September 2021 Advocate: Organizing against gender oppression in our colleges

Organizing for equity

New AFT 1493 group working to challenge gender oppression in our colleges

by Rika Yonemura-Fabian, AFT 1493 Skyline College Chapter Co-Chair

A new subgroup of AFT 1493’s Anti-Oppression Committee has been organized since last spring to specifically focus on challenging gender oppression among faculty, staff and students in our college workplaces. We have been meeting regularly through the summer and gained new student members through personal outreach. Students and faculty are connecting through their gendered experiences and finding a common ground for joint organizing. One of the newest student members who is a STEM major, described her motivation to join the group: “I wanted to share my experiences of oppression and help where I can. I also joined to learn and to have a community where I feel safe to speak and be heard.”  Another student member also majoring in STEM who has been organizing with AOC for a semester as one of the leads sees AOC as a “way to connect with mentors who understand why equity is important in a learning environment.” We are thankful that we have some classified staff who organize with us too.

As a group, the gender oppression branch of AOC has identified two areas of focus for the coming academic year:

  1. Creating robust networks of female-identifying and non-binary faculty, students, and staff who we can work with for support and mentorship. We feel the need to create a wide-spread system of mutual support and safe space to share and discuss gendered experiences and our struggles against patriarchy.
  2. Exposing the problem of gendered distribution of work and seeking remedies to it. The group has identified a couple of areas of our professional life where gender and work(load) intersect. One of them is emotional labor that female faculty, particularly female faculty of color, may be more tasked with. Struggling students of color may find more connections with these faculty members and may seek out more support outside of the classroom, but these female faculty are not necessarily recognized or compensated for this labor. The second area we are focusing on is the gendered distribution of professional work, such as committee work. One faculty participant at an event AOC organized in the past pointed out that the responsibility of chair-ship is disproportionately placed on female colleagues. Is it indeed true that female-identifying faculty are really doing more “work?” The group wants to find out the answer to this question. The third problem is the traditional question of the (im)balance between family responsibilities and professional obligations that female faculty who are parents may particularly struggle with. What kinds of support are necessary and how can we advocate for it?

If you are interested in joining us, or want to find out more about this subgroup of the Anti-Oppression Committee, please contact Rika (AFT Skyline Chapter Co-Chair) at Also please connect us with your students who are interested in joining this work!