#HeForShe Town Hall

By: Kobii Spruill

To close out Women's History Month, The Center for Women, Gender and Global Leadershiphosted our second annual #HeForShe Town Hall alongside Howard University's President's office and the HeForShe Global Initiative. 

The town hall was an opportunity for students and faculty to engage in a meaningful conversation about the role of men, specifically on campus, in promoting gender equality, challenging patriarchy, and dismantling systems of intersectional gender oppression. The panelists included; Dr. Natalie Muñoz, Alumna of the School of Social Work at Howard University, Dr. Carolette Norwood, Professor and Department Head of Sociology and Criminology, Joshua Hughes, Junior Mathematics Student and member of the Men of the Mecca, Calvin Hadley, Sociology doctoral candidate and Senior Advisor for Strategic Initiatives, Jordyn Allen, 62nd, and HUSA President, and Anthony Dohman, HU Alum Class of 22. 

This conversation started with remarks on behalf of the Center for Women, Gender, and Global Leadership by Dr. Anjerrika Bean, Assistant Director, followed by a warm welcome on behalf of Howard University Administration by Provost Anthony Wutoh. Their remarks focused on the state of gender equality at Howard University, emphasizing the importance of men's involvement in the fight for gender equity.

HeForShe is a global campaign created to accelerate the inclusion of women in all sectors and gender equity by encouraging men to be in solidarity with our struggles. In 2021, President Wayne Frederick signed on to be a HeforShe champion—he, along with a small group of heads of state, business, and industry leaders, said they would be at the forefront of promoting gender equality within their sectors. Since 2021, Howard opened the Women’s Center, and when President Frederick entered office the University had only one female dean. Now, 11 of the 14 deans are women.

In this light of engaging men in the fight for gender equality, The Howard Men's Basketball team was in attendance as they shared a presentation of the work they have been doing with the organization, Mamatoto, a nonprofit combating racism and health disparities for Black mothers, babies, and their families by supporting black women in maternal health equity. We commend them for their willingness to challenge and recognize the unfair hegemonic position of men in society and use it as a means of impactful allyship and advocacy. Dr. Bean stated their "work is a true representation of HeForShe." Alpha Phi Alpha Incorporated, in demonstration of their allyship, presented us with a performance as well. Throughout the discussion, the panelists emphasized the importance of recognizing the hegemonic position of men on campus despite the imbalanced ratio of men to women at Howard and HBCUs overall.

"Seeing what President Frederick has done to elevate Black women in leadership positions has been amazing," Dr. Munoz, an HU School of Social Work alum, stated as she began the conversation by praising President Frederick's work in gender equality on campus since taking office in 2014. "…, but I still think we have a long way to go," she continued.

Gender equality and rights are not just women's but human rights issues. The HeForShe movement aims to advance gender equality, reduce gender-based harm on campus and empower male allies to champion gender equality. Through our alliance with UN Women, as the only HBCU HeForShe Champions, we reaffirm our commitment to making gender equality a reality.

Anthony Dohman, a Howard University alum, shared his personal journey as a former student ambassador for the CWGGL toward becoming a gender equity advocate. He spoke about the importance of this male self-reflection and challenging of privilege to understand that "We can't get through this without each other…the reality is as powerful as our black women are, they can't do it alone". 

The conversation continued by emphasizing responsibility, that of individuals in positions of power but also that of the oppressed. "When you enter into a space and the [gender] balance is off, it is your duty or obligation, especially as a leader, to change it," HUSA president Jordyn Allen stated when describing what male sponsorship can resemble in the workspace. "... [allyship] it's about advocating for spaces that reflect, specifically at Howard, the population that it serves.." 

Hadley, a doctoral candidate and Senior Advisor to President Frederick expressed the importance of understanding the sociological concept of "intersectionality" when approaching the conversation of HeforShe. He said the Black "male population doesn't always feel like there's space for them" on campus. He continues by asking how Howard will ensure "we are doing all we can to be a beacon of light" for the men on campus and how we "can create a supportive environment on campus." 

Historically, gender imbalance is common amongst HBCUs nationwide. Dr. Norwood, the head of the Sociology and Criminology department, stated, "I wasn't expecting "to see that gender imbalance when I got to Howard." she began her tenure during the pandemic and believed that the curriculum should also reflect women"... if we don't know those stories (of women), we don't learn to value those persons." Dr. Norwood proposed a new Woman Studies major as a powerful reminder of how knowledge, true advocacy, and allyship can create change.

"The future of Howard is thinking about pedagogy in ways that it's not just about can you do this application, but can you love another Black person in a healthy way and sustain that." - Natalie Muñoz

The town hall was a powerful reminder that, as Joshua Hughes, Junior Mathematics Student and member of the Men of the Mecca, put it, for there to be true advocacy and allyship, there must be "Authentic and unapologetic communication…a mutual understanding of each other and our needs." Professor Thomas echoes the panel by highlighting the need for allies in these spaces, stating that "it takes all of us to be able to move in our spaces properly."

To achieve gender equality for all, men must step up and speak out against gender biases and become true allies in this movement. By questioning power dynamics, amplifying gender imbalances, and through spaces like the Town Hall, we can create a campus that champions gender equality.