OPINION: Women's weightlifting builds self-confidence in gym and beyond – Red and Black

Clear skies. Scattered frost possible. Low 32F. Winds WNW at 5 to 10 mph..
Clear skies. Scattered frost possible. Low 32F. Winds WNW at 5 to 10 mph.
Updated: October 19, 2022 @ 4:59 pm
Girl Gains leads women in an introductory weightlifting class at Ramsey Student Center on Oct. 2, 2022 in Athens, Georgia. (Courtesy/Bhumy Patel)

Girl Gains leads women in an introductory weightlifting class at Ramsey Student Center on Oct. 2, 2022 in Athens, Georgia. (Courtesy/Bhumy Patel)
The Red & Black publishes opinions from a number of contributors and staff columnists. Their opinions do not reflect the opinions of the editorial staff. The editorial staff is in no way involved with the opinion pieces published with the exception of editorials. Editorials are written by the editorial board consisting of the opinion editor, managing editor and editor-in-chief. Editorials are clearly marked EDITORIAL at the beginning. This article is from contributor Katie Guenthner, a freshman majoring in journalism and Spanish.
In the 21st century, it’s tempting to believe that American society is near gender equality, but that’s simply not the case. Men on average make $10,381 more than women across the United States. That wage gap actually increases among certain fields, particularly legal occupations, medical scientists and engineering technologists. Clearly, this issue is still relevant, and the wage gap is just one sign of America’s persistent gender inequality.
Many factors explain why the gender wage gap persists despite the Equal Pay Act, which prohibits paying men and women different amounts for the same job, but one is particularly hard to address. A lack of self confidence due to gender stereotypes can psychologically prevent women from seeking out better opportunities and higher pay. 
Harvard Business School Assistant Professor Katherine Coffman outlined this phenomenon in her 2019 study. She found that women are more likely to underestimate their own knowledge in male-dominated areas, self-predicting that they would get lower test scores in math and business than a male counterpart. Additionally, when given positive feedback about their test scores in an area that their gender is stereotypically “bad” at, both men and women brushed it off, but were willing to accept compliments about something their gender is supposed to be “good” at. 
Based on her research, Coffman concluded that the best way to encourage women in male dominated fields is to consistently provide positive feedback, to empower women. At the University of Georgia, women have come together to do just that, and while the focus may not be academic, its impact is certainly felt in the classroom and the workplace. 
Recent years show an increase in women’s participation in weightlifting, as demonstrated by the club Girl Gains, a female weightlifting organization. UGA Chapter President Nandini Patel said that the national organization is dedicated to encouraging women to take up weightlifting in a supportive environment from 2020. She herself founded the UGA chapter last semester. Membership has grown from 200 initial members to around 300 now. 
The reason for that growth is clear: Fitness that focuses on strength and empowerment rather than appearance increases self-confidence in women. Weight lifting specifically allows women to assert their strength in a male dominated sport. Girl Gains Marketing Director Megan Hanson and Patel pointed to increasing confidence as a major reason why they personally started weightlifting and the reason they brought a female weightlifting club to UGA.
Patel and Hanson indicated that Girl Gains gave them more confidence in other areas of life, too. “I think lifting kind of helps me get a lot of the anxiety out and also boosts my confidence in school,” said Hanson.
Girl Gains not only helps young women feel more comfortable in academics; it also helps prepare them for future careers. “Everything had changed,” said Patel regarding her new-found confidence. Patel felt much more confident in her ability in job interviews, in conjunction to her body image.
Part of the reason for this is that weight lifting, unlike other traditionally “female” fitness options, centers on ability rather than appearances. 
That’s why Sophia Aiken, a senior economics major, got involved in weightlifting. Although she initially worried about looking too “bulky,” as she tried it she slowly grew more comfortable with the sport because of the way she could prove her abilities through physical strength. “I think it’s the way to view yourself as ‘I worked for the strength that I have,’ and that’s more empowering than limiting yourself because you just didn’t want to look a certain way,” said Aiken.
Additionally, she likes the idea of undercutting gender stereotypes about strength in all areas of life. “If you don’t know what I’m capable of in this area then they don’t know what I’m capable of in so many other areas,” said Aiken.
While gender inequality is a big picture issue with many contributing factors, female empowerment is an evidence-based way to combat it. According to the women themselves, weightlifting is an extremely effective way to build self-confidence, and its effects are obvious in the gym, school, work and life.
Organizations like Girl Gains are a powerful antidote to this issue, which is why more women at the University of Georgia should consider taking up weightlifting or a similar confidence-boosting activity. Additionally, the university itself should endorse these groups, and include them in promotions for student wellbeing. The more women have confidence in themselves, the better they perform in school, business, and life.

For incoming freshmen, the list of things necessary to live comfortably in a dorm room can be overwhelming. Some students take the opportunity presented by the plain, albeit often tiny, room to create a new space that they can look forward to coming home from class to every day. For those students who go above and beyond when setting up their living spaces, the University of Georgia’s University Housing department organizes an annual Room of the Year competition. 

CPR training should be mandatory for all incoming students at the University of Georgia in order to ensure that students are well-prepared in safety measures on and off campus. Just as the administration requires students to fulfill alcohol safety and sexual assault modules, CPR training should be an essential and non-negotiable part of student safety.
About a month ago, I attended a fraternity party. A group of my girlfriends snuck me into on…

The Red & Black compiled a list of vegetarian and vegan-friendly eateries that can provide new options for Athens’ meat-free community.

From Oct. 3 through Oct. 8, the University of Georgia held its first #BeWellUGA Week, an initiative designed to highlight and promote all of the resources that the university offers to support students’ mental and physical well-being ahead of World Mental Health Day in Oct. 10. 
Read the digital edition of this week’s issue


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *