From the very moment we enter kindergarten our next thirteen or seventeen years are no longer up to us. Sure we can rebel, choose to drop out of school, or elect not to attend college. But we’re all at Duke, so I’m going to go out on limb and say we allowed our lives to be dictated by a cultural hegemony. Our immediate goal was decided for us – do well and move on to the next level of education. Of course we had opportunities to define our interests and seek complementary ventures, but the key word is complementary. With few exceptions we never chose to substitute our end game.
As college quickly comes to a close for the class of 2013, some of us are unemployed and completely at a loss as to what path to pick. It doesn’t have to and likely will not be the one we will travel forever. Yet we still have a choice to make. Many of us chose our next step as a way to bide time. I could not tell you how many times I’ve heard, “I don’t know what I want to do, but I’m working at [insert company here] for a year or two ‘til I get my MBA or figure out what I want.”
There in lies the problem. We never had to figure out what we want. You could argue that we did when we chose our area of study. But remind me how many biomedical engineers from Duke become consultants? Certainly our tastes or aspirations may have and will change. I still wonder how many of us pursue pastimes that inspire in us zeal.
Some of us are fortunate enough to know our passions. I have friends who invest their lives to film in hopes of becoming directors. Others will speak to the world through dance or search for new vaccinations in lab coat. They are a fortunate minority. Most of us have either experimented or sat idly coming up with nothing.
Those of us leaving Durham in five weeks need ask ourselves if our next chapter is going to be written by the expectations and standards of others or if we will draft our own script. Those staying behind should use your remaining time to question your current trajectory. Exist with intentionality and gusto. Duke has opportunities for you to explore, though most are not advertised well. You can find funding to do research abroad or begin a new social venture. If there’s something you want to try, ask because there is a way.
Being lost is fine, as long as we’re conscious of it. In knowing our lack of direction, we are at least assured that we’re asking the right questions. Facing the, “Now what?” can be daunting, but don’t let it scare you into forfeiting the next X number of years to a safe system of predetermination.
Graduating students will soon take their first steps down career paths that may take unforeseen directions. In his 30 years as a college career counselor, William Wright-Swadel has picked up some wisdom about the road ahead for soon-to-be graduates, which he shared in a live "Office Hours" webcast interview on Friday, April 5.
“I’m sure I could think of other ways for a pretty girl like you to make a living.”
Did you just read that? Did you shudder just a little? I think we can all agree that there is a large creep quotient contained in the above sentence. This is one of the many submissions on the tumblr Said to Lady Journos. Somehow this person managed to demean women, journalists, and the boundaries of decency in 18 words. The site makes it clear that this kind of occurrence is not uncommon. My personal favorite was said to a woman covering a murder trial, and when the testimony was getting gruesome, a man looked at her and said, “You might want to cover your ears, young lady.”
It’s tough to be a lady journo. The kind of sexism we see on screen and in print is just as prevalent behind the scenes. Men dominate journalism- 74% of journalists at national papers are men. It gets more depressing when you go into more traditionally gendered sections of the paper- 3% of sports writers are women. As a note, at schools like Georgetown 59% of journalism majors are women. So this isn’t about women not being interested in journalism. Surprise, institutional sexism is afoot.
Last year I started a project to see how often women made the front page of large national papers. The methodology was simple. Pick 50 random dates from 2005-2010 and find the gender of the reporters wrote the front-page stories. After hours of looking at microfiche (which is a very unfamiliar experience for a child of the Internet age, by the way) I had some concrete evidence, and results were startling.
I’m not claiming that these numbers gleaned from a small sample are definitive, what I’m positing is that these numbers are indicative of trends that others have (often more eloquently) also written about here, here, and here.
So yeah, there’s a problem of sexism in media. You’re probably about to click the back button while muttering to yourself, “duh.” Here’s why I care, and here’s why you should too- it matter who writes the news. Some might disagree. They might say, “news should be objective” or “the truth is the truth.” I say that if you don’t believe writer’s biases affect their writing, you aren’t paying attention. Our experiences shape how we address issues. The experience of men and women in this country is fundamentally different. Until we have a plurality of experience represented in the media, we’ll never be representing the news as it’s lived by citizens. It’s simple. With only 30% of reporters being female, we aren’t even getting half the story
I hear a lot of griping over the fact that Duke lacks a business major for undergraduates. We allegedly don’t want to encourage a pre-professional academic experience because Trinity is a liberal arts school. Yet two of our most popular majors Public Policy and Economics teach us statistical, analytical and ethical skills, which are transmutable into business acumen, though indirectly. The most popular certificate: Markets and Management. Nearly every student I’ve talked to says they take the courses because it’s the closest thing we offer to a business degree, and it falls short by a lot. Duke students are hungry for something we think will help us be the next Warren Buffet. The reasoning for not having an AB in business is ironic considering the students’ general professional drive. A degree, however, won’t prepare any of us for a career in the trade.
