Skip to main content

About Women's and Gender Studies

What is Women’s and Gender Studies?

Women’s and Gender Studies have its roots in the student, civil rights, and women’s movements of the 1960s and 70s. In its early years the field’s teachers and scholars principally asked, “Where are the women?” Today that question may seem an overly simple one, but at the time few scholars considered gender as a lens of analysis, and women’s voices had little representation on campus or in the curriculum.

Today the field’s interrogation of identity, power, and privilege go far beyond the category “woman."  Drawing on the feminist scholarship of U.S. and Third World women of color, women’s studies has made the conceptual claims and theoretical practices of intersectionality, which examines how categories of identity (e.g., sexuality, race, class, gender, age, ability, etc.) and structures of inequality are mutually constituted and must continually be understood in relationship to one another, and transnationalism, which focuses on cultures, structures and relationships that are formed as a result of the flows of people and resources across geopolitical borders, foundations of the discipline

The WGST Department at Santa Clara offers a wide range of courses, often cross-listed with other departments and fulfills various core requirements with the Critical Gender Studies Research Initiative (with a link to that page) WGST presents speakers and offer events for the university community. Past speakers have included Lourdes Portillo, filmmaker; Lilian Faderman, author; Vandana Shiva, ecologist.

What can you do with a WGST degree?

Women’s and Gender Studies is a flexible degree and our alumni are a diverse group. Graduates from our department work in a range of career areas including local government, law, publishing, health care, education, business, and technology.

Our History

Santa Clara University offered its first courses in Women’s Studies in 1973 (“Sociology of Sex Roles”, “Development of Sex Roles”, and “ The Black Woman”). Throughout the rest of the decade of the 1970’s the number of courses offered annually gradually doubled.

The Department was born as the “Women’s Studies Program” in 1980, following an exhaustive study of national trends and local resources undertaken by faculty and student Task Force headed by Dr. Mary Gordon, Professor, Emerita, and supported by President William Rewak, S.J.  Women’s Studies developed as an interdisciplinary program consisting primarily of cross-listed courses offered in other departments.

At its inception, the Program offered a certificate for completion of an “emphasis” in Women’s Studies comprised of five courses in the field. In 1994, under the directorship of Professor Alma Garcia, the emphasis was expanded to become a seven-course minor. In the late 1990’s the name was changed to Program for the Study of Women and Gender, to reflect the growing scope of the field. Under the leadership of Professor Barbara Molony in 2005, the Program was expanded to include a companion major, meaning WGST could be declared as a student’s second major. Under the combined leadership of Professor Linda Garber, WGST became a department with a stand-alone major.

At the national level, the field of Women’s Studies has a long and distinguished history. After San Diego State University inaugurated the first program in 1969, numerous universities followed suit. By 1977, when the National Women’s Studies Association was founded, there were 276 department and programs across the United States.  By the early 1990s, there were more than 600, and today there are more than 700 including some 35 doctoral programs and numerous other graduate school offerings throughout the world. Dozens of journals in women’s studies, gender studies, queer studies, and disciplinary publications with a focus on women and/or gender support the extensive body of solid scholarship in this area. Major disciplinary conferences devote a large portion of their sessions to gender studies, and conferences on women’s studies abound. For more information see www.nwsa.org.