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Women at UGA: 100 years of evolving gender roles

Alan Flurry

Coeducation at the University of Georgia opened up a variety of fields where opportunities had been few, and over the decades has begun to change how women see themselves and engage their intellectual and career interests. Doctoral candidate Michelle Ziadie shares this thoughtful perspective from a scientist:

It wasn't until I started graduate school that I really began to reflect on the challenges I faced as a woman of color pursuing a career in the sciences. What made me most uncomfortable was how many of these challenges were coming from within me– perceived gender roles that kept me from even considering certain opportunities. Some of these ideas are really sticky and are difficult to unlearn. I wonder if the first women to pursue college and graduate degrees at UGA felt the same way? Surely they must have had fears and doubts and internal conflicts that they couldn't entirely let go. So much has changed in 100 years– women's right to vote, the civil rights movement, advances in science, medicine, and technology– but I wonder if some of the insecurities of the 'educated woman' have really changed at all. If those pioneering women were here today, would they be able to offer professional advice that is still relevant to modern college-educated women? I think I would be satisfied to know that "The First Twelve" would be proud of my accomplishments and impressed by how far women have come, especially in male-dominated fields like science. I hope we have reached milestones that they never even considered possible and that in the next 100 years women take advantage of opportunities that I can't even imagine.

Michelle Ziadie is a fourth-year Ph.D. candidate in genetics specializing in evolutionary genetics and evolution education research. Born and raised in Miami, she earned her undergraduate degree at USF in Tampa, FL.

Image: The first class of women at UGA, sometimes called "The First Twelve," were older students who enrolled as part of the Junior Class, transferring credits from other colleges. Courtesy of the Hargrett Rare Book & Manuscript Library.

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