The Black Honors Student Organization (BHSO) celebrated Women’s History Month with a Women’s Leadership panel of six women of color to share their experiences and journeys to leadership positions, on Thursday, March 11.
They discussed many topics such as diversity, equity, inclusion, strengths, and failures.
Women’s History Month has been observed every March since 1987 to celebrate the accomplishments of women in history, culture, and society in the United States. To celebrate this month and the groundbreaking women who have contributed to society, EMU has hosted many virtual events to shine a light on women’s rights, racial equality for women of color, and more throughout the month.
Dr. Doris J. Fields, Ph.D.: EMU director of undergraduate studies for the Division of Academic and Student Affairs and professor of communications
Dr. Betty Brown-Chappell, Ph.D., MSW: EMU professor emerita in the School of Social Work
Rhonda E. Fowler: University Librarian at EMU
Dr. Heather Neff, Ph.D.: Director of the McNair Scholars Program and distinguished professor of English at EMU
Temii Tellis, MSHROD: senior corporate relations manager at EMU
Stephanie Hawkes, Ed. D: assistant director of the Office of Multicultural Student Engagement at Wayne State University
During the Women’s Leadership Panel, the panelists were asked to answer questions about how they overcame struggles as women of color and gave advice to others about how to react and what to do when these hardships occur. Dr. Fields, Director of Undergraduate Studies, and Dr. Neff, Director of the McNair Scholars Programs share their experiences of coming up in their fields as women of color and give advice as to how to navigate these fields.
“The first time I encountered a woman of color in education was my mother. My mother was a middle school/high school science teacher. That experience framed my life, women of color add a different perspective, aid in recruiting people of color, and provide mentorship," Fields said.
Neff used statistics to further prove her point; saying that, "statistically, BIPOC [Black, Indigenous, and people of color] women are going to raise this generation as single mothers. According to the Pew Research Center, 'about one-in-five children (21%) are living with a solo mother.’"
Having BIPOC women representation in education is very critical to a progressing society, but so is learning to navigate as a BIPOC woman, was stressed by Neff.
“It is important that the material in our classes includes the contributions of women of color to our arts, culture, and history,” Neff said.
Yet, she stated that as racial tension has grown to an extremely high this past summer, microaggressions that these women face daily have been amplified.
“I have good days, in which I laugh about microaggressions, and bad days, in which the covert and overt acts of racism and discrimination really bother me. I tend to speak up in many cases, which has made me a hero to some, and a troublemaker to many. There’s an incredible poem by Audre Lorde, “A Litany for Silence,” I hear her words often, and find strength and motivation from the sense that though I am often afraid, I rarely regret being honest,” Neff said.
Throughout this event, the women emphasized the importance of speaking truth to power when it comes to something you believe in. They discussed how imperative it is for young BIPOC women to stand up for what's right.
“It is important to speak your truth to power. Speaking truth to power is using your voice to express yourself. It is important for black women to speak the truth and share their vision with others. That is when the cultural learning begins…Your voice is very powerful,” said Dr. Fields.
To learn more about the plight of women in America during Women’s History Month, be sure to check out EMU Today’s list of events taking place this month.