New York Times columnist Nicholas D. Kristof took the stage Sept. 26 in Drexel’s Main Building auditorium to address the continuing issue of women’s inequality.
The speech, which was part of the 20th anniversary celebration of the Drexel College of Medicine Institute for Women’s Health and Leadership, focused on women’s rights in developing nations. A comfortably crowded room of spectators was on hand for the Women’s Health Academic Symposium as Kristof voiced that the opportunities one is provided should be a function “not of your chromosomes but of your intellectual capacity.”
Kristof spoke of his encounters with women’s inequality in developing nations. His travels in China led to the journalist’s discovery of a young girl whose parents were refusing to pay the $13 tuition that was necessary for her schooling. Kristof wrote an article for The New York Times about this situation. He was shocked and appalled that merely because this student was a girl, her family did not view her education as a worthwhile investment.
“You can imagine what happened next,” Kristof said. “We got a great number of envelopes from readers — mostly containing checks for $13.”
These $13 checks from concerned readers, combined with a $10,000 donation, soon allowed Kristof to set up a scholarship for the Chinese village. Kristof said that the scholarship was able to transform the community completely, as it made women’s education a priority.
The education these women received allowed them to serve as productive, rather than just domestic, members of their society. Over time, Kristof argued, those changes can lead to faster economic growth and reduced civil conflict.
In his speech, Kristof also drew attention to gender inequality in the U.S. Audience members grimaced as Kristof showed an image of a scantily clothed ex-girlfriend doll, explaining that it had been sold on Amazon.com as a target dummy. The doll would bleed fake blood when the user shot it. It was the public’s reaction to this blatant encouragement of domestic violence that led to the doll being pulled from Amazon.
Involvement, it seemed, was the overall message that Kristof wanted to preach to the audience, saying that the only way to realize the injustice in the world is to go out and see it firsthand.
Lynn Yeakel, the Betty A. Cohen Chair in Women’s Health and director of the Institute for Women’s Health and Leadership, said in her opening address earlier that evening, “The opportunity for equality and success is marked ‘push.’”
In 1996, the institute was designated as a vanguard National Center of Excellence in Women’s Health by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.
Throughout the year, the institute also hosts interactive expert-led discussions with doctors in the Conversations About Women’s Health series as well as hosting the Woman One scholarships for underrepresented minority women at the College of Medicine.
“Into its next 20 years, the institute’s four-part journey continues: leadership by example and action, with programs that include the International Center for Executive Leadership in Academics, Vision 2020 and WOMAN One; engagement with the community; women’s health education and inspiration to motivate others; and an unstoppable commitment to making the world around us a better place,” Yeakel said in a message posted to the institute’s website.