Women in male dominated fields of work and study struggle to compete with men who are in the same space despite putting in twice the amount of effort. This is something that is happening all over the world, including the United States, because women do not get the same treatment and respect as their male counterparts. Women and their capabilities are often undermined in the workplace.
Women often struggle to land a job or move up in a job that is male dominated. Businesses, corporations, and similar industries constantly minimize women’s capabilities. A local Leonian, Victoria Vasquez, spoke up about the injustices she has had to overcome to get to the place she is today. Ms. Vasquez currently works in the transportation industry and is in one of the highest positions there, “As a woman working in a male dominated field of work (transportation) I have to face a lot of doubt from clients. I also lost some bids just because they can’t see past my gender to show them all the experience I can bring to the table.” Ms.Vasquez’s personal anecdote encapsulates some of the hardships and misogyny women have to go through in order to even attempt to be on the same playing field as men.
Over the course of the past few centuries, women have proven to men time and time again that they can do the same job as them and be just as good as them or maybe even better, and yet that is ignored and women are still continuously getting beaten down in their workfields. Nour Karakus, a senior at Leonia High School, stated her doubts about going into criminology due to how male-dominated the industry is. She said, “I have concerns about not being offered opportunities because I am a woman. I am also afraid of staying stagnant and not moving up in my career. Competing with the men who are obviously being favored will be hard but I think I can do it. Young girls should feel confident about themselves and excited to go into their careers, yet they are not because they are scared of not being treated fairly. The underlying misogyny in the workplace is astonishing when we as women fought so hard for these opportunities and yet we are still getting snubbed.”
I reached out to our current Assistant Superintendent, Dr. Xanthy Karamanos, to get her take on this issue.
(The following has been edited for brevity)
Q: What are some hardships you’ve faced as a woman in one of the highest positions of power in your field?
Dr. Karamanos: There are a few hardships that I’ve faced throughout my career in educational leadership, which include: Gender Bias, Lack of Female Role Models, Communication Challenges, and Networking. Unfortunately, in many fields, including education, there can be preconceived notions about the leadership roles that women can or should hold. Some people may assume that women are less qualified or capable of leading in high-ranking positions. Overcoming this bias often involves proving oneself through additional accomplishments and going above and beyond the normal expectations, which can be an added burden. The scarcity of women in top educational leadership positions can make it difficult for aspiring female leaders to find mentors and role models. Having someone to look up to and guide your career can be a crucial factor in success. In a predominantly male environment, communication can be challenging. It is important to assert oneself without appearing overly aggressive or too passive. Striking the right balance and finding one’s unique leadership style can be a continuous journey. Building professional relationships and networks is essential for career advancement. However, networking events or circles may be male-dominated, which can sometimes be uncomfortable, and make it more challenging for women to establish connections and access opportunities.
Q: Do you believe there’s a barrier between men and women in your field?
Dr. Karamanos: Yes, I do believe that there have been barriers between men and women in this field. However, it’s important to note that significant progress has been made, and these barriers are gradually breaking down. Historically, the educational leadership field, like many others, has been male-dominated. This gender disparity often led to biases, stereotypes, and institutional structures that made it more challenging for women to advance to leadership positions.
However, positive changes are occurring as we work towards gender equality and diversity in education. Many organizations and institutions are actively promoting diversity and inclusion, and women are making strides in leadership roles. It is essential to continue breaking down these barriers by fostering an inclusive and equitable environment, promoting mentorship and other opportunities for women, and addressing gender bias head-on. By doing so, we can create a more balanced, representative, and effective educational system that better serves all students and prepares them for a diverse and inclusive world.
Q: What are some things you would tell another woman who is thinking about going into a career like yours?
Dr. Karamanos: First and foremost, believe in your capabilities and your potential to excel. Self-confidence is the foundation for your success. Remember that leadership is not limited by gender; your skills, knowledge, and dedication matter most. In any leadership role, challenges are inevitable. Develop resilience to bounce back from setbacks and adapt to changing circumstances. Learning from failures can be a valuable part of your growth. If you have a genuine passion for education and a desire to make a positive impact on students’ lives, follow your heart. A strong passion will drive you to overcome challenges and stay committed to your goals. Surround yourself with a support network of mentors, colleagues, and friends who can provide guidance, encouragement, and advice. Seek out mentors who can help navigate the unique challenges faced by women in educational leadership. Once you’ve established yourself in the field, consider how you can help other women pursue leadership positions. Use your position to advocate for equity, diversity, and inclusion. Promoting these principles not only benefits students and staff but can also foster a more inclusive and empowering work environment. Embrace [your own leadership style] and use it to your advantage. Don’t feel pressured to conform to stereotypes of leadership; authenticity is a valuable asset.
Women throughout history have been continuously discriminated against. They have been fighting an uphill battle for centuries that has still not ended. If women and overall society want change then they must fight for it and advocate for their rights. Dr. Karamanos offers this final advice, “Remember that you are not alone in this journey, and there are many other women who have successfully navigated the challenges of educational leadership. The more women who enter this field, the stronger the support network becomes. Embrace the opportunity to make a difference in the lives of students, and know that your contributions are valuable and meaningful.”
Edited by: Katerina Romanides