About

The Harvard College Women's Center is a community-centered space, reflecting the contributions of all of our members - past and present - in our programs.

Mission

Aerial view of Annenberg Hall

The mission of the Harvard College Women’s Center is to promote gender equity by raising awareness of women’s and gender issues, developing women’s leadership, and celebrating women who challenge, motivate, and inspire. In alignment with these goals, we centralize resources and offer student-focused programming to strengthen individuals and student organizations. The Women’s Center is committed to creating a welcoming and inclusive environment for all students that encourages dialogue and diversity.

Vision

2019 Intern cohort seated in front of yellow art installation in Harvard Yard

At the Women's Center, we envision a College-wide recognition that gender equity benefits everyone and is fundamental to promoting inclusive excellence in education. This would be demonstrated in a Harvard College where all students, staff, and faculty actively engage in gender equity work with an understanding that intersectional identities impact individual experiences within the institution.

 

Our Values

Purple house on an off-white circle

Community

We are committed to work with students to provide a physical and nonphysical space where all facets of an individual’s identity are validated; allowing honesty, vulnerability, and openness to dialogue.

Purple puzzle piece in off-white circle

 

Intersectional

We embrace the differences among people and continue to reflect on the complexities of our multiple and intersecting identities and how these identities impact our work.

Purple crown in an off-white circle

Respect

Our work is based on the fundamental respect of others, including a high regard and empathy for the wishes, rights, and traditions of the students, staff, faculty, and community members we work with.

Purple sprout on an off-white circle

Brave Space

We create and implement high-impact programming where students can challenge preconceived notions and continue to build capacities to enhance their knowledge on and perspectives surrounding gender and women's issues. 

   Purple Heart in a White Circle

Inclusion

We aim to make our programming and space accessible to everyone by intentionally centering, amplifying and uplifting marginalized voices and needs. All Harvard community members are invited to shape our work towards gender equity on campus and beyond, through individual participation and group collaboration.

Purple sun on an off-white circle

Joy

Through our programming and physical space, we seek to foster collective warmth and care where we see, recognize, and value our community as more than students, staff, and faculty, but as people. Whether your ‘joy language’ is food, laughter, or hugs, we aim for people to leave our space feeling better than when they came.

 

What's with the "e" in Women's Center?

There are a few naming variations, so why we call ourselves the "Women's Center"? The short answer is that language can be limited and limiting.

At the Harvard College Women’s Center, we emphatically welcome people of all genders and no gender into our space and invite you as collaborators in our work towards gender equity. With that being said, we also understand that our name can be confusing in signaling as to whom we do our work for and with.

In recent years, staff, interns, and stakeholders have considered what it would mean for us to start using “womxn” instead of “woman” or “women”, as well as the impact it would have on our community. Would a spelling change signal that all gender minoritized people have a place in our space? Could we be doing more in our hiring practices and programmatic efforts around trans* and non-binary issues? (That answer is always “Yes!”) While this conversation is ongoing, we invite you to engage in this critical reflection with us and to learn more about the history and impact of language in our work. 

The spelling of woman as a signifier of who is or is not included in womanhood has been the subject of historical debate. In 1975, the term “womyn” was popularized by the Women’s Liberation Front because the members did not want to be considered a subset of men, due to the spelling of “women” having “men” in it. This term was created by upper-class, cisgendered, white feminists with the intention of excluding trans* women and without taking into consideration how feminism violently excludes women of color. During 1976-1979, the term “womxn” first appeared in writing during the second wave of the feminist movement. This term was purposely created to include women of color and trans* women. Within the past decade, Trans* Exclusionary Radical Feminists (or TERFS) have co-opted this term to once again exclude trans* women.

The Harvard College Women’s Center acknowledges the history of the iterations of spelling “women” and wrestles with the present day context. In our Gender 101 workshop, we acknowledge that language is both limited and limiting. Although the initial intention in creating the term “womxn” is in alignment with our mission and praxis, the current co-opting is not. Therefore, we continue to make sure that our work lives out our values of community, intersectionality, respect, creating brave spaces, inclusion, and joy.

If you would like to learn more about the term “womxn” and read a few  perspectives from trans* women and/or women of color, please see the resources below.

