UCO to Host Women’s Empowerment Forum

UCO to Host Women’s Empowerment Forum

Chrissy Kyles works in the Women’s Outreach Center on the first floor of the Nigh University Center.  (Photo from Vista archives)

Panelists will discuss the impact of intersectionality on the discrimination faced by women and how to navigate these challenges as an activist and community leader at the University of Central Oklahoma’s first Women’s Empowerment Forum to be held at 12:30 p.m. Sept. 21.

Intersectionality is a term that broadly describes the overlapping connection of an individual’s social identities such as race, gender or class and how these identities impact life perspectives as well as compound the effects of discrimination.

The first forum of its kind at UCO; the event was arranged to educate the community on the nature of intersectionality and to share the experience of being a double minority due to social identity overlap, according to Chrissy Kyles, graduate assistant for the Women’s Outreach Center.

“This is relevant to women and feminism because, although all women face discrimination, the intersectionality of a woman can even set them at a bigger disadvantage,” said Kyles. “For example, Latina women only make 54 cents for every dollar paid to white, non-Hispanic men. Latina women have the lowest full-time earnings among any other minority group.”

A joint venture between UCO’s Hispanic American Student Association, Latino Faculty and Staff Association and the Women’s Outreach Center as part of Hispanic Heritage Month, the panel will also address the specific challenges faced by Hispanic women as a double minority.

Featured panelists include actress Stephanie Pena and Veronica Alacorn of Hispanic advocacy group UnidosUS, as well as UCO’s Director of Cultural Outreach Liliana Renteria Mendoza, UCO’s Community Outreach Coordinator Jessica Mascote and Miss Latina UCO Marilyn Segura.

“Intersectionality is important in the Hispanic community because we are talking about people who fall into the dual or even triple minorities category,” said Segura. “These women, but also men, go through hardships and some do not have a single clue how to overcome any of those barriers.”

Raised in a single-parent household alongside her three sisters, Segura has herself witnessed and experienced first-hand the effects of intersectionality. As a panelist, she said she hopes to use her background and experience to empower others and inform different communities about intersectionality.

The intersectionality panel is the third forum sponsored or co-sponsored by HASA as part of their Hispanic Heritage Month celebrations. Along with celebrating Hispanic culture, the organization has used the month as an opportunity to also address relevant social issues in the Hispanic community.

“This event falls into the fact that HASA is wanting to not only inform others about these daily life situations, but because of the huge student population who are perhaps minorities or foreign students and find the university as a safe zone,” Segura said. “It’s important to let others know what they are capable of, what they bring into the world and community and how to overcome those obstacles.”

The Women’s Outreach Center is planning a second Women’s Empowerment Forum as part of Native American Heritage Month in November, although a date has not yet been set. The center’s next event, a discussion on Imposter Syndrome and the Media, will be held Oct. 5.

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