Opinion: Do women need affirmative action?
By Taylor Bloom
I was intrigued by a recent ad in Duke University’s newspaper that publicized the Duke Start-Up Challenge, for which there will be a $50,000 grand prize, a $10,000 undergraduate prize and a $10,000 woman’s prize.
Speaking as a woman entering this contest, this extra prize seems so clearly unfair. Not only does this additional prize insinuate that women aren’t equal competitors to their male counterparts, but it also creates a potential hindrance for the prize to fall into the most deserving hands. Why should affirmative action trump the equal opportunity principal?
Upon further research, I tried to answer this question in vain. I stuck with my original sentiment — an extra prize, especially one of this caliber, needs to go to the runner-up idea, regardless of the recipients’ gender.
Affirmative action to fix college gender discrepancy also currently disrupts fairness in the way of student government.
For example, the American Association of University Women (AAUW), in partnership with Running Start, coordinates the Elect Her-Campus Women Win program on 30 campuses (including UVA, Duke, and Stanford) to train college women to run for student government.
In the words of Susannah Wellford Shakow, the Running Start president and founder, this program offers “college women a leg up in running for student government”. This program is in part a response to data collected by the American Student Government Association which showed that women make up approximately 52% of all student government representatives, but only 43% of student government presidents.
Only 43%? Frankly, with that small of a discrepancy, the efforts and funds towards reaching the exact 50-50 statistic feel unnecessary. Who’s to say that there’s something implicitly wrong in the way the numbers are now?
Other positive statistics are being completely overlooked. For example, according to Susan E. Lennor, the executive director of the Women’s College Coalition, “women have outnumbered and outperformed men on coeducational campuses for more than two decades”.
In reference to findings by the National Survey of Student Engagement (NSSE), the associate director of NSSE Jillian Kinzie said “Women are more likely than men to have high aspirations for their educations, more likely to enroll in college and to stick with it until they earn a degree”.
Since 2000, women have represented 57% of enrollments at U.S. colleges, as a study by the American Council on Education shows.
I feel as if today’s college student is socially advanced enough to evaluate competing claims and academic endeavors based on merit, not gender, race, etc. This method of discerning is not only fair, but economically efficient.
It’s 2012. Women who lack determination or ambition shouldn’t necessarily be coddled by our society or offered a $10,000 sympathy prize. It should be a given that the next best prize (in any sense of the word) goes to the next best idea.
To the affirmative action supporters of the world, I appreciate the intentions, but we can take it from here. I want to know that my/our successes are earned legitimately — a prerequisite for a satisfying victory.