To be a woman in the field of housing and residence life means to overcome obstacles many of us face in the year 2016: identifying as a strong, independent woman with leadership qualities in a field that is misunderstood and enduring the challenges of gender inequality.
As a woman in higher education, it dawned on me that I am labeled with terms that would never be associated with men in this field. I consider myself an advocate for students and for my peers when they feel like they have to remain silent. While I am a quiet, introverted person, I am not afraid to speak up when I feel it is necessary. Too often we find ourselves afraid to speak out in fear of burning bridges. I am not afraid to ask questions, because it is important to maintain checks and balances in a 360-degree way with all employees in housing departments.
It is important to build each other up as women in housing. The stigma of strong, independent women being seen as stuck up, pushovers, needy, or other derogatory terms or slurs are causing self-doubt for us in our field. As a woman who speaks out when I feel it is necessary, it is quite frustrating to be told I need to know my place. Is my place being a woman in today’s society? Is my place being called derogatory names because when I speak out I’m seen as difficult to work with but when a man in this field has similar leadership qualities as me he is known as a hard worker who is innovate in ideas? The double standard placed in our society based on the identification of a man or a woman has caused too much strife for us to endure through these struggles while attempting to educate students.
If I had to take a guess, I would say that most of us entered the field of student affairs to help students in some capacity. We become so focused on developing students that we forget to develop each other. In order to be successful women in housing, I believe it is important to discuss how we have overcome the obstacles of the double standard placed upon us to build each other up and create that support system needed to bounce ideas off of each other and establish solidarity. If there is one thing I have learned while being in this field, it is to have a support system when I feel like I am drowning in my own self-doubt of failing others and not being good enough. I am extremely lucky to have several people, both in and outside of this field, I can call day or night to rely on when I am emotionally unwell.
As a strong, independent woman in housing, I have overcome the challenges of facing the double standard and not feeling supported. It is and always will be difficult because I thrive on building relationships with those I can trust implicitly, but when I am told I cannot do something because I am not smart enough, good enough, or need to learn to not speak out when I feel something is unjust, my entire self-esteem as a professional shatters. I am still picking up the pieces. We all have something unique that we bring to this field. We need to continue building each other up instead of tearing us down. As a woman in housing, I leave you with this last piece of advice that I have told others in another blog: Don’t let anyone say you cannot do something because you are not worth it. You are. Like my mantra I use every day, I will share it with you: You are worthy. You are beautiful. You are enough.
Rachel Dimond is a graduate student in her second and final year at Texas Tech University completing her Master’s degree in Higher Education Administration. She completed her Bachelor’s degree at The Ohio State University and has worked in Housing and Residence Life since her first year as an undergraduate student. Rachel is continuing her housing career for at least a few more years while she is deciding on her next career path with the focus on her passion area of sexual violence prevention and education.