YSU celebrates Women’s History Month

A major theme of this year's Women's History Month virtual events centered around COVID-19's impact on women. Graphic courtesy of Ada daSilva/iStocks.com

By Kelcey Norris

Youngstown State University celebrates Women’s History Month throughout March with virtual events. A multitude of these events include speaker sessions involving audience interaction and placed an emphasis on the current working woman during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Cryshanna Jackson Leftwich, associate professor and director of the women’s and gender studies program at YSU, explained the main focus of their most recent events. 

“This economic crisis has really impacted women of color and women in the workforce,” Jackson said. “When the COVID-19 crisis hit, a lot of women had to drop out of the workforce to start staying at home with children.” 

According to a survey by Brookings Research, one in four women had to quit their job to care for children who were sent home from school during the coronavirus pandemic. 

“There was not enough childcare, so women had to quit jobs. The impact on women has just been monumental on families,” Jackson said. “There’s also disproportionate [responsibilities] when it comes to housework and chores, as well as stereotyping and things like that.” 

The first session, moderated by psychologist Ashley Gilmore, encouraged discussion among women of minority backgrounds about mental health. 

“Healing Black Girls’ Pain: Stereotyping, Microaggressions and Biases that Affect Black Girls and Women” was a collaboration between Jackson’s department and the Office of Diversity, Equity and Inclusion. 

To begin her discussion, Gilmore introduced the viewers to a Black college student named Rachel. Like many other students across the country, she experienced microaggression while studying to become a lawyer, when she was only recognized by her professor for her athletic ability on the basketball team, not aspirations for her career.

“This white woman only thought I was there because of my athletic ability, not because of my intellectual abilities,” Rachel said. “That was the start of my imposter syndrome, when I started to feel like I had something to prove.”

During the hour-long session, participants volunteered their stories of experiencing mental health issues like imposter syndrome, which involves doubting one’s abilities to accomplish a goal.

Everyone was nodding in agreement to examples of stereotypes and microinvalidations at school and at work that they’d all experienced or heard about before. 

“Microinvalidations are comments that subtly excuse the thoughts and experiences of a person of color,” Gilmore said. “All-time favorite example of this is the phrase ‘I don’t see color.’ This is an invalidation because if you don’t see my color, then you don’t truly see me as a person. What you do is you see my experience, hear about who I am, but you don’t see me. It’s a microinvalidation to who I am as a person.” 

To wrap up Women’s History Month, the women’s and gender studies program hosted a virtual spoken word and poetry event March 23-25. 

“This will be a really fun event to let people listen to poetry and gather together, and it will also be a writing clinic on top of that to help people looking to write and improve their poems,” Jackson said. “We’re trying to do something different, since it’s been a lot of speakers and lectures going on.” 

YSU collaborated with John Jay College of Criminal Justice in New York City, led by professors Crystal Endsley and Tony Keith Jr. for the three-day workshop. 

Finally to close the festivities commemorating women’s history, the League of Women Voters of Youngstown will air a virtual Hall of Fame ceremony March 25. 

“Nine women will be inducted into the league’s hall of fame, and they’ll also announce the winner of the Tessier writing contest on March 25,” Jackson said. 

For registration and links to virtual meetings, visit the women’s and gender studies website.