We need to be creative. We need to paint. A few weeks before Spring Break, DUU Visual Arts hosted a spin art and crayon melting night in the Keohane Atrium, a chance for students to create. For a few others and me the evening devolved (or artistically evolved) to one of finger painting. I embraced my inner kindergartener and lathered my hands with dark orchid, sea foam green, and every shade in between. Though nothing I made would qualify as art or even be worthy of hanging on the refrigerator, it was fun and allowed me to think differently.
The human mind supposedly can’t imagine anything completely new. Everything is a rehashing and variation of the things we’ve experienced. The beauty and importance of artistic expression is to make things unseen or undone. By doing and living, we gain raw material to manipulate. We increase our potential to create.
Duke and Durham provide opportunities to learn so we can in turn make art. Listen to jazz at the Mary Lou on Wednesdays or at Beyú on Thursdays. Visit the Nasher or the Durham Arts Council. Go to Full Frame. Even walk through the gardens or appreciate campus’ architecture.
A liberal arts education includes math, languages, history, literature, science, and philosophy because it is meant to instill a dynamic knowledge that produces articulate individuals. In experiencing we gain shards to organize into infinite mosaics. Which is why even those of you in Pratt should be participating in art.
Your art doesn’t have to be with oils on a canvas or with clay. Last semester, I took a course on writing poetry, which introduced me to a new way of playing with words and meaning. When my professor told me my analysis and review of poetry readings was more poetic than my own lines, I knew writing poetry wasn’t my art form. I’ll never be Wordsworth, but the class experience gave me knowledge I can use elsewhere.
The arts are growing on campus. In the past few years we’ve seen the creation of DU Arts – an umbrella organizations of art councils that encourages communication and collaboration between the different mediums – and the Arts Annex. Duke isn’t trying to churn out painters, musicians or ballerinas. It is starting to recognize the value in developing nimble-minded and creative people, for they will be able to thrive in any field including business.
By Nadine Verna, Assistant Director, Duke University Career Center
In February, 84 Duke alumni and over 300 students participated in The Duke Career Conference: The Fannie Mitchell Conference on Career Choices, engaging in discussions about five industry groups and more than 50 career options available to those with a liberal arts education. It was fun. It was factual. It was fabulous! If you were there, you know what I am talking about. If you weren’t, there are still many ways for you to explore careers and connect to Duke alumni. Whether you attended the conference or not, the question is: are you willing to do the work necessary to reap the benefits of networking?
That’s right, I said it: Work! Many students don’t realize that to make effective career connections and expand their network of contacts, effort will be required on their part. In addition, some fail to see the value of building professional connections over time. Even if you have a job or internship lined up, you will still need a Board of Advisors from whom to draw knowledge and build additional contacts. While some work environments provide built-in support and mentorship for entry-level candidates, many do not. Either way, trusted external relationships can come in handy for helping you navigate your career and workplace politics with less risk of jeopardizing your professional image. These relationships can also be useful in helping you identify new professional development or work opportunities, especially for industries without formal recruiting structures such as arts, entertainment and media.
After you have determined that the contact is interested in staying in touch, you must be willing to invest by following up on topics discussed and following through on actions promised. Also, show that you are genuinely interested in building a relationship by checking in from time to time and offering support and resources to your contact as well. This will help you build credibility and earn trust. Your connections are much more likely to provide you with resources and referrals after you have done your part. Remember, it is never too late to start networking and it is okay to start small.
Make the decision to do one thing today like create a LinkedIn account; find three contacts on DukeConnect with whom to conduct informational interviews; or follow-up with alumni from The Duke Career Conference. You won’t regret it.
Does Facebook’s COO Sheryl Sandberg have the answer for how women can finally break the glass ceiling? Probably not.
Sandberg has attracted a lot of attention in the past few years. She’s delivered TED Talks and a Barnard College commencement speech, and those speeches brim with facts describing the dire situation of female leadership. As she said at Barnard, “Of 190 heads of 2 state, nine are women. Of all the parliaments around the world, 13% of those seats are held by women. Corporate America top jobs, 15% are women; numbers which have not moved at all in the past nine years. Nine years. Of full professors around the United States, only 24% are women.”
We all recognize that this is not ideal (I hope), but what to do about it? Sandberg’s answers to this question have been the impetus for her most recent wave of media attention. The crux of her upcoming book “Lean In: Women, Work, and the Will to Lead” is that women need to work and try harder, and ‘lean in’ to their careers to achieve their full potential. Sandberg wants to begin a network of ‘Lean In Circles,’ where women meet monthly to discuss ways to combat inequality in the workplace.
