Growing up in my household, it was customary to be invested in an education and to be grateful for the support system I had because my parents grew up in a time where it was very difficult to get a quality education. Both my parents are first-generation college students and had a difficult time getting to the position they are in today because of the way our society treats working-class families.
My father took 15 years to graduate from college because he couldn’t afford it, something that Nevada has progressively been working to fix over the years. My mother’s father came from Portugal, and English was not his first language. Both her parents were constantly working, so she basically had to get through school by herself. She not only couldn’t afford college but was also constantly being told by her peers she couldn’t get through college successfully simply because she was a woman.
I remember her telling me a story about how in college men would tell her she couldn’t be an engineer because she wasn’t smart enough. Every time she told me the story, I was so upset I wanted to go straight to those men who doubted her and tell them my mom can do anything a man can do and so can all other women in the world.
From an early age, I always wanted to stand up for people who didn’t have a voice and were excluded, though I didn’t realize this was my passion until very later in life. Instead, after my mother’s encouragement, I devoted much of my education to excelling in math and science. I took action on her advice and joined my high school’s science bowl team in the hopes I could learn more about the field and connect with similar-minded peers.
I remember competing in events and feeling isolated because, more often than not, I was the only girl in the room. I felt like I didn’t belong, and even though I knew I had so much more to offer, being in a male-dominated environment made it difficult to have a voice and be taken seriously.
Eventually, I went on to college and decided to become an engineer, even though it was a heavily male-dominated field. I did not doubt my abilities and was ready to take on the difficult task. I still love science and math, but after seeing so many women in my life feel inferior to men, I decided to pursue social activism in order to guarantee the people being silenced have a voice.
I didn’t realize it until very recently, but helping people and advocating for people who aren’t being treated with dignity are the reasons I wake up in the morning. They’re the reasons I pour every last bit of my time into this campaign to elect people who care about other people. We aren’t the people who just walk by someone in need; we talk to them and help them in every way we can.
I only recently reflected on my experience after reading Hillary Clinton’s feature in Humans of New York. For the first time, I became aware of how often situations like my own happen to women and better understood my struggles in a male-dominated world. As the only woman in the room on countless occasions, Hillary Clinton learned at a young age to control her emotions so that she could push forward in a society that was not ready to embrace female success. In their generation, women like Hillary, my mother and my grandmother were expected to stay home, have kids and leave behind any dream for a career. It took women like Hillary to stand up to these stereotypical norms, redefining our role entirely so that women could not only enter the room men have occupied for ages but also take a seat at the front of the table. That is why we need her in the White House.
By implementing policies that close the wage gap and increase the minimum wage and investments in STEM education programs, Hillary will continue to shatter glass ceilings for women everywhere. We know this kind of progress is desperately needed right here in Nevada, where the gender wage gap costs our economy a combined $2.4 billion annually.
This gap has an even greater impact on women of color, with Latinas in Nevada making on average 52 cents for every dollar a man makes. We can’t continue to ignore this statistic, and we can’t afford to look backward by electing a man like Donald Trump, who would unravel our success and singlehandedly dismantlethe progress women have made since we gained our suffrage. Trump has not only opposed equal-pay-for-equal-work legislation but has also insulted women throughout his life and campaign.
He’s even gone as far as insinuating violence against Hillary Clinton, joking about disarming her Secret Service agents to see “what would happen to her.” It’s comments like these that confirm how much is at stake in this election. We cannot let Trump set the precedent that this is an acceptable way to treat women. This is not only frightening but dangerous, and we must do all it takes to prevent our future daughters from seeing a world where women are dehumanized.
As I have become more politically involved in the fight for women’s rights, tearing down the double standards that prevent women from succeeding no longer feels unattainable. Seeing real progress for gender equality means shattering the ultimate glass ceiling. That’s why I’m putting all my efforts into helping elect Hillary Clinton as our first woman president. I believe that Hillary is the inspiration girls need to feel like we can belong anywhere and can accomplish anything. Women like her and my mother, who consistently shatter glass ceilings, are inspirations and mavericks I am eternally grateful for.
Katie Worrall is a sophomore studying political science and psychology. She is a fellow with Hillary for Nevada and a member of the Nevada Young Democrats.