What is Women's and Gender Studies?
Women's and Gender Studies is an interdisciplinary academic field that fosters active analysis of how gender (together with race, class, sexuality, ethnicity, ability) affects our lives. WGS draws upon anthropology, art history, crime and justice studies, economics, history, literature, philosophy, political science, sociology, and the visual arts. WGS students reflect on how gender structures societies past and present and how it affects people at the individual and group levels; they study the historical factors that have shaped the status of women from varying backgrounds and countries; and they explore paths to achieve equality for all people.
What can you do with a WGS Major or Minor?
A degree in Women's and Gender Studies enables students to pursue a variety of fields and occupations, including but not limited to: business, education, health care, media, politics, law, social services, and psychology.
Beverly Guy-Sheftall, founding director of the Women’s Research and Resource Center and the Anna Julia Cooper Professor of Women’s Studies at Spelman College, notes that "in the early years, women’s studies graduates tended to work on gender-specific issues, getting jobs in battered-women’s shelters and rape crisis centers. But more and more we have students going into public health, international policy, journalism, electoral politics, film-making, K-12 education and other careers that allow them to effect large-scale change."
Women’s and Gender Studies graduates tend to follow three types of career paths: sustainers, evolvers, and synthesizers.
- Sustainers pursue career paths that involve working with gender issues directly and usually in types of employment where their degree is an obvious fit for the skills required for the position (for example, a social worker, an analyst at a nonprofit, a paralegal or lawyer, a community health worker, a human resources diversity specialist, a project manager). Typically, sustainers are therefore involved in activist work and they often maintain an activist agenda outside of their employment as well.
- Evolvers take their training in women’s and gender studies into arenas where it may not have previously seen as directly applicable, and where they find or create new opportunities. Evolvers are innovators and adapt easily. They are not afraid to take risks to follow their goals. For example, evolvers may get involved with sustainability work or agriculture or they may run their own socially responsible businesses.
- Synthesizers move between the other two categories. For example, a synthesizer may be involved with a non-profit arts organization and then work to bring in women’s and gender issues into the events run by the organization.