Women in Humanities


Gwen Ramsey

Gwen Ramsey, Co-Editor-in-Chief

Here I am. Senior year is upon me. I’ve made it to the homestretch. I’ve got the ball, and I’m running wildly at the home plate. Not only do I know nothing about baseball (so I hope I’m using this metaphor correctly) I also didn’t have a clue what my future would look like. Now I believe I do, but I’ve been struggling with the lack of support from some of my friends and family.

I’ve put a lot of thought into what career I might be most successful in. I’ve made steps to work out that I want to study something in the social sciences field. Real specific, I know. But I’ve spoken to people who work in fields that I thought I might be interested in. I talked with a history professor, and man it seems like a whole lot of research and I was flat out told history teaching was a dying profession with fewer universities granting tenure each year. Alright next up, a nurse? I mean it sounds cool. But just the end goal is what interests me, helping people in need. Not really all of the sciency stuff required to get there. But we’re getting closer. How about law? I spoke with a public defender, and I was instantly intrigued. Yes, it’s a lot of reading, but speaking with clients and making a difference in someone’s life is right up my alley. 

In all honesty, at the beginning of this process, I was a stress case. I didn’t know what direction to turn in, and I didn’t even know my interests. Everyone I met seemed to be asking me what I was going to do, and I felt at a loss. But I’ve made some progress. At this point, I think I’ve settled on wanting to start off with a degree in sociology and then further down the road considering the law path. The sociology course schedule sounds fascinating, and I can always find an alternative interest and switch up my plans. 

Another family dinner sneaks up on me. This time I feel prepared. I’ve got a plan. All of my family, and I mean all of them, were at this family dinner. My great aunt’s son and his children were there. My second cousins once removed and their friend’s dog was there. You get the point. The conversation progresses from what so and so’s son was doing in California to the topic of school. And here comes the question, “you’re a senior, right Gwen? So what are your plans next year?” I take a deep breath, I’ve got this. “I’m looking at going to college somewhere in the West and plan to major in sociology.” I get fake sweet smiles and a hesitant “are you sure that’s what you want to do?” Why is this the reaction?

I’ve been asking myself this question for months now. And I think I understand. Recently there has been such a push for women to get a job in the STEM field. By all means, this is great. Women finally, after hundreds of years, are able to have a career in a historically male-dominated field. I fully encourage this, but what I don’t encourage is putting down women who find interests and purpose in an area of study apart from STEM. Just because a woman can now be in STEM, doesn’t mean that they must. This also gets into the argument of pay. Why can’t historically “women’s” careers, teaching, social work, administrative work, be valued in the same way science, technology, engineering and math are? As someone trying to find their way in a world that is so vast in terms of opportunities, I want to be able to make the choice to enter a field that interests me and caters to my strengths. Just because I don’t consider myself savvy in the subjects of math and science, doesn’t mean I need to work harder in those areas. If I am passionate about exploring social sciences, I have no need to reconsider why I don’t like STEM. 

As someone who has felt personally defeated by the opinions of others, I urge everyone speaking to a rising adult about their future aspirations, to be cognizant of their personal biases. I urge them to be supportive in whatever way possible and to encourage the fact that just because women in STEM is a possibility, it doesn’t need to be done. I shouldn’t have to add that I’m considering going into law after proclaiming that I want to major in sociology to make it sound better. I shouldn’t have to justify my major by saying that I’m just keeping my options open. I don’t have to be in a STEM field to be a valued female member of society.