A newly-formed student org on campus seeks to address uneven gender dynamics at play in the Psychology department. Women in Psychology (WIP) was started by two senior Psychology majors as an “attempt to provide a space where women can feel comfortable discussing topics in Psychology,” as described on the club’s website.
The club follows in the tradition set by a few long standing clubs at Carleton, including Women in Economics, Women in Math and Science, and Lovelace (named after 19th-century mathematician Ada Lovelace). These groups work to amplify the voices of women in academic spaces often dominated by men.
“It’s not that we feel excluded from the major community,” said Psychology major and club founder Michelle Gazer ’20. “Carleton profs do a great job of fostering healthy learning environments. It’s just that there are some things you can get from a 100%-female discussion that you just can’t get from, say, a 96%-female discussion.”
Annie Shoemaker ’21 and Lucy Rae ’20 attended the first WIP meeting, which was held last week. “It was really cool to be in that kind of space,” said Shoemaker. “I mean, I love my Psychology classes, don’t get me wrong. But male voices are often prioritized. Well, maybe not prioritized, because there are usually only a couple of men. But still, they’re there. So that’s something.”
“When we talk about things like object permanence, or the role of potassium in action potentials, it can be hard to listen to a single man speak,” continued Shoemaker. “Again, and I want to be clear about this, classes are almost entirely female. But when there are even three or four men, it really changes the dynamic. Or, to be more precise, it slightly changes the dynamic, a little bit.”
“It’s really exciting,” said Rae of WIP. “Women supporting each other like this. In a department that’s so overwhelmingly female, it’s really great to have a space that’s actually, 100%, exclusively female. The exclusion of those handful of men, who care about Psychology just like we do and often make insightful contributions in class, really makes all the difference.”
“It can be hard to be a woman in STEM,” continued Rae. “But it’s even harder being a woman in Psychology, when there are already so many other women studying Psychology too.”
“In my Psychology of Gender class, all the students are women,” noted Shoemaker. “And class discussions are great. But it reaches a whole new level of awesome when those exact same people gather together for WIP and talk about the exact same topics — it’s like, our normal class, but this time we’re there as women Psych majors, not just as Psych majors. I don’t know, I just think there’s something pretty powerful about that.”
“Women Psych majors, you know? I mean, it just has a nice ring to it,” said Gazer, an ambitious glint in her eyes.
Nareen Dickson-Halto ’20, a male Psychology major and one of the department’s Student Departmental Advisors (SDA), commented: “I don’t know. I’m happy that women are empowering each other. But it’s kind of awkward when my prof announces that there’s a WIP meeting after class in the same room, to which every member of the class except for me is invited. They basically just ask me to leave. I usually spend that time planning cool Psych bonding events, so I guess it’s good to have the extra hour free. But it’s still kind of weird to hear them laughing through the wall while I send out an email to the major listserv seeing if people would wanna go bowling.”
A few new clubs have been inspired by WIP. Women in Educational Studies, as well as Women in Women’s and Gender Studies, are expected to hold their first meetings next Monday.