BY SUSANA GÓMEZ BÁEZ
The White Ribbon Campaign is giving the Ryerson Engineering Student Society a championship award for its effort in abolishing gender discrimination and violence against women.
In November 2010, a poster originally printed to read ‘Women in Engineering’ had been vandalized by crossing out the W and O so it read ‘Men in Engineering.’ The incident occurred a week before the Dec. 6 memorial in which, every year, Ryerson remembers the Montreal Massacre, when 14 engineering students were killed because they were women.
A group of boys, who were not responsible for the vandalism of the poster, united to buy some flowers and write an apologetic note on behalf of the male engineering students. They presented the gift to Jolene Funk, the vicepresident external of the Ryerson Engineering Student Society (RESS), who had given a speech at the memorial.
“We can never understand the way you feel, but we can instead try to educate those around us and create tolerance, acceptance, and understanding within the engineering community,” the note read.
Alex Yamich, one of the students who surprised Funk at the memorial says he does not know where the prejudice against female engineering students comes from. “Every single girl I know in engineering has a higher GPA than I do,” he said.
When Jeff Perera, the co-founder of the White Ribbon Campaign at Ryerson, found out what had happened, he decided the RESS was worthy of an award. To him, this was an example of everything White Ribbon fights for.
“It doesn’t matter if you’re a man or a woman,” Perera says. “You should have equal opportunities to be the best you can.”
The White Ribbon Campaign, operating in over 55 countries, is the largest effort by men to promote gender-equality. This year, it received $8,000 worth of funding from Ryerson administration.
White Ribbon will be holding its second annual “What Makes a Man?” conference on Feb. 11 in the George Vari Engineering and Computing Centre. The conference will include open discussion about cultural and societal norms that dictate what a man is or should be.
“What we do is we have guest speakers and they give five-minute talks,” said Perera. “They spark a dialogue. Then the audience takes the conversation forward.”
Funk will be one of the speakers in the upcoming conference. There will also be speakers from photography, social-work, and business students, as well as Sid Naidu, the Mentoring Officer at the Tri-Mentoring Program at Ryerson.
“[Women] have been leading the fight against violence, and now it’s time for men to come to the table and support that effort,” Perera said.