by Melissa Brock
Having joined the IGEPS team as a graduate fellow during the Spring 2023 semester, I am learning the ropes, getting my feet wet, and embodying every sort of imaginable idiom which calls to mind a period of adjustment. Unlike many of my academic peers, I am no longer young, nor am I highly experienced in navigating a world in which complex social problems are acknowledged and discussed. Instead, I’ve been ensconced in a physical and mental environment of complacency tantamount to complicity for the better part of two decades.
I am a career civil servant with over 20 years in the public sector, and it has been easy and comfortable to relegate myself to a simple cog in the machine. Before enrolling at John Jay, I had long abandoned any fantasy of creating impactful and lasting change, choosing instead to remain focused on surviving the years of service required to collect a pension. I was generally satisfied to complete my job duties with little to no consideration of the struggles facing my diverse group of coworkers. The real struggles, that is. I was well-versed in the vapid water cooler gossip which dominates many office settings.
Now halfway through this Master’s program, I am more observant of my surroundings, and rather than allowing the routine and habitual sights and sounds fade into the background, I have become more mindful. And, more importantly, I’m starting to ask questions again. Questions which signal to me, at least, that instead of a progression towards equity, many public agencies remain stagnant or may have actually experienced a regression. I observe a dearth of women currently employed in leadership positions, for example, and have noted an absence of BIPOC men benefiting from recent promotional opportunities. I wonder if there is bias in the civil service system, if there are biases in the actual civil service examinations, or are there processes within public sector agencies themselves which benefit white, cishet men at the expense of all others? And I wonder how many opportunities I missed to bring awareness to disparity… How many overlooked chances to promote equity slipped by… How many times have I failed to stand up for others because I simply wasn’t paying attention?
It is, therefore, very humbling to be invited to contribute to the work of an organization such as IGEPS. Collaboration with IGEPS Directors, Fellows, and Assistants on projects such as Gender Inclusion in the Workplace. I’ve been tasked with writing the text’s introductory chapter, which will introduce students to key concepts and definitions regarding gender, will contextualize the role of gender in employment, and will orient readers to the importance of prioritizing and promoting gender equity in working environments. Concurrently, I have begun work on an individual fellowship project, a research brief on the topic of obstetric violence which I will submit for publication to the Scholars Strategy Network. The goal of this project is to illuminate this facet of gender-based violence and to serve as a basis of discussion for possible policy action.
I hope that my work with IGEPS will assist me in expanding my awareness of gender bias in the workplace so I can continue to question the status quo. I am confident I will gain insight into the importance of gender equity in the workplace, will understand how far the local, state, and federal governments are from workplace equity, and will be prepared to offer solutions to stakeholders who are committed to change. I specifically hope to leverage knowledge and experience gained to assist my agency in becoming a local model for promoting diversity, equity, and inclusion in the public sector.
About the Author:
Melissa Brock is a graduate student at John Jay College working towards her Master of Public Administration with a concentration in Criminal Justice Policy Administration. She earned her Bachelor of Science in Psychology from Saint Peter’s University, and her Master of Arts in Forensic Psychology and Counseling from Saint Elizabeth University. Melissa currently works as a counselor in an adult county correctional facility in New Jersey. She is a certified Disaster Response Crisis Counselor and has previously worked with the Mental Health Association of Essex and Morris. She also volunteered at the Morris County Public Safety Training Academy, where she provided instruction to correctional police officer recruits in subject matters such as the effects of dehumanization of the justice-involved population. She hopes to shift gears after graduation and begin a new career effecting positive change to the criminal justice system at the policy level. When her toddler allows it, Melissa is a voracious reader, and she enjoys attending live music or comedy shows.