Gender Task Force formed at Wheaton

Gender equality is a hot topic at every college. But the new Gender Task Force at Wheaton College is aware that it is oper­ating under a spiritual lens be­cause of the school’s Christian principles. With only two meet­ings under their belt, the task force is still in the process of se­lecting representatives and data collection. From there, the plan is to formulate a proposal to ad­dress gaps within the system and implement changes that are achievable between two to three years. There are several members of Wheaton College faculty and both undergraduate and gradu­ate students on the task force.
Marc Cortez, Bible and theolo­gy professor and representative of the Grad School Council, serves as one of the leaders in this new task force. Cortez explained that a year and a half ago, the grad school received concerned feedback from its students about gender issues at the school. The feedback reso­nated with its evaluators. He said, “It made the Grad Council think this would be a good time for us to take a more intentional look at gender dynamics on campus.”
Since gender equality was not an issue exclusive to the Grad school, more time was spent brainstorming what a multi-dimensional task force would look like, Cortez said.
“We’re just anticipating that some of the conversations might be different depending on whether we’re asking them relative graduate issues or un­dergraduate, and we’re expecting that implementation will almost certainly be different,” he said. As different as perspectives may be, the purpose of the task force is to be a more tangible catalyst for review and policy at Whea­ton College. With this in mind, the college renewed its deter­mination to get the plan off the ground by at least this school year.
The task force’s first step is to finalize the team. “The planning right now is to have two chairs — one for the graduate side,” Cor­tez said. He is the graduate chair.
The faculty also enlisted the help of Student Body President senior Grace Pyo to aid in the selection of student voices to this task force. Pyo interviewed both personally nominated and rec­ommended candidates from all years, departments and genders.
Pyo said, “I was looking for interest and a good mix of back­grounds and majors — students who could represent the under­graduate student body well, and also the different places students are at when it comes to gender and different conceptions about how gender impacts the way that we interact as Christian community.”
The nominations have now been submitted, and Cortez said that the final selections will take place in two meetings’ time.
“You still hear messages like ‘the most spiritual way a woman can engage with the world is be­ing a mother and hav(ing) chil­dren, which is wonderful,” Pyo said, “but something I believe is absolutely a calling, but I don’t think God has exclusively des­ignated women for that role.”
Pyo noted witnessing occa­sional gender inequality in how certain students may treat certain female professors versus male professors. She said, “I think any woman in a leadership position it’s just something that you are con­stantly aware about. Especially at Wheaton, your theological views impact your understanding of the roles that women should play. I think that’s been a big thing for me to understand as a woman in­terested in a leadership position, interested in a serious career.”
In terms of leadership in the college administration, there are significantly more male than fe­male staffers. Awareness of this reality has encouraged Pyo to understand what drives it, how it affects decision-making and how she conducts herself in meetings.
It is still too early to see the changes the new Gender Task Force seeks to implement regard­ing these issues, but they are cur­rently reviewing student data to determine opinions and experi­ences like Pyo’s and to determine trends in dissatisfaction and con­cern. Beyond awareness building, the nature of the task force is tied to problem targeting and solution pursuit. Along with their vision for greater gender equality, the Gender Task Force also has the means and power to pursue in­stitutional change and measures.

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