What weighs us down?
One thing that worries me is we identify so much with our career and our degree. It’s hard to show students that “I value you for more than your grades, but for your insight, your participation - for you as a person!” People are talking about emotional intelligence as being important, but universities tend to focus more on academic achievement.
We need to create changes where we're guiding at students more holistically - our advice should not just be “study harder & study more.” You can study part-time and work part-time, or have a reduced workload, but people are sometimes uncomfortable considering these options, or slowing down. More formal recognition of the benefits of this way of learning would be helpful.
No institution is perfect, there are always issues. But Waterloo is pretty awesome. Our department, for example - is over 25% women. This may seem low, but it is great compared to the 8-15% that we have seen at some of the top U.S. departments. Still, if you look at the graduating classes of PhDs, many women are graduating, but fewer are getting good positions and progressing through the academic ranks. Within the profession, there are issues as well. The language often focuses on how women need to navigate structural inequalities, instead of talking about what we can do to change things. For example in "An Old Male Economist's Advice to Young Female Economists," reading material from a prominent Economics association, women are told not to focus on gender issues because so many women are doing that, so strategically you won't stand out. This is true, but that is not because the issue is irrelevant. A good portion of the population is interested in it! The problem is that it may be harder to publish on these topics, and we need to be asking why. I made a conscious decision to focus on what I really love, and I had to fight for it.