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Sumru Erkut, Ph.D.

Associate Director and Senior Research Scientist

Sumru Erkut is an Associate Director and Senior Research Scientist at the Wellesley Centers for Women (WCW). She joined the Center for Research on Women in 1979 before its partnership with the Stone Center for Developmental Services and Studies in 1995 to form the Wellesley Centers for Women. She served on the Interim Executive Committee during a 24-month leadership transition. She is serving as the Susan McGee Bailey Research Scholar, July 1, 2013-June 30, 2014.

Dr. Erkut received a B.Sc. in Social Sciences from the Middle East Technical University in Ankara, Turkey. Her Doctorate is in Social Psychology from Harvard University, Department of Social Relations, which she attended with a Fulbright and an International Studies Fellowship. Before joining the Wellesley Centers for Women she taught at the Middle East Technical University and Boston University and was a research associate of the Center for Middle Eastern Studies at Harvard University.

At the Wellesley Centers for Women her research has encompassed variations in the course of child and adult development due to gender, race/ethnicity, social class, immigration, urbanization, and sexuality. She directed the Postdoctoral Behavioral Research Training on Variations in Child and Adolescent Development funded by the National Institute for Child Health and Development. Her research on adults has focused on employment and leadership. She has analyzed data from interviews with diverse women leaders and co-authored the report, Inside Women’s Leadership. She has participated in a collaborative study on barriers to women’s and minorities’ upward mobility under a contract from the U.S. Department of Labor, Glass Ceiling Commission, a gender equity survey of all levels of employees in a large medical center, and a study of success for women and minorities in the sales department of a high technology company. She was part of a team which found that three or more women on a corporate board of directors constitute a critical mass that improves corporate boards functioning. She is part of a team that examined using an online experimental methodology whether playing a varsity sport in college improves female and minority job applicants’ chances of being invited for an interview. Her most recent work is an examination of the scarcity of women leaders in theaters and what can be done to remedy the situation, a research study carried out in collaboration with the American Conservatory Theater in San Francisco. Her other work in adult development included providing leadership to a Centers-wide collaborative effort to examine gay and lesbian couples’ decisions to marry (or not) when same-sex marriage became legal in Massachusetts.

Her research on children and adolescents has included directing a research program on raising confident and competent girls, Puerto Rican youth development, the effects of sports on girls’ and boys’ development and sexual behavior, evaluating youth-serving agencies’ science and math programs for girls and children of color, and a study of racial/ethnic identification among adolescents from mixed-ancestry backgrounds. She directed the long-term impact evaluation of a middle school comprehensive sex education program developed by Planned Parenthood League of Massachusetts.

Her work in the international arena includes a synthesis of the literature on school-related gender-based violence in developing countries. She has published on a class-based analysis of urban women’s occupational achievement in Turkey. She has explored sexual violence dimensions of the growing crisis in the spread of HIV/AIDS among adolescent girls in Sub-Saharan Africa. She is currently engaged with NGOs in Uganda serving the educational needs of rural girls and boys orphaned by AIDS and poverty.

She is an associate editor of Developmental Psychology and held that position for the Journal of Adolescent Research. She has served on peer review panels for NIH, NSF, and other federal and private funding agencies. Dr. Erkut is a member of the Advisory Board of the Girls Coalition of Greater Boston and Forward Together: Asian Communities for Reproductive Justice. She served on the Board of Directors of the National Council for Research on Women, Research Advisory Committee of the American Association of University Women, and Boston Girls’ Sport and Physical Activity Project. She is the past president of the Board of Directors of the Friends of American Board Schools in Turkey and was a member of the board of Teen Voices.