Why womxn is considered inclusive (over women, womyn):

Why womxn is considered anti-trans*:

Justice Commitments

Why we make social justice commitments. All of our work is mission-oriented and we measure our efforts by establishing SMARTI goals in advance - Specific, Measureable, Achievable, Relevant, Timely, and Intersectional. In order to ensure we are taking an active and intersectional approach to gender equity, we have made the following commitments to broader social justice aims.

We commit to combat:

Ecosystem Degradation

HCWC Commitment Environmental Justice

The Harvard College Women’s Center values environmental sustainability in our programming and office work/space/management. We acknowledge that neglect and destruction of the natural environment disproportionately affects women and people of color in low-income communities globally. Accordingly, our mission to promote gender equity by raising awareness of women’s and gender issues cannot be fulfilled without consideration of the environmental context within which these issues take place.

We plan to fulfill our obligation by reducing our environmental impact on the planet as individuals and as a community. We also intend to spread this shared commitment among other units within the College. Through our activism we will hold those institutions which have disproportionately fueled climate change accountable for responding to global climate needs. We will also advocate for vulnerable populations to have equitable protection from environmental and health hazards, as well as equal access to the decision-making processes to have a healthy environment in which to live, learn, and work.

Harvard Green Office Logo of a shield with pictures of things from nature like trees insideOur Commitment

In alignment with the Harvard University Sustainability Plan, the students and staff of the Harvard College Women Center commit to the following actions within four of the five core topics for a more sustainable future:

 

 

 

Health and Wellbeing

Personal well-being

  • Host or co-sponsor at least one event a year in which the focus will be personal well-being

  • Promote weekly community walks and runs through Harvard on the Move.

Food

  • Provide default 50% plant-based meals and take in consideration healthier food options whenever food is made available.

  • Reduce HCWC funds used for red meat or drinks that contain only sugar.

Emissions and Energy

Energy Reduction

  • Ensure the last staff member will turn off all lights in the space before leaving, including between shifts (5:30-6 pm) and switching off outlets connected to appliances at the end of the day.

  • Follow sustainability office guidelines regarding shutting office down over holidays.

Campus Operations

Procurement

We will reduce what we consume and minimize the impact of purchasing for the office and events in the following ways:

  • Eliminate purchase of all disposable plastics within the next 2 years

  • Purchased paper products (copier paper, envelopes, etc.) with the highest recycled content possible.

  • Order from vendors that support sustainability where possible.

Culture and Learning

Communicate the “One Harvard” sustainability story to educate, engage, and motivate the Harvard community.

  • Ensure our approach to sustainability is centered on a commitment to environmental justice and that our work brings to the forefront the voices and issues that are underrepresented in current and historic discussions on climate change.

  • Serve as a model within the Dean of Students Office at Harvard College by creating space, both physically and online regarding our commitment to sustainability.

Maintain and continuously improve programs and resources that drive sustainability action among students, faculty, staff, and alumni.

  • Host or co-sponsor at least one event a year in which the topic will intersect with environmental justice issues focusing on underrepresented voices and issues.

  • Encourage student organizations that focus on environmental justice to apply for our ART grant funds and participate in Women’s Week.

Participate in Green Office Program – maintain Leaf 4 Certification.

  • We will follow the Harvard Sustainable Meeting and Event Guide to reduce the amount of waste and carbon footprint of food consumed and products purchased.

  • All sponsored or co-sponsored event organizers will receive an electronic copy of the Harvard Sustainable Meeting and Event Guide.

  • Encourage groups that receive ART Grants, Women’s Week, and WoCC funding for events to reduce purchases that include red meat and purchase recycled and/or compostable cutlery, plates, etc.

  • Increase the amount we compost to include all plates, napkins and compostable cutlery, in addition to updating our signage about composting in our space.

Fetishization

Anti-fetishization & Solidarity with AAPI Community

Dear Students, Faculty, Staff and all Community Members,

It is with sad hearts and inflamed minds that we acknowledge the ongoing pain and suffering of our Asian, Asian-American, and Pacific Islander (AAPI) community and allies at Harvard and beyond. We stand in solidarity against the racist, anti-immigrant, and misogynistic violence that occurred in Atlanta on March 16, the many occurrences that predated this tragedy, and the historical legacy of racism, sexism, and xenophobia that have lain centuries of groundwork for this current climate. This is not a “one-off” incident. 

