The issue of gender equality stopped being an inappropriate topic for public discussion or a far-fetched problem years ago. It is no longer surprising when a woman decides to build a career in addition to starting a family or even instead of it. Women become CEOs, presidents, prime-ministers, and introduce cardinal changes to all spheres of human activity, from science to space. However, I still feel that we have stopped half-way to equality without taking the next necessary step to make the issue obsolete. I wish I was already living in an epoch when raising a question of gender equality would equate discussing the benefits of using mechanical vehicles rather than horses to get from point A to point B. Why would you force a horse to take you miles away from home when the car can do it? Why would you discuss equal rights for men and women when there can be no other way? Unfortunately, with so many things done to erase the stereotype of Mrs. Mallard or Mrs. Wright as the only social role for women to perform, women must often prove their worth, their capabilities, and their rights even nowadays, and I have experienced it firsthand.
It may seem strange, but some career fields are still male dominated, such as the Air Force, for instance. Working there was both a dream coming true, and the worst nightmare fulfilled for me. On the one hand, I met intelligent, knowledgeable, and creative people there. On the other hand, I felt as if I appeared on the pages of Charlotte Perkins Gilman’s narration striving to get out of the wallpaper pattern and show that my work is as valuable as the one done by my male coworkers. It was extremely difficult at times with other women going through the same difficulties and searching for the way to cope with an explicit gender-based discrimination.
A Senior NCO of mine once told me, “I’d never be as good at my job as my male counterparts simply because ‘I have a vagina.’” Her voice was rather neutral when she said it, and the bitter truth of her words vividly contrasted with her tone. At the time, she was neither protesting against being undervalued nor complaining about it. She simply stated the fact, and it echoed greatly with what I felt and what I had to cope with repeatedly. My daily routine used to be filled with interesting tasks, the desire to learn something new, and… unwanted, awkward advances, both verbally and physically. I was frequently told to know my place and let my male coworkers do the job as if my education was limited to knowing how to serve the table or wash the clothes. I was suffocating in such unhealthy working environment and decided to leave the Air Force.
My current wish to study Construction Science and Management is partly rooted in my past work experience and fueled by a strong desire to break the boundaries of male dominated spheres and make them available to everyone, irrespective of gender. I am willing to trigger vital changes aimed to speed up the process of spreading gender equality to make it possible for other women to feel safe and needed, appreciated and understood whatever professional path they choose. I would like the world to stop treading water when it comes to gender equality and continue actively implementing necessary measures to push the process forward. It is high time we saw that half-way to equality is not enough. It is essential to finish this transformation of society so that our children and grandchildren would study the fight for gender equality in the classroom and never experience such issues in the real life.
This essay is written by the student of the Valencia College in Orlando, Florida.