Speaking to a student audience last month, a professor at Brigham Young University said that Mormon faith should encourage women to seek out education rather than discourage them.
Eva Witesman is a professor at BYU’s Marriott School of Management and, like most BYU students and faculty, she is a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.
In a recent address at the weekly campus devotional, Witesman said that for some Mormons it has been a cultural misunderstanding that a man’s education takes priority over a woman’s. A perception that is not backed up by many church leaders, current and past.
Quoting former general authority Bruce C. Hafen, Witesman said, "We make no distinction between young men and young women in our conviction of the importance of an education and in our commitment to providing our education."
Witesman acknowledged a popular cultural sentiment, that a woman's education is valuable in case that she has to step in as the breadwinner of her family. But she said that is far too limiting.
“Our value is not merely instrumental, it is intrinsic," Witesman said. "And our learning is not merely instrumental, it is essential.”
Witesman’s words have resonated with listeners. While the typical BYU devotional address sees around 2,000 views online, her address has been viewed over 18,000 times.
“I think too much people relate the priesthood, which is held by men, with the spiritual gifts that are given through the priesthood to all people," says Witesman.
Witesman sees the benefits of Mormon faith as equal for women and men.
And while at BYU there is still a gender imbalance among some departments—including Witesman's school, the Marriott School of Management, where only 25% of students enrolled are female—she says cultural precedent should not hold a student back from doing what she feels drawn to do.