From 40 to 50:

A Roadmap to Our Half-Century Mark

Director’s Message--September 2014

As the Wellesley Centers for Women launches its 40th anniversary this year, nothing could be more exciting than presenting a roadmap for our next decade. As one of the oldest, largest, and most accomplished women- and gender-focused research-and-action institutes in the world, we are now poised to build upon our hard-earned legacy of high-quality research, groundbreaking theory, and innovative action programs by taking WCW to the next level. While we will continue to do what we have always done best, in the next decade we will also venture forth in some new directions designed to amplify our social change impact, reinforce our sustainability, and refine our unique contributions to women’s leadership, Wellesley College, and the world.

As we move forward, it is important to acknowledge our origins and the visionary leadership that birthed us. We date our beginnings to 1974, when Wellesley College President Barbara Newell established the Wellesley Center for Research on Women in Higher Education and the Professions (later, simply the Center for Research on Women). This Center was part of a larger national movement fueled by feminist academics to establish social scientific research centers that would focus on women’s issues – in our case, women’s economic and political status and advancement – on college and university campuses. These “CRW’s,” as they were known, were built on the conviction that women’s and girls’ advancement could be accelerated by using data, data-driven methodologies, and social scientific rigor.

In 1981, another pivotal event in the history of the Wellesley Centers for Women took place when the College, buoyed by committed supporters Robert S. and Grace W. Stone, established the Stone Center for Developmental Services and Studies, known popularly as The Stone Center. This Center, first led by Jean Baker Miller, M.D., author of the groundbreaking book, Toward a New Psychology of Women, became the origin of Relational-Cultural Theory (RCT), recognized in the American Psychological Association’s Theories of Psychotherapy as “one of the ten most important psychological theories today.” The Stone Center pioneered an integrative approach to research, theory, and action that has informed and defined our culture since its inception.

In 1995, under the leadership of Susan McGee Bailey, Ph.D. – who coined our venerated motto, “A world that is good for women is good for everyone” ™ – the Center for Research on Women and the Stone Center merged to form the Wellesley Centers for Women (WCW). Today, WCW can boast two dozen primary investigator-level researchers and project directors, numerous research and project associates and assistants, student assistants and interns, and in-the-field trainers, and a small but efficient core administrative team for a total full-time staff of approximately 60 and a total workforce of over 100. Our contributions to advancing knowledge include over 400 papers, reports, and curricula, over 200 scholarly journal articles, over 100 books and counting. We also publish two scholarly periodicals, Women’s Review of Books and Afterschool Matters. Our work has generated thousands of citations in scholarly journals and the popular press, as well as critical changes in public policies, perceptions, and practices. Our public presence insures that we are accessible to audiences far and wide, of every generation, and that our research findings and action projects can be shared easily and quickly with policymakers, practitioners, educators, parents, and change makers of all kinds.

Today, the work of our researchers spans a wide array of issues and topics: education and childcare, mental health, violence against women and girls, economic security and wellbeing for women and families, women and the justice system, adolescents and sexuality, girls and the media, gender equity in the arts, even mindfulness. These topics map on to a broad spectrum of important social issues and community concerns, and our research influences change in these areas. Yet, translating research and theory into action is also a pivotal aspect of making change effectively. Our action programs – the National Institute on Out-of-School Time (NIOST), the National S.E.E.D. Project, Open Circle, and the Jean Baker Miller Training Institute – are all nationally and, in some instances, internationally recognized leaders in their respective areas of endeavor. Our portfolio also proudly includes the landmark Women’s Review of Books, now in its fourth decade of publication. Over the years, WCW has succeeded in incubating and sustaining innovators and trailblazers – and this will remain the foundation of our work.

Everyone at WCW recognizes that the conditions of women’s and girls’ lives are shaped not only by their sex and gender, but also by other important factors: their race, ethnicity, nationality, and culture; their social class and economic status; their nationality and religion; their sexuality and gender expression; their age and ability status; their level of education; whether they live in urban, suburban, or rural areas; and more. Additionally, we all share the conviction that the lives of men and boys – indeed, people of all genders – are as valuable and important as those of girls and women. We work with the understanding that the change we seek occurs simultaneously at micro and macro levels encompassing individuals, dyads, families, communities, and society-at-large. Only when social equality, psychological wellbeing, peace, and freedom from violence and want evince for all people will our research and action programs have reached their true and ultimate end.

What’s next for us? As we look forward, a landscape anchored in the ongoing relevance of women’s and girls’ issues yet transformed by the global technological revolution and the possibilities of big data beckons us to engage new audiences, invite new collaborations, form new partnerships, and imagine new horizons of activity.

We know that, for the foreseeable future, the value of research in the social change equation is only going to increase. We also know that the special brand of knowledge that comes from women- and gender-informed approaches to research and implementation will only become more in-demand as local, national, and international communities mobilize to address the greatest challenges facing women and girls. In every arena – from ending violence to increasing economic empowerment to ensuring equal education to advancing women’s and girls’ leadership in all sectors of society – high-quality research is a catalyst to progress and problem-solving.

Enter WCW, where we are shaping a better world through research, theory, and action. In the years to come, we will not only continue to lead with research excellence, theoretical innovation, and cutting-edge action programs, but will also raise the banner of research-informed leadership – leadership that shapes social change at grassroots and global levels, making a decidedly positive difference for women and girls, families and communities, indeed, everyone.

Layli Maparyan, Ph.D.
Katherine Stone Kaufmann ’67 Executive Director
Wellesley Centers for Women


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