Mathematics faculty member Tanaz Arteaga offers reflections in observance of Women’s History Month.
Editor’s Note: Tanaz Arteaga is a proud “mommy mathematician” currently working as a core faculty member in mathematics. Since joining Walden University’s College of Undergraduate Studies at its inception in 2008, she’s been helping students believe that they are all capable of mastering math and appreciating the subject’s applicability and beauty. She is constantly amazed and inspired by her students and understands their “plates” are as full as her own. She also moderates C.O.R.A.L. (Celebrating Our Roles in Academia and Life), a women’s studies student group.
A few terms ago, one of my undergraduate students posted her introductory biography message into the Class Café. She mentioned that she had four children, ages 2–14, worked full time as the associate director of human resources for her company, volunteered at her local church on weekends, and attended Walden to complete her BS in Business Administration with a concentration in Human Resource Management. She also mentioned that she had begun working on establishing a nonprofit organization to help struggling youth as a way of creating social change in her community.
I replied to her post: “Wow. So, when do you sleep? LOL! Sounds like you’ve got a full plate.”
Her hilarious response? “Yep. I have a really full plate, and sometimes I’m not even that hungry.”
As a fellow working mother, I laughed immediately and understood exactly what she meant, especially since 77% of Walden students are female with close to 80% working while attending school.
Every March we take a month to recognize and celebrate Women’s History Month. It’s important to have this official recognition. However, the truth is that every month is filled with women making history. In my humble opinion, making history occurs at many different levels. Just like earning an undergraduate degree is often the start of creating social change in the lives of our students.
From our students who will be the first college graduate in their family, to the struggling weekend warrior who managed to submit her assignment just minutes before the 11:59 p.m. MST deadline, to those finally finishing that degree they’ve aspired to achieve for 20 years—women are making their mark in academics, one assignment at a time.
Even with a steady pace of outnumbering men earning degrees for more than four decades, women still suffer a real and significant wage gap of about 77 cents to the dollar, with even bigger gaps for women of color, according to the American Association of University Women. Yet more women than ever are assuming leadership roles. Take Hillary Clinton, Janet Yellen and Marissa Mayer, for example. And the trailblazers before them, including Deborah Sampson, Susan B. Anthony, Sojourner Truth, Amelia Earhart, Ruth Simmons, Sandra Day O’Connor, and Sally Ride.
In thinking about these amazing women and others who have worked tirelessly to pave the road for so many of us, I start to reflect on my own experience. The history I’ve cooked up so far is much less grand, but no less important. I’m a female mathematician and a parent working full time as a teacher who feels fully dedicated to her students. Through the years, I’ve made significant sacrifices in my career to focus on my family, such as resigning from a leadership position when I was put on bed rest only three months into my first pregnancy. I have also felt a lot of pressure to prove my mathematical skills to colleagues at professional conferences to earn respect that I worked hard to deserve.
In the spirit of openness, I feel women sometimes place the most pressure on themselves and on one another. I believe it’s because we sense the potential to make history in each moment. There are many men who also have full plates and those who support, encourage, and celebrate the women in their lives. This isn’t about men versus women or even women versus the world; this is about celebrating the history and important roles of women.
My world—our world—has come a long way from the days when we had to fight for the right to vote, the right to an education, the right to serve our country, the right to be employed, and the right to lead. Women across the globe are still fighting for these rights, all the while accomplishing great things.
As professionals, mothers, academics, leaders, and women, we are constantly cooking up great ideas that make an impact and create social change. You can get exhausted just thinking about it, but I’d like to suggest that sometimes getting up in the morning is a small victory because our plates are practically overflowing. Yet at the end of the day, we manage to still be hungry. In fact, we are starving for more success. In our world, the history we are already making—and will continue to make—is to be savored.
In celebration of Women’s History Month, Walden presented webinars to commemorate the achievements of women—past and present—who have transformed their professions and our world with their vision and courage. To learn more, please go to http://www.waldenu.edu/about/events/special-events/womens-history-month.