Zanaya Salaam is a senior at Western Carolina University who says she’s worked on issues around diversity and inclusion since her arrival to campus in 2018. Here, she speaks with Xpress about overcoming obstacles, organizing conferences and speaking up.
What does feminism mean to you?
Feminism to me means being proud to be a woman! It means not using my gender as an excuse to not take on every opportunity I want. It’s no secret that women, and even more so women of color, are at a disadvantage in the corporate world in this country — I am double majoring in business management and business marketing. I don’t let that stop me in going for what I want professionally or personally.
What is a standout accomplishment you have achieved during your time at WCU as it relates to empowering female students?
For one of the student organizations I represent, the Latinx Appreciation Student Organization, we created and hosted the Southeastern Latinx Student Leadership Conference. It was the first of its kind in our region, a conference that aims to empower and educate Latinx students and their allies for success during and after their collegiate career. We planned for this conference each year since 2018, and each year the student committee was almost all or fully made up of female students!
What is the biggest issue facing women on campus?
I think the biggest issue facing women on campus is the fear to speak up. I don’t speak for all women on campus when I say this, but I know many of my female peers do not feel powerful enough to speak up on certain issues or concerns they may have. It’s important that we uplift one another to give all women the push and empowerment they need to feel heard. Everyone’s voice matters!