Gail Collins

Photo Credit: Amy Zhang | Daily Texan Staff

Gail Collins, New York Times columnist and author, outlined how women’s roles in society have changed over her lifetime in the 2013 Liz Carpenter Lecture on Monday evening.

Collins primarily discussed the changing rights and roles of women in society and said she is still in awe of the fact that the majority of these changes took place during her lifetime.          

“This change took generations of women who were not afraid to be laughed at or to fight,” Collins said. “I came one second after them, and I saw the benefits of their persistence.”  

Michael Stoff, director of the Plan II Honors Program, introduced Collins and discussed the history of the Liz Carpenter Lectureship, which was established in 1984 to commemorate the life and accomplishments of Liz Carpenter, a trend-setting journalist, feminist and political adviser. The speaker is selected every year by the Carpenter Lecture Committee.

Collins spoke about one of her books, “When Everything Changed: The Amazing Journey of American Women from 1960 to the Present.” 

“The Carpenter lecture traditionally has been about news makers, people who are prominent in the news and society today,” said Phillip Dubov, the staff coordinator for the event and Alumni Relations and Development specialist of the Plan II Honors Program. “We want to bring these people to our campus for our students to interact with.”

Journalism sophomore Will Cobb said he was surprised when Collins admitted she faced very few challenges as a female journalist.

“I expected her to talk more about issues she faced,” Cobb said. “I was surprised when she said the real work was done before she came into the business.”

Business freshman Samira Nounou said she attended the event as extra credit for her sociology class, but a lecture she heard earlier in the week had her interested in experiencing a different viewpoint. 

“I was interested to hear a speaker with a liberal perspective, because I recently went to another lecture and the speaker expressed a more conservative opinion,” Nounou said.

Collins also spoke about the future of journalism and what young journalists can expect from a constantly changing industry.

“I firmly believe that when there is a drastic change in the physical way people write, it changes not only the facility in which you write, but they way you write,” Collins said.

“As soon as you find a job, look for your next job.”

Gail Collins, author and New York Times op-ed columnist, offered this piece of unusual advice Thursday. Although she was hosting a talk and question-and-answer session with a lecture hall of prospective journalists, she meant the advice to apply generally. Students in all fields of study should be forward-thinking about the direction of their desired careers in order to avoid job stagnation. UT students should not only invest in their educations but also continuously make the most of available resources and portray themselves as inventive and marketable to survive in the modern economy.

It’s a difficult piece of advice to embrace, especially in a time when students entering the work force are constantly reminded of the disastrous nature of the economy.

Collins recognizes that students are generally relieved and satisfied that “someone is paying [them] to do something” but warns of the dangers of remaining a stagnant employee in a position that offers little room for advancement. Because of the increasingly competitive job market, students may be unwilling to sacrifice the sense of security they feel in their current position. But she argued that risks need to be taken in order to sustain a career, especially to advance in one.

The argument isn’t that students should avoid entry-level jobs and expect to immediately start a stable career upon graduation. A career is progressively built from a series of essential beginner jobs. However, to climb the job ladder, new employees must maintain an innovative and adaptable mindset. Many young people are stuck with the negative attitude that their college degree will be worthless by the time they graduate. With this kind of attitude toward the value of their educations, their prophecies become self-fulfilled. Perhaps we should not be questioning what education provides for us but how we can take the active lead and apply our education to the practical world.

Collin’s own past offers an example of how the combination of persistence and innovation worked together to propel her forward in the job market. While she holds a traditional bachelor’s degree in journalism and a master’s degree in government, the biggest accomplishment on her resume is her founding of the Connecticut State News Bureau, a news service providing coverage of the Connecticut State Capital and Connecticut politics.

She described the hectic beginnings of this project, working from 8 a.m. till midnight with her friend and partner Trish Hall, producing an average of 30 stories a day for eight years. When she sold the company in 1977, she continued to jump around in the field, taking multiple freelance jobs until she ultimately landed at The New York Times.

The moral of the story is that Collins never stayed in one place for too long. She moved forward, developing connections and experience along the way. Most importantly, she had an idea and she ran with it, creating a pioneering service that gave her a credible and recognizable reputation in her field.

With the ever-evolving expansion of knowledge in the 21st century, students possess the opportunity to advance their own novel ideas. But recent graduates must look beyond the negative status quo of the economy and be willing to take professional gambles, embrace innovation and pursue their aspirations to the fullest.

-Manescu is an international relations and journalism freshman.

Gail Collins, author and New York Times columnist, spoke Thursday in the LBJ Library about the history of gender discrimination in the US. The speech was hosted by the Center for Politics and Governance as part of the center’s ongoing Perspectives@CPG series.

Photo Credit: Thomas Allison | Daily Texan Staff

Over the course of a decade, changes in social opinion, contraception and the economy led to significant advances in women’s roles in society, said author and New York Times columnist Gail Collins.

At a lecture sponsored Thursday by The New York Times and the Lyndon B. Johnson School of Public Affairs Center for Politics and Governance, Collins said major societal changes between 1964 and 1974 allowed women to strive to be more than homemakers.

“This entire sex for the entire history of the world was regarded as an inferior class of being with less rights, with less opportunities, with no opening to venture to choose their destiny in life,” Collins said. “All of that changed in a 10-year period.”

The idea of fairness in the civil rights era was a key factor in women’s ascension into the public sphere, she said.

“It created a sensitivity to fairness,” Collins said. “If you can convince the country that something is not fair, you can win the battle.”

After those 10 years, however, women still had a long way to advance in society; they were ridiculed, harassed and laughed at for thinking they could do jobs formerly reserved for men, she said.

Even though women were allowed to receive an education they still faced prejudice in the work place, Collins said.

“It was totally possible to discriminate in the 1960s,” Collins said. “I found a case in the ’60s where the UT Dental School would not admit women because they said women were too weak to pull teeth.”

Collins said attitudes changed in the 1970s and 1980s when economics began to require two incomes to finance modern conveniences such as a home and a car.

“There was a moment in the ’80s, when the average little girl in this country thought about her future,” Collins said. “She thought not only in terms of who she wanted to marry, but what work she wanted to do. That’s the actual moment everything changed.”

Collins said the invention of the birth control pill was another factor that helped women advance even further despite their challenges.

“As soon as the birth control pill became available, the rates of applications of women to medical school, law school and other professional schools went through the roof,” Collins said.

Doctoral human development graduate student Brittany Wright said she didn’t totally grasp the enormity of the changes in this decade until hearing about the milestones in Collins’ speech and reading her book “When Everything Changed: The Amazing Journey of American Women from 1960 to the Present.”

“I don’t think I really appreciated it, although I am a woman,” Wright said. “By studying it recently, I’ve become enlightened.”

Human development sophomore Tyson Shores said she appreciates the sacrifices of women who fought through the barriers in the workplace and in academia.

“I’m not entirely sure what I want to be, but I do know I want to have a positive influence on the world,” Shores said. “It’s amazing to think what those women went through for me to have the right.”

Joanne Richards, a former member of UT staff, said she lived through the era Collins described.

“I went through everything Gail described,” Richards said. “It was real. It was worth it.”  

Printed on Friday, October 14, 2011 as: Columnist traces advances of women's rights