What is Women's Studies?
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What is Women's Studies?

Changes in women's roles throughout the world are among the most deeply transforming forces in contemporary society. The social movement of women has a long and rich history, yet it is in recent decades particularly that we have witnessed an explosion of knowledge about the roles, status, experiences, and achievements of women.

The interdisciplinary field of women's studies integrates the perspectives and methods of many research disciplines with the aim of providing a cohesive understanding of the complex interactions between gender and social structure, personality, behavior and cognition, historical development, and creative expression. Some of the specific issues addressed in women's studies courses include the roles of women in their communities—both their individual contributions and their function as a class in the economy and in society; the nature of the family; the recovery of women's distinctive intellectual and artistic achievements; the nature and extent of the commonalities as well as the racial, class, and national differences in women's experiences; the origin and perpetuation of sex roles; and the dynamics of change.

What You Can Do with a Degree in Women's Studies?

A. Employment Skills You Gain With a Liberal Arts Education
Women's studies provides you with all the benefits of a liberal arts degree.  Liberal arts education emphasizes critical thinking, which can be applied to a multitude of careers.  It demonstrates to a potential employer that you have the confidence, skills, and maturity to earn a college degree; that you are well-rounded, having studied a wide variety of topics rather than one narrow skill area; that you likely are able to think more globally than many other job applicants.  Managers often prefer liberal arts majors because they think they are better at organizing material, writing well, and making oral presentations.  Moreover, a Women's Studies major equips you with significant additional advantages...

B. Additional Employment Skills You Gain With a WS Degree
Larissa Semenuk, a Women's Studies graduate, explains:  "The major prepares one to do anything any other liberal arts major does but with deeper insight into issues of oppression and celebration of women.  Hopefully, this insight carries over into important issues of other groups -- making one more sensitive and therefore more prepared to do all things/jobs with greater attention to ethical standards.  A Women's Studies major is taught to look for the hidden -- like looking for the silenced voices of women in history.  It's invaluable!" (Luebke and Reilly 19).  There are many practical applications for Women's Studies training on the job.  For example, as more women work, business and corporations find the need for more sensitivity to women's issues such as sexual harassment, flex-time, parental leave, pay equity, and equal employment opportunities.  The development of women's agencies and organizations is spurring demand for graduates with specializations in Women's Studies.  There is growing demand in the professions of law, medicine, social work, teaching, counseling, and government service for expertise on gender issues.   Similarly, women's studies specialists are increasingly being used as consultants in industry, higher education, insurance companies, and personnel firms.  Perhaps most importantly, many Women's Studies graduates say that their education gave them the confidence to pursue careers traditionally held by men.

C. Fields of Graduate Study That WS Majors Have Pursued
The fields of graduate study that Women's Studies majors have pursued include:  Administration, advocacy, anthropology, arts, counseling, education, history, humanities, international studies, law, library science, philosophy, psychology, public health, public policy, social work, and sociology.

D. Fields of Employment WS Graduates Have Pursued, With Real Examples of Specific Job Placements Within Each Category
A recent national study uncovered more than 38 distinct occupations pursued by Women's Studies graduates (Luebke and Reilly).  Categories of careers include:

Arts || Business || Education || Health Care || Media || Politics and Law || Social Work and Psychology || Sports


  • Self-employed artist
  • Author published her first novel, Heartscape, Naiad Press, 1989. She attended the Women's Writing School, Cazenovia, NY.
  • Arts Administrator


Majoring in Women's Studies particularly helps professionals in these fields to learn how male/female interactions affect the business environment, gain an understanding of federal, state, and local equal opportunity legislation, and explore differences in women's and men's managerial styles.

  • Small-business owner
  • Trade associations (domestic and international)
  • Sheet metal apprentice, Columbus, Ohio.
  • Department store management.
  • Coordinator for Shield Care Network in Albany.
  • Employment at Motorola.


Majoring in Women's Studies particularly helps professionals in these fields to become aware of sexist, racist and other biases in textbooks, learn about subconscious classroom behaviors that limit students to stereotypical roles, and explore non-sexist teaching models and curriculum integration.

  • Teaching English as a Second Language with Master's Degree in ESL from Hunter College.
  • Counselor at Ulster County Mental Health  teaches courses in the Women's Studies Program and the Humanistic Education Program. She received her Master's in Professional Studies from SUNY at New Paltz.
  • Librarian.
  • Program advising at Mesa Community College.
  • Teaching English, Jackson Community College.
  • High school teaching.
  • Director of graduate education at a Westchester Medical Center, NY.
  • Program assistant for the New Paltz Women's Studies Program.