Many have found this prescription easy to criticize, as Sandberg may have encountered fewer obstacles ascending her career ladder with two Harvard degrees and Larry Summers, Harvard’s former president and the former Secretary of the Treasury, as her academic and professional mentor.
Another criticism of the “Lean In” model is that Sandberg focuses on helping the already-elite rise to super-elite status (for example, the Lean In Circles she suggests are “Booz Allen Hamilton Lean In Circles and Stanford University Lean In Circles”). What should be done, many argue, is focusing on how we can deconstruct already-existing power structures and empower more women to ascend professionally.
I have to admit that I’ve been a starry-eyed Sandberg disciple ever since I watched that Barnard commencement speech, and felt like I had finally found my professional role model. I pre-ordered the Kindle version of “Lean In” months ago, and will probably try to join a Lean In Circle. I’ve spent the majority of this past weekend reading columns and blog posts criticizing Sandberg’s ideas, and then juxtaposing critical articles with re-watching the Barnard commencement speech and Makers.com’s Sandberg video-profile.
Maureen Dowd wrote a pretty scathing column about Leaning In that really had me think twice about my Sandberg veneration. Upon Dowd’s finding that Lean In Circles are supposed to include women telling professional stories with only positive endings, and that there is a specific instruction for circle-leaders to not invite flakes, Dowd responds with, “That leaves me leaning out.” She concludes by suggesting that Sandberg has created the whole Lean In movement to market herself.
I’m still going to read Sandberg’s book, and I’m still probably going to join a Lean In Circle. I do feel that it is important to question Sandberg and criticize her project. What are her motivations? Does she really blame women for not working hard enough? Does her advice about professional advancement apply as much to a community college student as it does to a Harvard student? I’m working on answering those questions for myself.
Ultimately, I think a project that directs attention toward closing the gender gap is probably net-positive, even if there are some questionable aspects to it.
Lately, I’ve been paying more attention to how people (myself included) use pronouns. I’ve noticed that more of my peers are using gender-inclusive language like using him or her, as well as gender-neutral language, such as using the third-person plural pronoun “they” as a singular pronoun, to my AP English teacher’s chagrin.
Jill Filipovic, our first Write(H)ers guest writer of the semester, Editor of Feministe and columnist for The Guardian, called my attention to our society’s overreliance on gendered, male-dominated language when she apologized immediately after referring to our group, which was made up of fifteen women and one man, as “you guys.”Not only the feminist bloggers are being more deliberate about their use of gendered pronouns. I notice when my professors use gender-inclusive language, and pay particular attention when a professor continually inverts the classic order of “men and women” (as if the inclusion of “women” was added as an afterthought) to “women and men.” The order may seem inconsequential, but when your political analysis professor, who happens to be a white man, begins a lecture with “The next woman or man elected President…” instead of the classic, tongue-in-cheek version, “The next man—or maybe (maybe!) woman—elected President…,” I feel encouraged, inspired, and powerful.
Perhaps they are just following President Obama’s lead. In his most recent inaugural address, he mentioned the words “woman” and “women” eight times, compared to five total mentions of the male equivalent. The only times he mentioned women without including men were when he said “women have proven under fire that they are ready for combat,” congratulated the Senate for passing the Violence Against Women Act, and encouraged Congress to pass to Paycheck Fairness Act this year. These instances highlight when it’s necessary to use gendered language—when you are advocating for equality in the forms of equal recognition of military service, equal protection against violence, and equal pay for equal work.
The question I ask is: Has the corporate world caught on yet? I’ve been attempting to masquerade as a real person these last few weeks: networking over stale crackers and tasteless cheese, frantically visiting the Career Center each time I revise my résumé, and traveling to Washington D.C. for an interview last weekend. Every company and organization I’ve had the pleasure of interacting with thus far has had a male CEO, and although the underrepresentation of females in the most influential positions within a corporate hierarchy is a huge problem in itself, I don’t think it’s fair to criticize each individual organization solely on that criteria. What I can critique is the trend I see across companies: a consistent referral to CEOs, Vice Presidents, accountants, and clients as exclusively male. Today in an information session for a company that shall remain nameless, a young woman asked the female recruiter about the feasibility of switching to another division once you’ve been assigned to one of the company’s four. The female recruiter responded, “Oh, you just ask one of the guys who is leading a particular team within the division that interests you if he could request you to work for him,” she responded, apparently not seeing my eyebrows shoot up my forehead in surprise.
I know that “guys” has a adopted a certain flexibility that permits it to occasionally function as a gender-neutral term, but when people use it in a context that has historically only referred to men, I can’t help but feel alienated. Hopefully, my increased awareness of my overreliance on gendered or even anti-feminist pronouns will also heighten my awareness of using language that is—and I am guilty of this too—homophobic, racist, or classist.
