On Tuesday, March 8, which was International Women’s Day, more than fifty members of the College community signed on to Zoom at 3:30 p.m. to listen to a presentation from Dr. M. Cristina Alcalde titled “The Road Ahead for Women of Color: Pandemic Lessons and Opportunities.” The robust turnout from faculty, students, and staff alike showed the timeliness and relevance of the subject matter. Dr. Alcalde, who currently serves as Vice President for Institutional Diversity and Inclusion at Miami University, drew on her expertise as an administrator and a scholar of women’s and gender studies to highlight the challenges women of color face in the workplace and to identify opportunities for equity.
To frame the conversation and welcome the audience, Professor Elizabeth Porter, Assistant Professor of English and Coordinator of Hostos Community College’s Women’s and Gender Studies Program, opened, sharing a few words on the theme of International Women’s Day: #BreakTheBias. Hostos College President Daisy Cocco De Filippis offered heartfelt greetings to the Hostos community and a warm welcome to the speaker. Professor Ana Lopez from the Latin American and Caribbean Studies Unit in the Humanities Department, introduced Dr. Alcade, highlighting her contributions to the discipline of Anthropology and the research areas of gender violence, racialization, and migration.
Dr. Alcalde’s presentation included a slideshow that carefully walked attendees through relevant data that pointed out challenges and opportunities in the workplace. She acknowledged that opportunities were also challenges, but her nuanced explanations helped the audience understand how positive and future-oriented language could inspire change. While there were numerous topics addressed in this presentation, there were some key takeaways to share. For example, allies should use their privilege to speak up and call out problems they observe. When microaggressions happen, it is important that the person who caused the harm acknowledges and apologizes for their mistake, rather than becoming defensive or ignoring the effect of their microaggression. Men, of course, can be allies, but so can white women. One of the unfortunate effects of not disaggregating data is that white women and women of color are often lumped together in statistical analyses of workplace cultures. Since white women benefit from racial privilege, the experiences and needs are not the same as for women of color. Supports for women of color must honor intersectional identities. Finally, workplaces that strive for inclusion must not expect “assimilation,” but embrace and understand the differences that inform people’s perspectives and sources of knowledge.  
After the presentation, Dr. Alcalde answered a wide range of questions from members of the audience. Due to the open and safe environment that she had created, participants felt empowered to ask for specific guidance on becoming better allies or handling gender discrimination they personally had faced. A question from Professor Jerilyn Fisher, former coordinator of WGS and current member of the WGS Council, referenced Dr. Alcalde’s 2021 piece in Ms. Magazine on the topic of burnout during the pandemic for women of color. Dr. Alcalde’s responses to all questions were validating and illuminating.
The Women’s History Month lecture informed and connected the college community. The objective of Women’s and Gender Studies programming is to foster wide-ranging discussions of gender through an intersectional lens and from interdisciplinary perspectives. Dr. Alcalde’s lecture was a wonderful way to kick off this month’s events! Please see the Women’s History Month page of the WGS Commons for the 2022 calendar of events as well as resources for teaching. Also, Prof. Laskin (Library Faculty) has created a LibGuide for Women’s History Month that can be enjoyed all year round! Thank you to members of the Women’s and Gender Studies (WGS) Faculty Council for help with planning and promoting this event, which include Professors Andrea Fabrizio, Inmaculada Lara Bonilla, Jerilyn Fisher, Alexandra Milsom, Victoria Muñoz, Krystyna Michael, Miriam Laskin, Marcella Bencivenni, Karen Steinmayer, and Carmen Inda García.