so quick to admonish colleges for not being like the “real world.” I wish that we had more cooperation between companies and organizations on healing the wage gap. It should not just be academic institutions that host events that engage with issues of gender inequality. It is not without hope though. Fellowship programs like Georgetown’s HoyasForShe program inspire both undergraduate and graduate students to carry these conversations beyond Georgetown’s campus to their future plans. I trust that my fellow HoyasForShe will help make the “real world” more like Georgetown.

This post was prepared by Katie O'Hara (G'19) as part of the HoyasForShe Student Fellowship.

Related News

Silhouettes of children lined up outside a church building

December 11, 2018

HoyasForShe Fellow Katie O'Hara (G'19) discusses takeaways from an event “What Could I Do? Questions for Today from the Play Our Class,” sponsored by the Gender+ Justice Initiative and the Theater and Performance Studies Program.