November 17, 2018 | ° F

BANSAL: Women are still underrepresented in feats of success


Opinions Column: Call for Change


When it comes to recognition and representation, women are infamously lacking. Even institutions that dedicate themselves to awarding and recognizing influential community members, such as the Nobel Foundation, are found to be misinformed and seemingly biased. From the fields of physics, chemistry, economics, literature, medicine and peace, the Nobel Prize has been awarded to 881 people in the past 115 years. Merely 48 out of the 881 recognitions were awarded to women, while the rest went to men. While this is a disappointing statistic, it is easy to assume that the Nobel Prize might be recognizing women more so in the recent decades than in the past. This is, unfortunately, not true. The last woman to win a Nobel Prize for physics, Maria Goeppert Mayer, was honored in 1964. The gap reflects longtime institutional biases against women within the sciences, a lag exacerbated by the decades-long backlog of Nobel-worthy discoveries, according to an infographic on the National Geographic website. Lise Meitner, one of the co-discoverers of nuclear fission, was nominated for the physics prize 29 times between 1937 to 1965 and the chemistry prize an additional 19 times from 1924 to 1948, according to the site. But, she would never win. "And while astronomer Vera Rubin's groundbreaking work revealing the existence of dark matter  received wide acclaim, she died on December 25, 2016, with no Nobel to call her own," the report said. 

Other institutions, such as The Man Booker Prize, a UK-based literary award, have lacked similarly. Almost 50 prizes have gone out from The Man Booker, but only 17 of those awards have gone to women. According to a 2016 article from Bustle, a woman of color was never awarded. The Man Booker has made recent inclusivity efforts, with half of its nominations being women authors. Although The Man Booker Prize is starting to recover for lost time and recognition, many other famous institutions still do not understand the importance of placing women on front covers.

This brings us to Time Magazine, a media source which hosts a Person of the Year issue annually. This award system has been running for 91 years, of which women have individually won the award only four times, once in 1936, 1952, 1986 and 2015. Other times that women were featured for this award, they were accompanied by a male or were featured in groups, receiving no individual recognition such as “American Women” or “Man & Wife of the Year.” This is a serious issue, as men are being recognized individually for their power over society unbelievably more than women are. This pattern of disrespect and pathetic excuses is intolerable.

In the past week, Time named the award to The "Silence Breakers," a group of majority women who came forward with their stories of sexual misconduct and assault, bringing attention to the people abusing their power in Capitol Hill, Hollywood, the media and other industries. While this recognition is a feat for women today, there is still much wrong with it. Time made its effort to represent women correctly, but backed up that representation incorrectly. This statement is in reference to the fact that President Donald J. Trump was runner up to The Silence Breakers for the award. Time published an article stating their reasons behind selecting Trump as runner up, “One thing is sure: love him or hate him, Trump has invaded our attention in ways previous Presidents never did. He commands more than just the levers of executive power; he has the nation, and the world, in the grip of his singular performance, and events have bent to his will.”

This is not only disrespectful, but unfair, to "The Silence Breakers." This group of majority women have lived and suffered with the consequences and truth of their experiences with sexual harassment. "The Silence Breakers" deserve the respect that they were given for bravely coming forward with their stories, for persevering against threats and critics who repeatedly failed to believe their stories. They do not deserve all their work being undermined by one of the nation’s most powerful assault criminals.

The truth is 20 different women allege that Trump has sexually assaulted or harassed them. It is hypocritical, ill-mannered and thoughtless to appoint him as runner up to the very women who work to defeat this norm in society. Philip Bump for The Washington Post said, “Power is at the heart of the issue, as we’ve seen while watching the revelations unfold. NBC’s Matt Lauer, movie producer Harvey Weinstein and prominent elected officials all held positions of authority that were leveraged to silence those whom they’d allegedly abused.” Trump has succeeded in winning the presidential election despite his criminal allegations, partially because of the power he has over society. By recognizing him as a powerful and influential leader, rather than a criminal, Time has treated "The Silence Breakers" unfairly.

Priyanka Bansal is a Rutgers Business School first-year double majoring in business and journalism and media studies. Her column, “Call for Change,” runs on alternate Tuesdays.

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Priyanka Bansal

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