Women Who Make a Difference Award Dinner Acceptance Remarks
By Susan McGee Bailey, Ph.D., Executive Director
March 11, 2004, National Council for Research on Women
The National Council for Research on Women (NCRW) chose the Wellesley Centers for Women (WCW) as an organizational honoree at its annual Women Who Make a Difference gala dinner. The award, accepted by WCW’s Executive Director Susan McGee Bailey, recognizes outstanding women leaders and organizations working in a variety of disciplines for their unique ability to project their visions for a better world onto local, national, and global landscapes. WCW was honored on March 11, 2004, for its outstanding work linking research, theory, and policy and the profound impact this work has had on policy both nationally and internationally.
Thank you; it is an honor to join such a distinguished group of honorees and guests and to accept this award on behalf of everyone at the Wellesley Centers for Women.
Geeta, Sandi, and I have each been asked by the National Council to share our visions for our Centers—and to do so briefly…a challenging assignment Linda.
At the Wellesley Centers for Women we are united in our passionate pursuit of the questions that arise from women’s lives, our commitment to multiple perspectives, and our respect for the subjects of our work. The work is as much about learning from women as it is learning about women.
The 30 years that have passed since 1974 and the founding of the Center for Research on Women, the older of our two partners in the Wellesley Centers for Women, have been tumultuous for both women and for the world. Many things have changed dramatically and among all these changes—far too many of them discouraging and disheartening—there have also been enormous and positive changes for women.
These changes did not happen by accident. They came about because women and men challenged assumptions and asked new questions. This is the mission and the work of the Wellesley Centers for Women.
We have grown from a tiny group of committed women led by Carolyn Eliot, the Center for Research on Women’s founding director, with a single grant from the Carnegie Corporation, thank you Sarah Englehardt, soon followed by grants from Ford and FIPSE, thank you Miriam Chamberlain, and thank you, Alison Bernstein, to an organization of 150 women and men with an annual budget of more than 8 million dollars.
Research projects based at the Centers have influenced national debates on education and childcare. They have shaped policy decisions in schools, homes, and workplaces. Work on women’s psychological growth and development at the Stone Center, the second half of our partnership, has helped to transform psychological and psychiatric practice.
Someone once told me that if my questions weren’t the right ones, the answers wouldn’t matter very much. Questions are at the heart of any research effort.
Colleagues at the Centers are rarely in total agreement, at times there is substantial disagreement, but by crafting our questions carefully, we are better prepared to find the answers that matter.
At WCW our vision for our future is as much about process as about subject. We cannot maintain successful collaborations without respect for differences—in perspectives, in power, and in possibilities—and we cannot survive without collaboration. As those of you who attended this afternoon’s plenary session have heard and know well, we are long past the point where the idea of global connections and cooperation can be seen as only one among many possible political or economic frameworks. A global perspective is no longer a choice, it is a necessity.
Bringing the views and strengths of women from around the world into public programs, practices, and decision-making is crucial. ‘Women’s work”–the caring, nurturing, and the protecting that is assigned to women, but which at times is performed with great love and compassion by men as well–must be valued publicly. Until the sensibilities and perspectives gained in such work are a part of the public sphere rather than relegated to the background and regarded as suitable only in the privacy of home, family, and places of worship, women will not hold equal citizenship and the world will not be safe for any one of us or for our children.
The inequitable position of women and children in this country and around the globe continues despite rhetoric of freedom and human rights. There will be no end to the vicious cycle of violent action and violent reprisal until we find ways to raise the world’s children with full stomachs and loving hearts and until women’s economic self-sufficiency and full citizenship is real rather than theoretical.
This drives the work we are doing at the Centers. Whether researching child care or exploring the dynamics of sexual harassment and the roots of gendered violence, whether looking at the progress of corporate women or encouraging younger researchers—this struggle will not be finished in our lifetime, nor in that of our daughters–whether publicizing the writing of women of all ages, or planning innovative international exchanges, we are finding, and will continue to find, ways to bring the perspectives and experiences of women into focus and into power.
I have a sign on my desk that says, “None of us is as smart as all of us.” Only by working together with women and men around the nation and around the world can any of us hope to discover solutions to the problems, the pressures, and the pain that confront us. A world of choices equally available to all regardless of sex, race, social class, or sexual orientation is the vision that informs and sustains our work at the Centers. I am grateful to be part of this work and for the community and the connections it provides for all of us. And I am especially grateful to all of you here this evening for your support, your encouragement, and for this very special recognition of our 30 years of work. Thank you.