As a Massachusetts Institute of Technology undergrad, Danielle Geathers has already accomplished so much. And yet, recently she accomplished a feat that is making history. When the college student returns back to her classes at MIT this fall, she will be the first in the school’s 159- year history to do so as a Black female student body president.
Geathers, who is 22 years old, was recently elected by her student body as the president of the Undergraduate Association.
She will take up the torch as president alongside her running mate Yu Jing Chen. Speaking to MIT’s student newspaper The Tech, Geathers explained that it “didn’t surprise me that no black women had been president… Someone asked if the UA president was a figurehead role [during the debate]. I think no, but minimally, a black female in that role will squash every perception that MIT is still mostly white and male… Minimally, the immediate image of that will make MIT a more welcoming and inclusive place.”
Geathers, who is a major in mechanical engineering with a concentration in product design is also working on a minor in African and American diaspora studies.
Last year, Geathers served as the United Association’s diversity officer. Speaking about her initial efforts to run for president, Geathers said that she felt quite a bit of doubt and uncertainty about running. “Who am I to be president?” Geathers told The Tech about her mindset at the time. Fortunately, Geathers decided to run, “I talked to a couple of people who said, ‘That is the problem with America.’ People who care about equity never want to run for the main role because they think they’re not for it.”
Speaking about why her race and the one of her running mate had an important role in her campaign, Geathers said “We try to ignore the communities that people are from, but that’s what’s gonna make them good.”
It’s no secret that when it comes to navigating and thriving in a work environment, women have it particularly difficult. Especially when it comes to climbing up the corporate ladder. For Black women, however, the challenges of this climb are especially strenuous. According to LeanIn.org and McKinsey & Company’s 2019 Women in the Workplace study, “Black women and Latinas are more likely to be held back by the broken rung.”
Not surprisingly, Black women have a lot to say about the lack of equal opportunity in the office space.
Check out their answers below!
“I still get some of this shit on occasion, but I’ve worked at my place long enough that people know to keep out of my business unless we’re talking business. I’m also fortunate to work for people who only care about your numbers and what you close on (finance) and crack down quick on racist/sexual harassment bullshit.
Imo, being great at your job gives you a lot of leeway, and women don’t often take advantage of it enough. Like when a co-worker implied I got my degree because of affirmative action, I set him straight quick with photos of my college acceptance letter and scholarship for academic performance.
Then I told my immediate rep and added that I’m just here to work and do good work, while casually dropping the fact that my sales were ~350% above the floor average. That perked him up enough to deal with the situation right then and there and bump the guy down a level.
Obviously being assertive doesn’t always work out in your favor, and sometimes it can even get you burned. But there’s something to be said for flexing the muscle you’ve built up and using Capitalism, your own generated value, as leverage. Even if it’s not your immediate boss, odds are there is someone in the hierarchy of your company who doesn’t fuck around and recognizes the problem perverts and bigots generate for employee performance (and litigation).”- Quixadashani
“Head. Phones. As soon as they start up with the problematic conversations in the office, slip them bad boys on and listen to a podcast or playlist.
I also had to learn to mind my ps and qs. Meaning be on time and make sure I’m doing everything by the book. Make sure I’m great at my job. They can’t come for you when they don’t have any dirt on you. Being able to check people in a nice way is paramount. I’m still working on that part. They pulled some mess last week when they tried to kick me off a volunteer charity team because they don’t like me or whatever. I called them out saying, “Why are y’all acting funny?” Oops, not the best way to handle it.” –leftblane
“Where do I start. First off my story is going to be a bit of a one off. Alot of the issues I faced in my office were actually caused by other people of color (Asians and Latinx, specifically). I’m one of four African Americans that work in a small company, and the only one on night shift. I’ve been there for two years. During those two years I have been there I’ve been called degrading names. I hear dehumanizing “black jokes” aimed and told directly to me on a daily basis. Most of the time these little shenanigans are pulled once upper management leaves or when they are not around. My tipping point was realizing that HR was useless because a lot of the things I was getting ready to report have already been reported for years.
The icing on the cake was in the beginning of November 2017. I overheard the companies president, a white guy in his 60s, use the N-word three times in a span of 10 minutes. So then I knew, I couldn’t go to anyone in the company to get any of these issues resolved. I personally have taken a radical approach to solving the issues for myself. I started recording everything they said to me. When there try to pull some of their racist games on me I threaten them. When one decided to try and pet me like I was some sort of dog, I told him I was going to break his hand, and I wasn’t kidding. I don’t recommend taking that approach, but it’s gotten them to stop bothering me. Shit most don’t talk to me anymore or dare stand next to me, which I like.
