The international women´s day on the 8th of March was yet another reason for the Karls community to celebrate and reflect on our experiences regarding gender equality. Therefore, the student initiative “Voices@Karls” organized an event in which students and professors from the University itself as well as international external guests were welcomed to participate.
Since 1908, IWD is dedicated to raising awareness about women’s equality in the world, fundraising female focused charities and celebrating the various achievements of inspiring women that fought for equality over the last centuries. In 1996, the UN announced the first official annual theme for IWD, which then became a reoccurring tradition for each following year until the current. This year’s IWD we honoured under the theme #ChoosetoChallenge .
In line with the theme and moved by its significance, our moderators opened the event with the words “we challenge norms, we challenge biases, we challenge prejudice and narratives”. With that, the introduction served as both the frame for the very informative and interesting lecture of our very own Professor Ella Salome Roininen that followed, as well as a reminder for all participants to keep an open mind and not rest on what they had learned so far. During the lecture, Ella introduced and explained the topics “gender based microaggressions” and “sexual harassment at the workplace” and passed on helpful strategies on how to challenge those in everyday life – for both victims as well as allies. As a theoretical introduction to the topics, the lecture provided the foundation for the following open discussion.
The open discussion gave all participants the opportunity to actively join the conversation by either asking questions anonymously (posted on a website and read out by the moderators) or by directly raising their voice in the chat. Many of the questions, but unfortunately not all of them, due to the limited time, were then answered and discussed by Ella, the Voices@Karls team and some of the around 50 participants of different gender, age and nationality.
In addition to discussing various questions, many of the participants shared and exchanged personal experiences and talked about issues we all face when being confronted with gender based microaggression or experiencing sexual harassment in a professional or work-related environment. The number of personal stories shared made the frequency and reality of such events visible and supported what we had just learned in the lecture beforehand:
First, that even seemingly small comments and gestures can cause great damage; and second, that you are never alone with your experiences and there are people you can reach out to without ever feeling ashamed.
Furthermore, we discussed our own diversity at Karlshochschule and due to the presence and active participation of our president Michael Zerr, critical questions were asked and answered. We acknowledge that even at Karls, we do not enjoy a diverse and equal environment in every aspect yet, however we do enjoy an environment of people and leaders that constantly Choose to Challenge, and that on every day of the year.
All in all, the event was a success for the initiative and everyone participating. Therefore, joint our follow-up event on Thursday, April 15, 2021 at 7 pm CET on our MS Teams Channel: https://bit.ly/3bcPelJ – again with the aim to distribute knowledge and to create a space where people freely and safely can share and exchange their thoughts, doubts, questions and experiences.
Article by Lara Hahn *LH – International Business – Reponsible Business (B.A.), 2nd Semester and Maja Schuster *MS – International Relations (B.A.), 2nd Semester
 International Women’s Day 2021 https://www.internationalwomensday.com/
*Karlshochschule is an educational institution and a non-profit organization as well. We want to encourage individuals and young people to take responsibility, find their own voice and initiate change in a sustainable and tolerant way. Listening to different opinions not only promotes different perspectives, but also discourse. The content of this blog is characterized by the diverse experience and opinions of the authors, which may not be the majority opinion of the university, but provokes reflection and discussion.