My question is simple, but could be perceived as rather loaded in some circles.

Since entering graduate school, albeit in a STEM field, I have never been exposed to such an emphasis on women-only meetings, leadership conferences, panels, etc. I have seen most, if not all of these venues, exclusive to women. Most of these meetings are hosted by the WISE (Women In Science and Engineering) organization at this university. I am sure this phenomenon is true elsewhere.

I once asked why women often segregated themselves into these settings to discuss gender issues. I was told by a female professor that “they provide a safe venue for women to express their concerns.” I found this mildly insulting, as it sounded that she was saying men make environments “unsafe.” This was actually the advent of my reconfigured understanding of the term “safe.” In academe, “safe” is used to describe anything from OSHA compliance to personal, emotional, and professional insecurities.

Gender issues require all genders to engage in solutions to the problems. I am not saying these problems, either perceived or real, don’t exist. Gender wouldn’t be a word if we were all one gender.

Anyway, why is it that in academe, in my experience, it is common for women to segregate themselves in the context of raising gender issues?

How does this behavior exemplify equal opportunity?

How does this behavior develop real solutions to real problems?

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