There are few non-embarrassing traits that I can call my college freshman self. Giddy. Overeager. Awkward. But there is one trait that has helped me turn a class project into a published report that supports women and girls in my community: Idealism.
During the spring of 2013, I took a course at the called “Philanthropy and Public Problem Solving.” In the course, we learned how different philanthropic and nonprofit initiatives addressed many of the pressing social issues that occurred in Boston.
As a result of the class, I learned more about the stark gender disparity in pay gap, education, health, violence, and political representation among Boston women. The statistics were shocking, yet challenging to find as they were buried in lines of census reports that were over one hundred pages long.
While many states and cities across the United States make a point to regularly produce a report on women and girls in their region, this was something that Boston was lacking despite the existence of many girls-specific organizations.
After learning of gender disparity that existed in Boston, I got curious why this was. After all, didn’t people care about the decline in girls’ mental health? The substantial pay gap? The overrepresentation of women of color among those living in poverty?
Armed with my idealism, I chose to do something.
While my final class project proposed the creation of a report on the status of women and girls in Boston, I wanted to go further beyond the classroom.
The goal was to produce the first inaugural Report on the Status of Women and Girls in Boston.
In 2014, a class partner and I worked with 20 student researchers at Harvard to produce this report. Scouring through our research sources, we came up with a 60-page document that thoroughly outlined the status of Boston’s women and girls. The report covered demographics, education, health, violence, political representation, LGTBQ, women in business, and women in the military.
After two years of researching and editing, and working with the Boston Mayor’s Office and organizations like Big Sister Association of Greater Boston, we presented our published report to the Boston Women’s Commission. This is key group that counsels the Mayor and the inaugural Office of Women’s Advancement on issues relating to women’s economic, social, and political circumstances.
In the coming years, we are organizing a working commission of college students to edit and reproduce future reports. This way the report will continue to be a guiding source for uplifting women and girls in the greater Boston community.
From college freshman idealism to class project to bettering lives of women and girls, never underestimate the possibility to move change forward.
Bernadette Lim is a rising senior at Harvard University studying human biology, women’s studies, and global health. She is the primary author and editor of the inaugural 2014-2015 Report on the Status of Women and Girls in Boston and founder and Executive Director of Women SPEAK.