- This blog post was written by Leah Hinshaw -
March 8th was International Women’s Day. On this day, a statue was erected in New York City. Directly across the famous bull of Wall Street, a bronze, school-aged girl stands in opposition. With her wide stance, her hands on her hips, her raised chin and her strong expression, she exudes confidence. This “fearless girl” statue is considered a statement against a lack of diversity in the corporate world, especially on executive boards.
This statue is an empowering statement for women, and I don’t mean to detract from that. However, the empowerment that I find from this art draws from the overlap of two aspects: the girl’s gender and her age.
Youth is chalked full of new challenges, and facing these challenges feels like staring down a charging bull all too often. Even things that seem menial (riding the bus for the first time, interviewing for my first part-time job, cooking a meal alone) are in fact intimidating. These experiences are novel and require independence. Doing something new without my friends or, even better, my parents by my side is scary. When larger challenges present themselves, such as coping with the lost of a loved one or feeling unworthy, it is often the exact same feeling, even if my loved ones are offering support. There are some things that no one else can do for me, no matter how much I beg or fight, and those are the bulls of my experience.
Because of its very nature, the entire college experience is full of these types of struggles. From the time I started deciding where to apply and attend to the time I decide what to do with my degree, it has been and will be challenge after challenge. As I reach the halfway point in my college career, I spend a lot of time reflecting on these obstacles and how best to face them and deal with the toll they take.
My biggest trial right now is the pressure to decide on a career path. I have found majors I am incredibly passionate about, but my feelings on the job prospects in these fields are less benevolent, to put it nicely. My fields are small, meaning that job opportunities are few and far between. Not non-existent, but competitive to the point of almost being obtained by chance. I am constantly torn between the call to follow my talents and passions and the need to pursue a stable career with which I can support myself and my loved ones. Trying to strike the balance between these two factors is hard, especially because it has those two key features: this is a new challenge for me, and I have to decide for myself.
What is so impressive about the fearless girl is that she is in the hardest position of all. True, she isn’t running away, but she is also not yet standing as a victor. She is in the scariest position, and she has made the hardest decision: to stand and face the challenge. She might lose, she might get hurt, and she might be mocked for thinking she could take on such a formidable task. But nevertheless, it looks as if she is taking on the bull without a second thought.
While some people have criticized the intent behind the statue for implying that women should join men in all the questionable behavior that occurs in big business, others have rebutted that the best way to enact change is to get diversity in those groups. Women seem, to some people, an odd fit for these positions; they may be considered unfit at worst, and out of place at best. But it seems a logical argument that an “out of place” piece could be exactly what is needed to improve organizations that have been acting in the same way for so long.
I hope I can face my challenges with just a fraction of the bravery so beautifully displayed in this statement piece. I know I don’t enter them fearlessly, but who’s to say that the fearless girl truly lacks fear? What is important is pushing through that fear, dealing with the challenge, and knowing that on the other side of that bull, success awaits, especially for those people who may seem out of place.
Supported by a Robert E. Bryan Fellowship from the APPLES Service-Learning Program, an offering of the Carolina Center for Public Service at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.
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