Eagles for Equality, Boston College Athletics’ diversity, equity, and inclusion organization, held a Unity Walk for the conclusion of Women’s History Month on March 31st. The walk, bringing together student-athletes and other members of the Boston College community, started at Gasson and continued to the Fish Field House. In a brisk wind, around 50 student-athletes and athletic personnel, as well as invited panelists, met in front of Gasson for a brief introduction to the event.
Leah Temple Lang, LSOE ’23, started the remarks off by acknowledging the theme of this International Women’s Month: Break the Bias. Temple Lang recounted the list of rights that women have had to fight for, such as the right to vote, the right to education, and the right to body autonomy.
Sydney Moore, LSOE ’23, spoke next, tracing the history of the fight for rights as well as current struggles, saying, “whether you identify as a cis-gender woman, a trans woman, gender nonbinary, or any other expression of gender, our womanhood is still constantly being attacked.” She encouraged conversations about womanhood and praised the group for coming together to “walk in solidarity.”
Finally, Eagles for Equality President Jewel Strawberry, MCAS ’22, thanked the group for coming and, in an attempt to beat the rain, kicked off the walk to Fish Field House. Along the walk the occasional chanting of slogans such as “HERstory” and “Who runs the world? Girls!” rang out from the front. Cars and fellow students who saw the walk signaled their support through honks or cheering.
Nicole Clermont, LSOE ’22, a member of BC’s track and cross-country team, stated that she walks “for all the women who have come before me and paved the way, and I walk for all the younger girls who look up to me and aspire to be strong confident women.”
Once at Fish Field House, a four-person panel of Boston College faculty and staff, moderated by Strawberry, spoke on their experiences of being women in their professional fields, as well as offering advice on being an ally.
One of the panelists was Dr. Kristina Moore, a lecturer in the Psychology and Neuroscience department. In addition to her responsibilities as a lecturer, Moore also coaches high school field hockey and heads an undergraduate research lab. Moore focuses on developmental and social sports psychology.
Reshauna (Shauna) Cobb was hired as a Senior Associate Athletics Director in November. Cobb is the Senior Women Administrator as well. Previously, Cobb worked in Compliance at Virginia Tech and Georgia Tech before spending twelve years for the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA).
Dr. Shawna Cooper-Gibson is the recently named Vice President of Student Affairs. Her job involves overseeing co-curricular experiences such as health and wellness, student engagement, and residential life. Cooper-Gibson focuses especially on student experiences and efforts for diversity and inclusion.
Director of the Women’s Center, Dr. Katie Dalton, also spoke on the panel. Dalton started her career in advertising and then transitioned to higher education. She’s been at the Women’s Center for almost twelve years working on empowering and celebrating women. Recently, Dalton received her doctorate in Educational Leadership and Higher Education.
Strawberry started the discussion by asking, “What female has motivated you to get to where you are now, and why?”
Cooper-Gibson started by naming her mother as her motivator. “All of us stand on the shoulders of giants, and she is one of the ones who I did. She always empowered me to say ‘you can do this, don’t let anything get in your way—don’t let society, individuals, or systems stop you from trying to achieve your goals.’”
Dalton answered by acknowledging that she didn’t play a sport in college, but did play basketball in high school—leading to the 1999 women’s basketball Olympic team significantly influencing her. She said the team's influence on her came from “just thinking about ways those folks used sports as a platform for empowerment of themselves, but also to really pave the way for other people in terms of opportunities.”
Cobb initially chose her mothers, but then settled on her double-dutch coach. “She took these young people who came from various backgrounds…she showed us things that we never would have seen had it not been for sport or double-dutch,” Cobb explained, “I want to be able to impact young people the way that she impacted my teammates and me.”
Moore rounded out the answers by naming her college field hockey coach as her major influence. “She really championed strength in women and exposing and resisting the undervalued, underrepresentation and lack of focus and respect and resources for women.” Moore also included academic advisors in her list of important female influences.
One question posed to all the panelists was, “What are some ways that men can contribute to gender equality?”
“The biggest thing about being an ally for me,” Cobb started, “is speaking up and taking advantage of the opportunity you have as men. We need you to speak when we [women] aren’t there. It’s not enough for me to say ‘I want to be in the room and I want to help make decisions.’” Cobb finished, “Men can be the biggest allies by speaking up for women when they aren’t in the room—I’m not asking you to think like a woman.”
Moore answered briskly, “Show up. Hire women. Promote them. Those three actions speak louder than a lot of the empty, more performative stuff sometimes we see.” Moore acknowledged it was from her higher education background that she came to these three points. “Seeing more women in leadership roles means that men are hiring them into those roles in order to promote more diverse perspectives and representation.”
“Listen to us,” Cooper-Gibson added. “When we are able to have a voice in the conversation, really hear what we have to say because we offer different perspectives and women are not a monolith. Listen and really hear what people are saying.”
Dalton finished by saying, “Show up and share power. You have to walk the walk.”
The panel concluded on the question, “What advice do you have for young women?”
“Be confident,” Cooper-Gibson stated. “For women in particular, you’re going to face challenges, but you’re going to forage ahead. We are here to be the shoulders for you. Go into that room, you know what you’re doing, you know how to handle it.”
Dalton offered, “Don’t over explain—say what you want and stop talking.” Particularly in the work world, negotiate a salary no matter what the starting salary is. “When you ask, stop talking. Just let it sit there, you don’t have to justify it.”
Cobb declared “imposter syndrome is real—don’t let that creep its way into your life. Don’t allow yourself to shrink, to think that you don’t belong there—you do. And even if you don’t, fake it—you know more than they do, probably.”
Her other piece of advice was to “be aware that every interaction that you have with someone is a potential opportunity.”
Moore focused on how easy it is to become de-centered as a woman due to all the little interruptions and daily under-estimations faced. “Find your center, find your core, find the place that centers you—the place you can always go back to, something that grounds you to the values that are at the core of anything you do. Give yourself time and find ways to come back to your center.”
After the panel discussion, attendees were invited to participate in small group sharing. For more information on Eagles for Equality, follow them on social media @eagles4equality.