The Value of a Degree in Women's and Gender Studies

The women's and gender studies major, particularly when supplemented with another major or minor, allows students to understand the marginalization of women throughout history and across cultures and also to celebrate their accomplishments. Graduates report a variety of benefits, both professional and personal, that they feel are absolutely invaluable to their everyday lives. What follows is a culmination of research on the benefits reaped by both male and female graduates of Women's and Gender Studies Programs.

Employment Skills

Employers frequently hire applicants with a background in women's and gender studies because of their superior management skills and ability to gracefully handle confrontation and conflict. Women's and gender studies graduates report feeling better able to critically evaluate workplace situations. Additionally, graduates are better equipped to handle disputes and tense situations within the workplace. Employers also appreciate the extensive background in issues of gender, race, class and sexual preference demonstrated by women's and gender studies graduates. Graduates have said that they feel their education provided them with a unique perspective on social and historical issues that many of their colleagues lack. This sensitivity contributes significantly not only to the applicant's interpersonal skills, but also to her or his success in fields that require such awareness (journalism, advocacy, law, social services, etc.). Expertise in gender issues is increasingly sought by employers. Law schools have expressed an interest in women's and gender studies graduates because of their commitment to social justice. The interdisciplinary nature of the women's and gender studies degree demonstrates to employers that the applicant is well-rounded and has studied a variety of topics.

Women's and gender studies graduates also feel better prepared for jobs in the business world. They claim that the degree provided them both with a way in which to view and understand the power dynamics in the workplace and the confidence to assert themselves and gain the respect so often used as currency in business and politics. Beyond simple survival strategies, graduates also feel that they have a better understanding of how to implement positive change within their environments regarding gender relations and corporate hierarchies.

A degree in women's and gender studies is also invaluable to those wishing to work in social services. Graduates working in women's advocacy fields credit their success and passion to their women's and gender studies degree. They feel the program sharpened their perception and provided them with the critical thinking skills necessary to pinpoint problems and inconsistencies in how women are treated within their communities.

Beyond focusing on women's advocacy, graduates feel the major prepared them for various kinds of advocacy work. Studying the history of marginalized groups prepared students well for jobs in health care, environmental activism, human rights organizations, and youth outreach.

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Personal Benefits

Above all else, women's and gender studies graduates feel that their major empowered them to make decisions about their lives that they wouldn't have otherwise made. A number of them credit their degree in women's and gender studies with giving them the courage and the resources to enter non-traditional careers. They felt the degree had prepared them for the problems that arise when entering a new field and gave them resources for changing the criteria for success within these fields. The degree also made them more aware of social interactions and more able to recognize and confront discrimination in their day-to-day lives. Graduates felt that they were finally able to leave behind stereotypes (both feminine and masculine) and embrace their true selves.

Graduates also report a greater awareness of marginalized groups and the ways in which different types of discrimination intersect and relate to each other. Women's and gender studies programs gave students not only the awareness of these problems, but concrete ways that they can combat them. Many students report a greater understanding of how change is brought about in a society. Finally, graduates report feeling fulfilled in their personal relationships because of their ability to reject current expectations of men and women. Their relationships are more egalitarian and affirming.

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More Information

The following bibliography includes the sources consulted for this essay, many of which provide more detailed data about what women's studies graduates have done with their degrees and lives.

Sources:

Luebke, Barbara and Mary Ellen Reilly. Women's Studies Graduates. Teachers College Press, Columbia University: New York, 1995.

Marshall University. Women's Studies Program. "The Women's Studies Minor and its Market Value." http://www.marshall.edu/womenstu/market.htm. Accessed 8.1.04.

Michigan State University. Women's Studies Program. "What You Can Do with a Women's Studies Major." http://www.msu.edu/~wmstdy/wsmjr1.htm. Last Updated 11.15.98. Accessed 8.1.04

Rutgers University. Women's and Gender Studies Department. "Career Opportunities for Majors in Women's Studies." http://www-rci.rutgers.edu/~cswebpg/mh/womenstudies.shtml. Last Updated 5.6.03. Accessed 8.1.04.

University of Nevada, Las Vegas. Women's Studies Department. "What Can I Do with a Women's Studies Major?" http://www.unlv.edu/Colleges/Liberal_Arts/ Womens_Studies/whatcani.html.

York University. School of Women's Studies. "Choosing Courses, Choosing Careers: What Can I Do with an Undergraduate Women's Studies Degree?" http://www.yorku.ca/laps/gsws/. Accessed 1.12.06.

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