Recording of the Event
Mount Mary’s Women’s Leadership Institute is excited to offer access to a recording of Jessica Shortall's keynote, "What We Tell Ourselves About Gender and Work."
Recap of Jessica Shortall's Keynote
Jessica Shortall, an advocate for gender equity and author of “Work. Pump. Repeat,” was astonished when, upon returning to work after maternity leave, a co-worker asked how she enjoyed her “vacation.”
“I’d never been on a vacation like that before,” Shortall said in disbelief as she shared the experience with a group of over 300 Milwaukee area business leaders and members of the Mount Mary community. The perception that caregiving is misunderstood and undervalued in the workplace, was the topic of her keynote presentation at the Voices of Leadership event on March 21.
“Such perceptions are not fair to the health, happiness or well-being of women or men,” Shortall said. “Yet there is no enemy imposing this on us. We buy into it.”
Shortall challenged the audience to consider the factors that reinforce gender stereotypes, from unrealistic stock photography – an image depicting a mother balancing a baby on one hip and a laptop on the other – to the children’s books that parents read to children at bedtime.
“These types of images are keeping us (men and women) in our lanes, and are failing all of us,” Shortall said. Even in books that portray children as barrier-breaking – boy princesses and girl engineers – the parents are often stereotypical, giving little chance of hope for the future. “You can’t be what you can’t see.”
Whether women are caregivers or not, their roles are defined within the context of caregiving for either their children or aging relatives. This translates into lower wages, career potential and representation in various fields.
And while many men want to actively enter into caregiving roles, they are also limited by society’s perceptions and are often seen in a comedic light, such as “Mr. Mom.”
“Jessica is working to reset societal expectations, so all people can work across gender roles,” said Mount Mary President Christine Pharr, Ph.D.
The event concluded with a panel discussion with Shortall and Milwaukee-area leaders providing insight into how to affect change and greater equity.
Shortall's keynote was sponsored by Mount Mary’s Women’s Leadership Institute. Voices of Leadership is an annual event that provides the opportunity to engage in conversations with women leaders who have broken ground in entrepreneurship, innovation, social change and leadership. These women share their experiences, stories and best practices to help participants see and pursue their own leadership potential.
The Voices of Leadership event is about more than bringing a leader to campus to learn from her experiences. It's also an opportunity for our faculty to utilize the themes of the keynote to enhance the curriculum and explore these different topics with students in a way that is relevant to their disciplines.
In preparation for this year's event, students studied issues of gender roles from various perspectives. They exhibited their projects from a diversity of disciplines, including communications, interior design, fashion, art therapy and studio arts. Click here learn more about the student projects.