The core mission of the MIT Program in Women’s and Gender Studies (WGS) is to educate MIT undergraduates on the importance of gender equity, and to promote a broad understanding of gender and its complex intersectionality with sexuality, race, ethnicity, class, ability, religious affiliation, and other categories of identity. Now in its thirtieth year, WGS continues to build on its success as an interdisciplinary undergraduate program, providing a community for students, faculty and staff to participate in scholarly inquiry focusing on women and gender. WGS faculty affiliates engage in cutting-edge research on a variety of subjects relating to historical and contemporary questions of gender and sexuality as manifested in the U.S. and across the globe. WGS also plays an important role at the Institute in organizing various types of programming to facilitate the discussion of gender and women's issues among faculty, students, staff, and the broader MIT community. In these various aspects of our educational mission, whether through teaching, research, or programming, WGS seeks to support the Institute’s efforts to promote community, equity, inclusion, and diversity, while educating the next generation of leaders for an increasingly diverse workplace.
What is Women's & Gender Studies?
Women's and Gender Studies is dedicated to the academic study of women, gender, and sexuality, viewed in historical and cross-cultural perspective. WGS examines the complex ways in which social, political, and economic structures or institutions, in addition to cultural values and representations, have shaped gendered lives and dynamics of power in various time periods and across various cultures globally. The WGS curriculum, furthermore, places attention on the intersectionality of gender and sexuality with race, ethnicity, class, religion, nationality, ability, age, and other social categories. Our interdisciplinary program provides the opportunity for students to explore gender and sexuality using the analytical tools and methodologies of a variety of disciplines in the humanities, arts, and social sciences, including anthropology, literature, history, media studies, philosophy, sociology, psychology, STS, and political science, among others.
WGS offers an undergraduate curriculum with subjects covering diverse topics such as gender and sexuality, gender and technology, gender and media studies, women in the developing world, feminist political thought, women's literature, women's history, gender and health, gender and the law, global activism, race and gender, the psychology of race and gender, women and war, violence and human rights, human trafficking, reproductive technology, power and leadership in the workplace, the family, and more (for a full listing of current WGS subject offerings see the catalogue). Students may concentrate, minor, or major (by petition) in WGS. An annual award, the Louis Kampf Writing Prize in Women's and Gender Studies, is presented for exemplary undergraduate writing in a WGS subject.
MIT also belongs to the Graduate Consortium in Women's Studies, which was established in 1993 by MIT and six other Boston-area institutions. Harvard University, Boston College, Brandeis University, Tufts University, Northeastern University, Boston University, Simmons College, and MIT are now currently members of the consortium.
In addition to serving MIT's student population, WGS is also an important resource for MIT faculty working on topics in women's and gender studies within their own particular disciplines, but who seek a broader community for intellectual inquiry or scholarly collaboration across disciplinary or departmental lines. WGS currently houses two interdisciplinary research groups: the Borders Research Initiative; and the Gender and Technology Initiative. WGS Faculty Affiliates are housed in numerous units, including Anthropology, Literature, History, Political Science, Linguistics and Philosophy, Architecture, Global Studies and Languages, Comparative Media Studies/Writing, and Science, Technology and Society Studies (STS). We also welcome the participation of faculty who have an emerging interest in the field of women's and gender studies, or in gender equity issues.
MIT WGS was founded as the Program in Women's Studies in September 1984, with Professor Ruth Perry as the Founding Director. In 2006 the program's name was changed to Women's and Gender Studies in order to reflect developments in the field, in particular the growing importance of LBGTQ studies and masculinity studies. Reflecting the growth of the program, a chair in women's and gender studies, the Genevieve McMillan and Reba Stewart Professorship in the Study of Women in the Developing World, was established in 1996. Professor Lerna Ekmekcioglu, Assistant Professor of History, is the holder of the McMillan-StewartCareer Development Chair. Organized by Prof. Ekmekcioglu, WGS hosts the Genevieve McMillan-Reba Stewart Lecture on Women in the Developing World each semester. In 2014-15 we celebrated our 30th anniversary at MIT.
WGS Statement on Equity, Inclusion & Diversity
Inclusion, equity, and diversity are fundamental to the WGS mission. Through teaching, research, and programming, we provide a structural framework that is specifically focused on examining and analyzing the intersections of gender, race, ethnicity, class, and sexuality. WGS values the diversity and inclusion of our students, faculty, and staff members with regard to their backgrounds, experiences, and perspectives. We seek to embody the belief that not only should we impart critical academic tools, but that we should also serve students by providing community, resources, and emotional support.
In concert with MIT-wide efforts to build a more welcoming, inclusive community at MIT, we emphatically affirm that while the quality of our students’ work is important, their mental and physical health is most important. The mental and physical well-being of our students is essential to their well-rounded and holistic education. Recognizing this, we affirm that we value one another first and foremost as human beings, with all of our distinctive differences. And we believe that, consistent with our individual strengths and abilities, we should help each other sustain the physical and emotional well-being that is vital to our success in learning, inventing, solving problems, thinking boldly, discovering new truths, growing as individuals, mentoring others, and collaborating effectively as team members. The scope of MIT’s mission – bringing knowledge to bear on the world’s great challenges – compels us to seek, welcome and join forces with talented people from everywhere, to create a stronger MIT. In pursuit of that mission, we also strive to create a community with equal access and opportunity, where we take care to treat one another with fairness, openness, respect, and kindness.
As part of our long-term commitment to diversity, equity, and inclusion, we have implemented initiatives such as My Sister’s Keeper, the re:Vision Women Writers Reading Series, and programming that serves and supports underrepresented minority and lgbtq members of the MIT community. We pledge to continue working with the Office of Minority Education, the Institute Community & Equity Office (ICEO), the Office of Multicultural Programs, and student groups, and we pledge to encourage, through our curriculum and our programming, attention to and activism on social and racial justice issues. And although WGS is a program, rather than a department, it pledges to support the hiring of underrepresented faculty members by departments and the recruitment, acceptance, and support of underrepresented minority graduate students. WGS pledges to continue to advance diversity, equity, and inclusion among our students, and our academic and administrative staff members.