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Ideas differ on success of women in workplace

Gainesville State College students hold debate

POSTED: April 5, 2008 5:00 a.m.
Tom Reed/The Times

Gainesville State College student Taylor Lanham poses a question to the panelists during the Great Gender Debate at the school Monday.

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Gainesville State College students squared off Monday afternoon to debate the existence of barriers for women in the workplace as part of the school’s Great Gender Debate.

Five Gainesville State College students — three women and two men — comprised a student panel that debated the realities of the theorized "glass ceiling" and affirmative action, as well as the effect Mattel’s unrealistically proportioned Barbie doll has on young girls.

In recognition of Women’s History Month, the Debate Club joined Students for a Progressive Society, the Politically Incorrect Club and Sigma Chi Eta in hosting the gender debate that discussed whether American culture discourages women’s success in the workplace.

Gainesville State College students from the various co-sponsor clubs participated in the student panel that presented arguments and entertained questions on gender equality issues from an audience of more than 50 students and faculty members.

Hannah Rogers, a second-year student, opened the debate with a presentation lambasting Mattel for the proliferation of the notion that blond, big-busted Barbie dolls represent the ideal female figure.

"Barbie simply robs children of an understanding of their own culture," Rogers said. "Everyone is beautiful in their own way, but Barbie suppresses this idea."

Rogers said if the proportions of a Barbie doll were translated into life-size measurements, Barbie would be 7 feet tall, have a waistline of 18 inches and a bust of about 38 inches.

Nicholas Humphrey, also a second-year student at Gainesville State, furthered the gender debate by stating that affirmative action "is currently not making any playing field more level, and it’s not making anything better."

John Schaefer, who is in his third year at GSC, said the glass ceiling theory that sociologists propose limits women’s rise to the upper ranks of executive power is "preposterous."

He pointed out successful businesswomen, such as talk show host Oprah Winfrey and Hearst Magazine President Cathie Black, as examples to disprove the glass ceiling theory.

Students from the audience countered Schaefer’s theory, noting that many more men occupy top executive positions than women. Yet other students from the audience suggested the disparity between men and women in leading executive jobs may exist because many women forego career opportunities to care for their children.

"My main point is there is a glass ceiling in the workplace, and that there are ways to break it if a woman takes the initiative to do so," said Shama Khimani, a second-year GSC student who served on the debate panel.

Michallene McDaniel, assistant professor of sociology at GSC is chairman of Women’s History Month events for the college, and said the gender debate is still relevant to college students today, although women have made great strides in the workplace during the past 50 years.

"I think it’s relevant in a different way than it was in the past," McDaniel said. "Now we’re debating the fine details and how to provide more opportunities for women in the workplace. The debate has moved forward over the years — which is a good thing."


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