Desperate for change and for their voices to be heard, six powerful women opened up their laptops and prepared for a panel discussion.
Last Thursday, Sept. 28, educated women from all over the world hosted a panel discussion shedding light on important issues that women of color face in academia today. The goal of the discussion was to speak out against racism and discrimination in the academic workplace, and other pressing issues that women face in today’s society. The speakers wanted to bring awareness to the lack of safe spaces that women of color have access to. They also aimed to shed light on the fact that millions of women all over the world, especially women of color, are facing intellectual and emotional discrimination.
Moderated by Melinda Gonzalez, the event was broadcasted live from Baton Rouge, La. In the Coe Room of the Memorial Union, the chat was organized by the UMaine Women in Academia. This group, along with the Women’s, Gender, and Sexuality Studies group hosted the live stream to allow faculty and participants to ask questions, replay the discussions, take polls and watch the panel.
Hundreds of people tuned in to the panel discussion from all over the country, and each of the six participants in the panel brought up different topics, and shared experiences from their personal lives.
The first speaker in the panel discussion, Indu Viswanathon, told viewers about the racism she faced throughout her life. She connected the discrimination she faced as a child to her life today as an educator in a predominately white school system.
“I was so humbled to be able to be here and speak today,” Viswanathon said. “I chose a few events that I think really illuminate and reveal my journey as a woman and as an educator. As women in academia, we face many instances and acts of racism, as well as microaggression because of our ethnicities. Schools and universities usually consist of predominately white male teachers and professors, and this goes for most, if not all, grade levels and class settings. Find your own way to take care of yourself and transform, be an ally to those in need, build your stamina and keep fighting and standing up for yourself.”
As the panel discussion continued, moderator Melinda Gonzalez gave the audience statistics that would help fuel the basis for the follow-up discussion.
“Less than 10 percent of full time faculty in this country are women of color, and 83 percent of professors are white,” Gonzalez said. “It is important for people to know these facts and take notice, for people to step up and be allies for women of color, and to speak up when someone is being treated wrongly.”
Other topics that were discussed by the panelists included undocumented students and how they can succeed. The subjects of disability, cultural bias, race, privilege, anti-race practices and self-care also came up. Each woman took a few minutes to tell a story or recall something that has happened to them that shaped who they are today. Viewers asked questions throughout the discussion, to which the speakers provided their own answers and insight.
To learn more about these women and their cause, visit youcaring.com/melindagonzalezandpanelists-880866.