August 13, 2015 — Catalyst’s #DisruptTheDefault campaign is a call to action for individuals and companies to make bold moves that forge meaningful change for women and men in the workplace—and the world! And our Profiles in Disruption blogs showcase how others are doing this in their lives and their companies.
Meet: Madison Dawkins, a young woman of color who has stepped up to become a champion for change. Dawkins is a recent graduate from The Baldwin School in Bryn Mawr, PA. Aside from serving as the senior class president and the co-captain of the soccer team at Baldwin, she’s very involved in gender equality initiatives. Earlier this year she was awarded S'Hero Community Leader of the Month through the Elite Clubs National League Amazing Young Women Campaign for her dedication to empower high school girls through a lecture series that she created entitled Not Equal Yet.
What inspired you to get involved in issues concerning gender equality?
After seeing the film Girl Rising, I truly became aware of the power of education and the worldwide oppression of women. Education is a major part of my life, and I felt unnerved when I saw so many girls around the world not receiving the same opportunities that I was. Although I was moved by this film, I did not think of taking action until I saw a speech given by UN Women Goodwill Ambassador Emma Watson. In her speech, Emma posed the questions, “If not me, who?” and “if not now, when?” These words gave me the push I needed to take action, and raise my voice to speak out about gender inequity.
What motivated you to create the Not Equal Yet project?
About a year and half ago, I began attending women’s conferences. I always left the conferences energized and inspired by all the women leaders who spoke. I realized that many high school girls in my community were never exposed to experiences where women take the lead and speak about excelling in a man’s world. I thought if I were to provide girls with such an experience, maybe they would be inspired to speak up and support other women and girls.
What is one memorable and impactful story from one of the lectures that you organized as part of the Not Equal Yet project?
I heard the story that resonated with me the most during the final lecture with Dr. Kathleen J. Reilly, who works as the associate professor in the department of surgery, division of surgical oncology at Temple University School of Medicine. Dr. Reilly spoke about a time during her residency when she realized that what she wanted was very different from what many women her age wanted. She described a social gathering she attended with her co-workers and their wives, where she felt conflicted because of the physical divide between genders. All of the other women were in a separate room from the men, discussing topics that Dr. Reilly didn’t relate to, but she wasn’t afraid to stand in the room full of men and contribute to their conversation. This story resonated with me because there is a lot of pressure, especially for high school students, to conform to a specific role. I realized I wanted to be the person who wasn’t afraid to break away from the status quo, and stand in a room where I was challenged to prove that I truly did belong.
What advice would you give to someone who is looking to launch her own advocacy project?
I would tell her to never give up, no matter if she has one supporter or millions, because making a difference to that one supporter is worth more than anything in the entire world. Starting an advocacy campaign will be challenging and stressful at times, but it teaches you the importance of perseverance and patience.
Who are you inspired by?
I have learned that inspiration is all around me. I find inspiration through my classmates, who are some of the most strong-willed and creative women I have met. I find inspiration through television characters, such as Park and Recreation’s Leslie Knope, and through characters in books. I find inspiration through celebrities who aren’t afraid to tweet about subjects that the world is not yet ready to discuss.
Each and every one of us has the power to #DisruptTheDefault: Change the way we think and act, and challenge others to do the same.