The company recently promoted a new person to night shift supervisor, he’s been with the company for 15 years. I’ve been helping him transition into his new role, as I know about a lot of the policies and technology we deal with. All while still taking care of my own workload. He’s been begging me to stay because of the help I’ve been giving him. When I told him about the things that I have had to put up with, he said he would address it immediately. The next day he sent one of the perpetrators home early for their antics, and that’s just the start. So who knows, maybe I might stay a little longer since I’m planning to move out of the state next year. But other more appealing I.T. jobs are out there that I’m eyeing. Plus my second job is trying to offer me full time, although it’s retail and not I.T. related. So it’s good having a backup plan.
Oh, I also go to the gym, I actually recommend it. Takes your mind off a lot. My particular gym needs a punching bag though. Sorry for the essay and long read. Probably the longest post I’ve ever typed on a phone, and posted on a site.” –DarksideImperialist
“I really get where you’re coming from because I work in a specialist field too. I sit and wonder if I were in another field would they have had the balls to try some of the crap that they have.
The gym is a good shout to go vent out some frustration, it’s next on my summer list of things to do. I’m slowly starting to make my way back out because all the stress had caused me to retreat into myself and hardly leave the house except for food or work because it essentially because my safe haven. I’m hoping your situation gets a lot better soon!”- beautynerds
“If it’s that bad, I’d leave. Few jobs are worth all that discomfort.
That being said, I’ve been in toxic work environments that have had black women stay employed there for long periods of time. They either cut out all social contact with everyone so no one feels comfortable enough to do the microagressions and things are always awkward with them or they do their best Ben Carson impression. Neither really pans out well for black women, so again, I say find a new job and try to get a raise out of it.”- Worstmodonreddit
“I work in the nuclear industry so it’s quite a unique job, so although I have been looking it’s been difficult to find something of a similar calibre, let alone better. I’ll also admit that there’s a bit of a fear factor over the devil you know, but I’m getting over that now. My mentor managed to organise a move of departments for me so I could have a bit of a reprieve but it’s only made me realise that living in the boonies gives folk an excuse to be ignant. It’s a work in progress.”- beautynerds
Shanya Robinson-Owens applied to over 20 colleges and has been accepted into 18 of them.
As if that wasn’t impressive enough, the high school senior has also been offered more than $1 million in scholarship money. The 17-year-old Philadelphia teen currently attends George Washington Carver High School of Engineering and Science but is headed towards a pretty bright and educated future.
According to a recent interview with “Good Morning America” the star student earned $1,074,260 in scholarships.
“We are overjoyed,” Robinson-Owens aunt told the show in a recent interview. “I knew she wouldn’t have a problem getting into colleges, but we didn’t know they would award her this much money in scholarship funds.”
Shanya, who was accepted to Moravian College in Bethlehem, Pennsylvania; La Salle University in Philadelphia; Lincoln University in Jefferson City, Missouri; Temple University in Philadelphia and Cabrini University in Radnor, Pennsylvania, told GMA that she “wasn’t really expecting it” so many offers let alone so much money.
The senior currently holds a 3.2-grade point average and is a member of the school’s yearbook committee. She also works as an intern alongside her Chinese language teacher.
When it comes to the advice she’d give other students, Shayna says it’s important to “take your time” with your work and the application process.
“You really have to be patient,” Shanya explained. “Stay focused. If you need to have some time away, it’s OK. You can tell your teachers that because they know you’re stressed.”
“We’ve always been extremely proud of her,” Shanya’s aunt, Christine Owens, explained to GMA. “My mother has helped raise Shanya since she was a baby. We’ve just been working as a team making sure Shanya keeps God first in anything she does and she is succeeding.”
Speaking about Shanya, her school principal Ted Domers told GMA that Shanya is a “well-respected student at her school.”
“In addition to being a part of a movement to bring more social action to our school, she’s involved in a number of extracurricular activities that show the breadth of her skills, from robotics to journalism,” Domers explained. “It is a privilege for us to count Shanya as one of our own and we are excited to see her create opportunities for her future.”