When I imagine the glass ceiling, I envision a tall building with many stories. It is difficult to climb but has a view that is worth it in the end, and on the final floor the ceiling is a sunroof that tauntingly allows in beautiful rays of sunlight. People attempt to find a latter or set of stairs in order to get on the roof and actually see the sky from high up, some go as far as to push on it or try and find a weak spot, but alas there is no entry. All you can do is stare up and wish for a breath of fresh air.
As a junior at Duke, it is difficult for me to envision a perfect trajectory for my career. I have a plethora of goals and I’m open to a variety opportunities. When I imagine my climb to the top, I expect there will be moments where I feel out of breath on the stairs or trip and have to catch myself. I want to make it to the top floor and believe that climbing onto the roof is possible. Until now, that might have been difficult, but things are changing.
Finally, it seems like the glass ceiling might be weakening. Last week, Business Week published an article which stated that the number of female Chief Financial Officers (CFO’s) in Standard & Poor 500 companies has risen from 40 to 54 in the past year alone. Most CFO’s have experience in accounting, and women make up the majority of Certified Public Accountants at 61.3%. This is notable because finance has long been considered a male dominated field, and those numbers are changing. Women are crossing boundaries previously barred to them, which is essential for creating a new status quo and diminishing the power structure surrounding gender.
Being CFO isn’t a fast track to success, but it is a step in the right direction. The Business Week article stated that 15% of CEO’s held the position of CFO at some point in their careers. By working as CFO for a company, women prime themselves for the opportunity to hold other executive positions later in their careers, and have a higher chance of becoming CEO at some point. The only way to prove that women can be successful in the business world is by placing them in positions of power and allowing them to succeed and redefine the industry. CEO is not everyone’s ultimate goal, but if more women are offered the position, it will influence the way women are viewed and hired. It would have the potential to change company culture, and on a broader level, the prevalent business culture.
At this point, the question is: will the new glass just shift or will it thin? Instead of focusing on obtaining executive roles, will women stride to the top but fail at obtaining the highest honor of CEO? It seems likely. Hopefully, as women establish themselves in other executive roles such as CFO, CEO will become less elusive, and women will be candidates for all types of companies.
The glass ceiling is unacceptable. Whether it shifts or thins, society will not be truly progressive until it doesn’t exist at all. I want to be able to stand on top of that building, taking in the world around me, breathing in the fresh air and feeling the sunlight on my skin, knowing the success of overcoming the impossible.
First-year undergraduates are often faced with a double-bind: the need for professional experience in order to gain professional experience. Compounding this challenge is the fact that when vying for summer internships, first-years find themselves in competition with more experienced sophomores and juniors.
Recognizing this unique situation, the Career Center established First-Year Internships at Duke, a competitive program that matches first-year students with project-based internships throughout the University and Medical Center.
Now in its 9th year, the program offers 35 students substantive, project-based professional experiences within 21 departments and offices across Duke. As you read this, these students are engaged in planning major events, creating a documentary film, developing a marketing plan, as well as working in public relations and videography. Over the years, interns and their mentors have developed several permanent Duke programs.
There are many benefits for participating in this program. By taking on a substantive project, First-Year Interns gain skills and experience they can market to future internship managers and employers. Students in the program also begin to gain clarity around their professional preferences: the kinds of work functions they enjoy, the work environments in which they thrive, their management styles they prefer, and more. Many also report a greater sense of connection to Duke through the experience of working closely with their project supervisor/mentor. Additionally, through early exposure to professional environments, students gain an understanding of professional etiquette and office culture while honing transferable professional skills like communication, research, planning, interpersonal relations, organization, decision-making, and time management.
"My first year internship at the Fuqua School of Business was one of my semester's highlights. The internship experience was as real as any job I've ever had, only unlike my jobs my decisions during the internship were affecting hundreds of people around the world. In addition, the contacts I made at Fuqua have already influenced my Duke career for the better." --Kenny Gould, former First-Year Intern.
I am so pleased and proud to introduce to Duke University a new program called The Freeman Fellows Internship Program offered through Jewish Life @ Duke. This program ties together what I believe Duke and Judaism are all about: Community, Work Ethic, Commitment, Loyalty & Family. When these come together, it's a recipe for success.
The Freeman Fellows Internship Program is open to the entire Duke undergraduate community. The goal is to provide students access to and gain experience from some of the best and brightest people and businesses out there today. From finance, to entrepreneurship, to construction, the program provides students with the experience, tools and networks needed to explore desired careers and succeed in their chosen paths.
We at the Freeman Center for Jewish Life are eager to grow this program and the impressive network we are building. We look forward to providing and being a part of the best programs Duke has to offer.