The future is female

March+was+declared+as+Women%27s+History+Month+by+the+United+States+in+1987.+Graphic+by+Greta+Pankratz

March was declared as Women’s History Month by the United States in 1987. Graphic by Greta Pankratz

Greta Pankratz and Katie Medina

Celebrating the strides of women and honoring VHS teachers during Women’s History Month.

For decades, the month of March has been a time for our world to celebrate triumph, challenges and strength– Women’s History Month. This national celebration began in 1981, but at first, was only a week long. A few years later, in 1987, Congress passed the celebration to be as it is today, a whole month to, according to the official webpage (womenshistorymonth.gov), “celebrate the contributions women have made to the United States and recognize the specific achievements women have made over the course of American history in a variety of fields.” 

As March goes on, the faces of women like Malala Yousafzai, Rosa Parks and Ruth Bader Ginsburg remind the country once again of the courage exemplified by many women in history as they have battled the additional obstacles put up for women. From having to work towards the right to vote, for an education and for equal treatment in the workplace, the month of March acknowledges the turmoil these women have been through. Even after all of the work women have done to make progress, there are still some shocking facts. According to Pew Research, women on average earned 83 cents for every dollar earned by men. This gap was apparently significantly smaller for Asian and white women than it was for black and Hispanic women. 

Ventura High School’s SAP counselor, Bobbie Richards, gave advice to young women and the next generation of female leaders. She stated, “You have POWER and it starts with using your VOICE!” Photo from: Bobbie Richards

Despite workplace discrimination being illegal in the United States under the laws enforced by the Equal Employment Opportunity Comission, discrimination and challenges faced due to one’s race are still ongoing in the world today. Generations of women of color have fought for their rights for equal opportunity in the workplace and recent data is proving their sacrifices are coming to fruition. According to Catalyst, Latinas and Asian women will make up a larger percentage of the U.S. labor force than ever before throughout the next decade. Asian women are expected to have an 18.8% increase and Hispanic or Latina women are expected to have a 25.8% increase. Black women in the labor force are also expected to see an increase of 9.3%. Being a woman in the labor force can be extremely difficult but also being a woman of color can be extremely challenging. Ventura High School’s SAP Counselor, Bobbie Richards shared her experiences being a Black woman in the labor force and her empowering thoughts. She stated, “I’ve faced challenges as a woman, intersecting with being a Black woman, intersecting with being a mother of 3 Black sons; intersecting with being a wife.  Each of those facets of my life has had its individual challenge; but all intertwined together had/has the propensity of discounting my existence in life; but I won’t have it…no I won’t!”

Women have continued to make great strides in the workplace but it is evident that gender gaps in the workplace still are prevalent. According to Pew Research, roughly four-in-ten working women say they’ve experienced gender discrimination in the workplace. VHS teacher Karen Reynosa shared her experiences being a female in a predominantly male-dominated field. She said, “I have been scoffed at by male colleagues in new Chemistry settings at all schools except for at VHS. When I would arrive at a new school they would not give me the time of day or share lab space. After working with these men we formed bonds and were able to successfully collaborate. My male bosses would constantly ‘man-splain’ without knowing it, but recently this has been changing in society.”

Although a significant part of celebrating Women’s History Month is celebrating the change made from women’s contributions, it is important to recognize that we as a country still have leaps and bounds to take before we can say women are treated equally. With a simple Google search, the issues of women being taken advantage of or being victims of prejudice is extremely evident. According to National Public Radio, a survey taken in 2018 found that in a women’s lifetime, 81% have experienced some form of sexual harassment including verbal sexual harassment, unwelcome sexual touching and sexual assault. Something almost as unsettling as this statistic is the fact that most victims don’t report their experiences due to how damaging these experiences can be or how in previous years it hasn’t been “culturally acceptable” to talk about sexual harassment. Movements such as the #MeToo campaigns have advocated for survivors to speak out against their experiences in order to combat various forms of sexual misconduct. 

Female VHS teachers are true testaments to defying the past narrative that was powerfully written by Virginia Wolf, who stated, “For most of history, anonymous was a woman.” Infographic by: Katie Medina

In times like these, it’s important we all uplift one another and speak out against injustices when we see them. Women’s History Month is a reminder to us all to be more open minded to others’ ideas and to never write someone off based on their differences. The constant battle women have been fighting to be treated as equals can be over when our world decides to put aside prejudice. Instead of labeling women just as the mothers, caretakers and nurturers of the world, we need to also honor them as the leaders, inventors and future of this world. Take it from another VHS teacher, Linda Bergfeld. She has been looking up to women like this in the world since she was young. Bergfeld said, “Ada Lovelace has been called the world’s first computer programmer. What she did was write the world’s first machine algorithm for an early computing machine that existed only on paper. Of course, someone had to be the first, but Lovelace was a woman, and this was in the 1840s.” 

Bergfeld has even had her passion for the STEM world ever since at least in high school. With an early love for math and discovery of her love for coding as a senior in high school, she explained, “I loved solving the puzzles and creating ‘something’ from nothing and solving problems. I was a programmer, business analyst, project manager and executive in the world of software development and consulting for 20 years before becoming a teacher. I have come full circle as I now teach AP Computer Science and hopefully young women and men are finding their love of coding too in my class!” With the many determined and welcoming teachers, including Reynosa and Bergfeld, on the VHS campus, there are many opportunities for aspiring learners to test what they like.

VHS Assistant Principal, Elizabeth Botello has hope for the future of women’s equality. She said, “I think we are steadily closing the gap as more women are holding positions in spaces that were once male-dominated– especially in leadership roles and fields of study. We continue to make positive strides, but the work is still not done. I’m grateful for my female colleagues in my profession who have been my mentors and now, good friends. I can lean on them for advice and support. I’m also lucky to have male leaders in my life who provide opportunities for women to thrive and take on leadership roles in my profession.” Botello is a symbol of female leadership for all students to look up to and recognize. It is such a competitive world, so having a positive attitude, like Botello, will aid in bringing people together and allowing society to continue progressing as a whole. 

Ventura High School teacher Karen Reynosa has participated in numerous marches since she was in college, showing her support for “equality and respect for all.” Photo from: Karen Reynosa

Take some final advice from another one of the many inspiring women on campus. Another teacher in the science world, Lorilee Johnson, presented some advice for young girls in honor of this month. She said, “Be confident in you…pursue your goals without comparing yourself to others. Figure out what you love and are passionate about. Know you, enjoy everything about you and who you are now. Be happy, sincere and kind. You don’t have to do it all.” The point of this month is to honor women for the work they have put in towards the future, but to also recognize that the extra steps should not be necessary. Both men and women must work together to not compare each other, if we truly wish for progression. No one group is better than the other, just some deserve the extra love to mend the broken balance. If we all as a society make it a priority to generate change, we can create a safer, more inclusive world for everyone. Let this month be a symbol for us all to create systemic change and create a world where women don’t have to go the extra mile to get to the same exact place as their male coworker. 

We want to wish all the female Ventura High School teachers a Happy Women’s History Month. We thank you all for your contributions and dedication to inspiring young women to achieve great things.