GAP Week: Behind the Scenes

By: Jessie Wang

For every dollar the average man makes, the average woman makes only 79 cents. Of the Fortune 500 companies, only 5 percent are run by women. In Congress, women hold only 20 percent of the seats.

Marian Eiben and Yasmin Gentry are trying to do something about these pervasive gender gaps. They’ve assembled a team to organize and advertise Gender Advocacy & Progress (GAP) Week, a week-long series of events dedicated to educating the campus community about gender inequality. After months of planning, March 14 is finally approaching.

With this event, Eiben and Gentry are using “GAP” to reference more than just the disparity between genders. In addition to stimulating engaging dialogue about gender inequality, they are also using this week to celebrate female accomplishments and empower women even further. The statistics highlighting gender inequality across the board can be discouraging, and so it is also important to bring attention to the vast accomplishments made by women. In doing so, we can work to slowly — but surely — eliminate discriminatory assumptions about women’s abilities.

In order to gain further insight on the planning process leading up to the week and on the week itself, I interviewed the two masterminds behind the event. Here are their responses:

1. What motivated you to plan this event?

Yasmin: Last Spring semester, I interned for a non-profit political organization dedicated to increasing women’s representation in Congress. It was the first time I really could comprehend how much progress still needs to be made for gender equality, not just in politics, and not just in our country. Becoming a part of student government helped me realize that I could use our organization as a platform for progress in our college community.

Marian: Yasmin approached me with the idea, and I immediately loved it. What really captured my interest and investment was everything that I learned along the way. I believe GAP Week has led to some of the most important conversations I’ve ever had, ranging from those about the inequalities that so many face to those on how individuals I know and care for tackle these realities on a daily basis. I wasn’t aware of just how pervasive this issue was until I began talking to faculty and alumni, and friends and peers. My motivation (of which I think the team feels similarly) for GAP Week comes from those people: those on BU’s campus who feel the effects of inequality on a daily basis. I want to let them know that someone is talking about it and that someone is paying attention. I want them to know that we care.

2. Can you recount a time where you’ve personally experienced the gap in gender equality? (Whether it was in work, school, etc.)

Y: The reality is that every female has experienced gender inequality on a regular basis, but it doesn’t have to be a significant encounter to shape who we are or will become. I’m reminded of how I grew up having to text my mom every time I made it to a friend’s house down the street, so she knew I was safe, a measure she never really took with my brother. Women grow up feeling much more vulnerable to the evils of the world — and it’s because they are. It’s disappointing that we have to take certain measures and avoid certain risks in our normal daily lives that our male counterparts do not have to consider, because while we cannot avoid these societal vulnerabilities, in no way are women weak or fragile, nor do they bring these vulnerabilities upon themselves.

M: I genuinely don’t know where to begin with this question. I see GAPs in the opportunities that should be available to every single human being but aren’t accessible to half the population. I will probably never know what it feels like to feel GAPs the way that some individuals face, whether it be because of their culture, genocide, race, etc. That being said, we all face the GAPs and we all feel the GAPs, and therefore, we all must fight the GAPs.

3. What was/is the hardest part of planning such a large-scale event?

Y: GAP Week is a series of events put on by several parties, and being at the center of it all comes with a lot of responsibility and expectations. I am so grateful to have an amazing co-executive coordinator in Mim, and those on our GAP Team have been wonderful at reaching out to groups and working on outreach!

M: The huge email trail was difficult to maintain, as I’m sure Yasmin can attest to. I think the most difficult component was facing the frequent uncertainty of the event actually happening. We didn’t want to let down the groups or programs that expressed interest. Having Yasmin there by my side every day made the entire process so much easier to stomach because no matter what, we knew that we were going to keep planning and pressing forward. She really was — and continues to be — my rock every step of the way.

4. Has planning this event provided further insight on the issue or given you a new perspective?

Y: Another motivation to put GAP Week into action was because I knew there was more for me to learn about gender equality. We haven’t even kicked the week off yet and I’ve gained so many different layers of perspective since we started planning in October! I’ve certainly gained a new perspective of intersectional feminism and what it means to me. I think it’s crucial that we recognize that women of different ethnicities and backgrounds will have different experiences of inequality.

M: After speaking to different faculty members on campus and hearing their reactions to our mission, I’ve realized that there’s an undergraduate optimism present in our generation that makes us all feel as if we are the generation that has ended all the problems that have preceded us. We like to think that we’re the most open-minded, inviting generation, and that we will be the group to achieve equality and peace in all forms. In fact, there are many people who claim that we’ve done it — that sexism doesn’t exist and that there isn’t a gap left. This sentiment, of course, couldn’t be more incorrect, and if we continue promoting that attitude blindly (as much as I know that it stems from a good-natured desire to be at that point in history), we are just suppressing the truth at the heart of the matter. However, there is so much hope bottled in our generation’s enthusiasm! If we harness the force behind our generation’s desire to achieve equality and put it towards education, engagement, and empowerment through a movement like GAP Week, then I truly believe we will see a domino effect that will open eyes, incite conversation, and spark a fire.

5. If you could have every participant finish the week with one take-home message, what would it be?

Y: I hope participants will take away with them an introduction or further comprehension of what gender equality means to him or her. Each event relates the topic to various professions and passions, so I hope individuals can find one connection, if not more.

M: Be proud of exactly who you are, at every given moment. Don’t turn a blind eye to the problems that you have the ability to help end.

6. Do you see this being a recurring event for the future?

Y: I would love if GAP Week continued as a Boston University tradition! This is our first time around, and while I’m so very proud of the work we’ve done, I think GAP Week 2017 and 2018 and so on could build upon the framework we’ve laid out and involve even more groups, events, and participants.

M: I hope so, but even more so, I hope everyone takes the theme and discussions of the week and incorporates that fervor into their daily lives.

Yasmin Gentry (left) and Marian Eiben (right)

For a list of the events taking place during the week, visit http://bustudentgov.org/gap-week-programming.