Meredith College hosted a community discussion on issues facing women and girls on October 20, 2012. The event, which featured a screening of the documentary “Miss Representation,” and culminated in a town hall discussion, was a partnership with MissRepresentation.org, InterAct, the N.C. Council for Women and Connected Women of North Carolina.
Meredith College was well-represented at the event. Executive Director of Marketing Kristi Eaves-McLennan welcomed the more than 150 audience members, and shared the event’s goal of drawing attention to issues facing young women.
“We couldn’t be more proud to provide a venue for engaging in creating solutions for changing media messaging, bolstering positive self-esteem and promoting new leadership opportunities for women and girls in the local community,” said Eaves-McLennan.
Assistant Professor of Sociology Amie Hess presented a preview of the College’s upcoming Status of Girls Report, scheduled for release in spring 2013.
Hess shared statistics on poverty, education and media use by girls in the state. According to the Status of Girls report, girls and young women under 25 make up 16 percent of North Carolina’s population, yet 25 percent of North Carolina’s poor.
“We know that poverty has become a female problem—meaning women are more likely to be or become poor when compared to men— but economic disadvantage is increasingly the problem of children,” Hess said. “Poverty has risen substantially for all children in North Carolina, but the poverty rate for girls under five in North Carolina has increased by 50 percent in the past decade. Thirty percent of our youngest girls now live below the poverty line.”
Hess shared some positive news in the area of education. In the 2010-11 school year, an overwhelming majority of 5th through 8th grade girls were at or above a Level III passing score in End of Grade tests in math and reading. Seventy five percent of 8th grade girls passed the science end of grade examination. Girls outperformed boys on these exams across almost every grade and every subject.
There are also challenging issues facing girls in the educational arena as they progress in school.
“Among students who took the SATs in the 2011-12 school year, young men scored an average of 34 points higher than young women,” Hess said. “This gap as increased—albeit only slightly—over the past decade. Virtually all of the gap comes in the mathematics portion of the exam.”
Some blame for this gap goes to perpetuation of the stereotype that women are not skilled in or interested in science and mathematics, Hess said.
“One place where stereotypes are perpetuated—and possibly challenged—is of course the media,” Hess said.
Films such as “Miss Representation” bring this issue into focus. First premiered at the Sundance Film Festival, “Miss Representation” interweaves stories from teenage girls with provocative interviews from the likes of Condoleezza Rice, Lisa Ling, Nancy Pelosi, Katie Couric, and Rosario Dawson, to give an inside look at the media and its message. The film’s motto, “You can't be what you can't see,” underscores an implicit message that young women need and want positive role models, and that the media has thus far neglected its unique opportunity to provide them.
Using the issues raised in the film as a basis for discussion, participants were led in a discussion to generate ideas of personal and community actions that will improve the lives of girls and women. Discussion questions included “Thinking about where you are every day, what could you do individually to create positive images in the community?” and “What initiatives and policies could Wake County policy makers take on to champion change for women and girls?”.
The “Miss Representation” event at Meredith College was sponsored by Red Hat and Apogee Social Media Group.
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