Health Care

  • Associate professor and certified nurse midwife at Mid-Hudson Family Health Institute, NY.
  • Assistant director of the Community Health Center in Massachusetts.
  • Educator for Planned Parenthood in Poughkeepsie, NY.
  • Chiropractor in San Francisco.
  • Women's health centers.
  • Reproductive health counselor and education coordinator at the Robbinsdale Clinic, PA, and a counselor at Planned Parenthood.  Also on the speaker's bureau of Pro-Choice Resources.
  • Community health specialist for Hennepin County, dividing her time between the Pilot City Health Center's Hennepin Community Clinic for low-income people in north Minneapolis and Pilot's clinic at North High School, where she counsels students in family planning and STD testing and treatment.
  • Fitzsimmons Army Medical Center.
  • Colorado Breast Cancer Project.
  • Obstetrics and gynecology.
  • Family practice medicine.


  • Colorado Business Women's News
  • Accounts Coordinator for a public relations firm.
  • The staff of Kitchen Table, Women of Color Press.
  • Works at Media Action Alliance, where she is the steering director of operation and development.  Her duties include grant writing and promoting positive images of women in the media.

Politics and Law

Majoring in Women's Studies particularly helps professionals in these fields to learn how women have been exluded from the political process in the past, examine how women are working to achieve political empowerment today, and explore women's public policy issues.

  • Managing attorney for Legal Aid Society of Mid New York, Inc.
  • Office manager for an environmental conservation organization in Washington, DC.
  • Staff of Arizona Women's Town Hall.
  • Public affairs specialist, Illinois Planned Parenthood Council, Springfield, Illinois.
  • Staff of Arizona State Univ. Commission on the Status of Women.
  • Permanent Commission on Status of Women.
  • Lawyer who pushed the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to broaden the definition of AIDS disease complex to include a number of infections that afflict women, thus making it possible for infected women to receive federal and state assistance for AIDS treatment.
  • Public interest lawyer recently featured in a NY Times story on young lawyers who have dedicated themselves to the cause of social justice.
  • Oversees affirmative action in different divisions in NY State Services, including prisons.
  • Staff attorney for NY State Court of Appeals, Albany.
  • Legal aid attorney in the juvenile rights division in New York City.
  • Denver Police Department.
  • Women's advocacy groups such as NOW, NARAL, Planned Parenthood, etc.
  • Foreign Service.

Social Work and Psychology

Majoring in Women's Studies particularly helps professionals in these fields to explore sexist biases in therapeutic models, gain an understanding of the common concerns experienced by female clients, such as battering, rape, incest, body image, and self-worth, and relate women's personal issues to the social construction of gender.

  • Intake coordinator of a parenting skills group for Orange County Mental Health, NY.
  • Case manager for AIDS-related community services for two NY Counties.
  • Alcoholism counselor at a county day treatment program.
  • Direct care counselor at a residence facility, Kingston, NY.
  • Social worker for the Washington, DC. Women's Council on AIDS.
  • Social worker and HIV Counselor at a hospital in Poughkeepsie, NY.
  • Chemical dependency specialist in methadone treatment at a NY County mental health agency.
  • In-patient AIDS social worker leads a support group for HIV positive women at a Bronx Hospital.  Recipient of New York City NOW's Susan B. Anthony Award for outstanding service toward women's equality in 1992.
  • Colorado AIDS Project.
  • Project director for the Hunger Action Network of the NY State Department of Social Services.
  • Program coordinator for a Dutchess County agency that provides programs for mentally handicapped adults.
  • Supervisor for the Department of Employment, US Dept. of Labor, NY.
  • Office manager for Rehabilitation Programs, Inc., NY.
  • Assistant director of the Teen Mothers Program, YWCA, Maine.
  • Program director of Family House, a residential facility for homeless teenagers in New York.
  • Director, volunteer program for domestic-violence agency, Chicago.
  • Community and family development specialist, Illinois Coalition for Community Services.
  • Vocational counseling with Maricopa County.
  • Elderly services.
  • Battered women's shelters.
  • Excelsior Youth Center.
  • Denver Safehouse, rape assistance and awareness program.
    Job developer/trainer for Arizona Women's Education and Employment (AWEE).


  • Sports marketing.
  • Head women's basketball coach, Centre College, Danville, Kentucky.
  • Physical Education.

-MSU Career Opportunities for WS Majors  http://www.msu.edu/~wmstdy/wsmjr1.htm