Women’s History Month: Paving the Way, with Lessons from the Past
Throughout its history and long before its founding, women have played a vital part in shaping and contributing to the United States. From gaining the vote in 1922, to working in wartime assembly lines and educating and saving lives, women have blazed trails, pushing past limits and barriers.
In March, we carve out special time and events to celebrate women and their accomplishments. According to the Library of Congress, “Women’s History Month had its origins as a national celebration in 1981, when Congress … requested the president to proclaim the week beginning March 7, 1982, as ‘Women’s History Week.’ Since 1995, U.S. presidents have issued a series of annual proclamations designating the month of March as Women’s History Month. (https://womenshistorymonth.gov/about/)
We asked CSUN students, including a number of campus student leaders from Associated Students (AS), CSUN’s student government, on what this month means to them. Here are some highlights:
Erinn Eichinger, 54: Eichinger began her master’s program in mass communication in August 2021, after nearly 30 years working in the entertainment industry as a producer. Getting her start as a CSUN undergraduate student in 1987, and coming back to finish her bachelor’s degree in 2020— and to embark on an advanced degree — Eichinger reflected on her early encounters in a male-dominated industry. She credited the advice of one mentor in particular, early in her career.
“[He said], ‘You’re the boss out here. You got hired for this job, you know what you’re doing. Own it,’” Eichinger said.
Feeling confident in her skills on the job wasn’t always easy. In fact, the journey was quite long.
“There’s a lot of misogyny in the [entertainment] business,” she said. “And I had to remind myself that just because a man was at the table with me, and in a position of more power, didn’t mean he was smarter than me. I assumed, ‘Well, if they’re at a table, they must be brilliant.’ … As a woman, you have to remember that you have a right at the table just as much as the man, and to know your worth.”
Ally Walker, 20: As a third-year political science and gender and women’s
studies double major, Walker plans to dedicate her life to civic duties.
“I really want to really change the world…and that’s through political action,” Walker said. “That’s what I want to do with my life. I want to be a public servant. I want to go in and make the changes myself.”
An Associated Students senator for the College of the Humanities who has studied women’s history — particularly political history — Walker noted her own challenges in overcoming social stigmas.
“As a woman, [sometimes] it’s harder for me to gain respect in a room full of men, it’s harder for me to get my voice heard,” she said. “I try to speak up and do my part. … As women, I hope that we persevere in the future and understand that we have to speak up. Otherwise, we’re just going to … keep going backwards. That’s not an option anymore.”
Eden Shashoua, 21: As Associated Students Vice President, Shashoua, 21, is not a stranger to being at the forefront of her community. The fourth-year business law and business honors (minor in communication) student had a mission to get more involved during her final year of college. Coming from a small, all-girls high school, Shashoua took the chance to be a leader at CSUN. Shashoua also grew up as an Orthodox Jew, and she wanted to challenge the idea of inclusivity on campus — to expand it to include religious dietary needs.
“A big challenge I wanted to overcome this semester, as an Orthodox Jewish woman, [was to see] more kosher options,” she said. “It’s also something important to not just Jewish students, but other students who want to see more campus food options. For those who are halal [practicing], and for those who are lactose intolerant [and have other dietary needs].”
Aiming to go to law school and become a lawyer, Shashoua’s tenacious dedication to her professional trajectory is admirable.
“I’ve been able to be academically successful while also taking on so many other roles, like co-captain of the CSUN Mock Trial team, member of the Speech and Debate team, I was [also] able to join a sorority,” she said. “I feel very accomplished as a woman.”
Paige Hajiloo, 20: Hajiloo is an aspiring lawyer and Associated Students Chair of Personnel. The third-year psychology major and political science minor reflected on her leadership role on campus, and taking pride in her skills as a person — not just a woman. As a self-proclaimed “feminine woman,” Hajiloo say she embraces her feminine side but even in 2023, she’s not always taken seriously.
“Whenever I talk about my career … [people say], ‘Oh, you’re a woman. You’re a female.’ Why does that matter?” she said.
Hajiloo wants to serve her community. She takes her student government role seriously, she said, working to make changes she wants to see on campus, and in the wider professional world.
“For our society, we still have a lot of work to [do],” she said. “But I truly believe women are and will continue to collectively make a change.”
Katie Karroum, 19: The daughter of first-generation Syrian immigrants, Karroum experienced adversity firsthand, straddling two cultures and tackling issues of sexuality.
“I didn’t let my parents and my upbringing really stop me,” said the second-year kinesiology/exercise science student. “The fact that I’m a part of the LGBT community has an influence on my life and the perspective I take [in relation to] my parents, because where they are from, that’s forbidden.”
The lower-division senator for Associated Students is thankful to have the opportunity develop an open mindset. She also credited her childhood experiences for building her confidence.
“I’m surrounded by so many different types of people and experienced so many different things from such a young age,” Karroum said. “That has made me prepared for anything, [such as] meeting different people, being in different scenarios, trying a new job. I feel like I’m always going to be ready to do something outside of my comfort zone.”
Mitul Kalra, 20: An intersectional feminist, an umbrella term that encompasses the experiences of women of various identities, Kalra does not shy away from speaking up and standing out. A third-year communication studies major and political science minor, she looks to groundbreaking political figures such as Los Angeles’ newly appointed, first-ever female Mayor, Karen Bass, for inspiration.
“[Bass] is someone I’ve been following for a long time,” Kalra said. “Knowing that we have our first female L.A. mayor is really inspiring.”
As the newly appointed Associated Students Chair of Legislative Affairs, Kalra, understands her responsibility to work with representatives throughout campus. She aims to work in government after she graduates.
“Because I do want to work in government, I can sometimes see that as a challenge because there’s a huge lack of diversity — being Indian and being a woman. [However], it’s motivated me to push forward and be that change.”
Heather Tosta, 24: Tosta shares her Italian heritage with pride by joking that her last name “rhymes with pasta.” She also shares her love of fashion as a way to express bodily autonomy. The first-year mass communication graduate student is proud to be a woman defying expectations she had set for herself. For that, she credited the brave women in her life.
“My mom is always a role model — she’s a strong woman, and she doesn’t let people tell her what she can and can’t be,” Tosta said. “[Also], my old speech and debate coach. She was the reason my mindset fully changed. She made it click for me … that I can do amazing things while also being desirable. She’s the reason I’m getting my master’s.”
To Tosta, there’s no reason her work in fashion and her dedication to education can’t align.
“That’s what I mean about a woman being able to be all of it,” she said. “I still am super into fashion. I like getting ready. I like doing my hair. I like doing my makeup. I like dressing cute and following fashion trends, but it doesn’t mean that’s my only personality trait.”