Global Women’s Studies Holds Virtual Capstone Conference

As a result of stay-at-home safety measures surrounding COVID-19, Global Women’s Studies students presented their capstone research virtually. 

PROVO, Utah (April 9, 2020)—Students minoring in Global Women’s Studies (GWS) participated in a one-of-a-kind opportunity this semester. After they had committed countless hours to their capstone research projects, the traditional Capstone Conference held every semester was canceled due to COVID-19 social distancing protocols on campus. 

Once the university transitioned to exclusively holding virtual classes, Dr. Valerie Hegstrom, coordinator of the GWS minor, contacted students telling them that their hard work would not be in vain. The conference was held on Zoom on April 7 and 9, 2020, observing social distancing and granting students the opportunity to showcase their work.  

Emily Collier, a family studies major and GWS minor, continued to rely on her mentor’s advice after switching to online learning. “We stayed in frequent contact over email and continued with our biweekly meetings over Zoom instead of in person,” Collier expressed.  

Collier’s research, “Equality in the Home: How Parents Impact their Children’s Future Division of Household Labor,” found that wives do twice as much housework as their husbands regardless of division of work outside of the home or country which results in unhappy marriages. Parents have a strong influence on this future inequality in their children’s lives.  

Research indicates that modeling egalitarian roles in the home and assigning chores equally among children, regardless of gender, impacts their future division of labor the most. Although she has remained in the Provo area since campus closures, Collier presented from her living room on the day of the conference.  

Similarly, Maddie Glenn, a psychology major, and GWS and international development minor, presented from her apartment in Orem. Her research, “The Gender Wage Gap and the Systematic Devaluation of Women’s Occupational Contributions,” found that efforts to close the wage gap have focused on encouraging women’s occupational and family decisions to look more like men’s, but that these efforts have not been effective in closing the gap in the past 15 years.  

Glenn deduced that if we want to further close the wage gap, we need to focus on elevating the value of femininity and communal goals through policy and social change to encourage more male participation in the home and in female-dominated fields. 

26 students presented their work during the two-day conference to an audience that fluctuated in size but hovered around 30 participants. As students gave their presentations, they would share their screens, allowing viewers to see their presentations. Presenters delivered a 15-minute presentation and then accepted questions from the audience via the chat function. 

Glenn voiced her appreciation for the chance to present virtually, saying, “I posted about my presentation on social media a few days before and I actually got a lot of responses from people that were interested in my topic but that maybe ordinarily wouldn’t have been able to make it to the presentation physically. I think it was also easier for people to tune in since so many are working from home and they have a bit more flexibility.” Many of Glenn’s family and friends were about to join the conference to participate in her presentation. 

Similarly, Collier had an enjoyable experience presenting via Zoom. She noted, “I felt less nervous since I was in the comfort of my own home! It was also a lot easier to have notes with me just in case I needed them, which I most likely wouldn’t have been able to have if I was presenting in person at the conference.”  

Despite the surprising circumstances in which the semester ended, holding the GWS Capstone Conference virtually allowed GWS students and interested parties to present to and learn from each other.  

—Tori Hamilton (Editing & Publishing, ‘20)