This acknowledgement of community harm comes on the heels of one we made just last month, in the wake of the ongoing controversy surrounding Harvard Law School Professor John Mark Ramseyer’s paper on Japanese military “comfort women.” Make no mistake, the impetus to write such a misguided paper and the horrific tragedy that took place on March 16, taking the lives of six women of Asian descent, come from the same source: the deeply embedded misogyny and sexualized objectification of women of Asian descent in American society. They are simultaneously racist and sexist; to omit either factor obfuscates a critical structure of power. It erases the specific experiences and contexts within which AAPI women find themselves afraid for their safety.

The xenophobia that contributed to this instance of violence is intertwined with sexual violence.  If we don't recognize how these murders are, at their core, sexualized and gendered we are missing a critical conversation. Violence, in the context of sexual and domestic violence, is understood as one person exercising power and control over another. In domestic violence, it occurs in the context of a household — using tactics like financial control, threats of violence or humiliation, isolating a partner from resources and support, and physical assault. In sexual assault, which can also occur in the context of a relationship, is when sex is the weapon used to exert power and control.

However, sexual violence also encompasses acts that are sexualized — where sexuality is a key factor in motivation and perpetration. Unfortunately, these murders were foremost predicated on sex and it's important to talk about why sexualized violence is not identified in cases where other identity factors are viewed as the cause. It's also important to talk about additional risks related to identity: how sexualized violence occurs at compounding rates based on intersecting oppressions, such as race and sexual orientation. 

These murders are sexual violence and as we move into April, Sexual Assault Awareness month in the U.S., we have no shortage of contemporary and current examples of sexual violence to draw from. Cuomo, Manson, Hammer, TI & Tiny — and now an act of sexualized murder in Atlanta. On  what it means to be a sexual citizen in our community. Sexual citizenship requires us to recognize our right to sexual self-determination and respecting those rights in others. It means we acknowledge the personhood of others rather than viewing them as objects to be acted upon. At no point is it ever ok to impose our (sexual) will on others and we are responsible for controlling our (sexual) behavior. We need to be accountable for our (sexual) actions and have options for healing when we experience harm.

To all of the community members who feel impacted by this, we are with you. You are part of our advocacy, and we hope to be guided by you. We are committed to keep doing what needs to be done until justice is a reality for all. We recognize and thank our many community members who have been engaged in this work and are simultaneously enraged and exhausted. We invite those who are new to the cause of anti-Asian racism to join us as we work toward a society that uplifts and centers those marginalized amongst us. Please feel free to share additional resources or questions by email at hcwc@fas.harvard.edu as we work to consolidate efforts on this page.

In Solidarity,

Harvard College Women’s Center
Office of Sexual Assault Prevention & Response

March 24, 2021

Resources

Ways you can support the Asian and Asian Community in Massachusetts from the ERGs:

 

A rendering of Amanda Phingbodhipakkiya’s panels for the “I Still Believe in Our City” public art series.The posters say "I did not make you sick" "This is our home too" and "I am not your scapegoat"

A rendering of Amanda Phingbodhipakkiya’s panels for the “I Still Believe in Our City” public art series.
Sourced from Harvard Women in Technology +Allies Newsletter. 

Racism

Dear Community Members,

The mission of the Harvard College Women’s Center is to promote gender equity by raising awareness of women’s and gender issues, developing women’s leadership, and celebrating women who challenge, motivate, and inspire. Our shared values around inclusion and centering intersectionality in our work are core to upholding our mission. Audre Lorde said that “there is no such thing as a single-issue struggle because we do not live single-issue lives.” Similarly, the work of the Women’s Center cannot be “single-issue” as the experiences of women are shaped by the whole of their intersecting identities. 

That said, this work is especially challenging as our Center is embedded in an institution that was built by, but not for, Black people, on land that was stolen from the Massachusett tribe. For centuries Harvard excluded the voices of all who did not identify as a white, heterosexual, upperclass, cis-gendered man. As an institution we still have a long way to go to rectify these centuries of compounding injustices internally, as well as being a force for change outside of our gates. 

With the unjust killing of so many women and trans Black, Indigenous, and people of color by the police, including the recent killings of Breonna Taylor and Tony McDade, it is clear that women and gender minorities are not immune to the violent policing that plagues these communities. In fact, their murders are oft under-reported and overlooked by people who narrowly focus on the experience of Black men at the hands of police. 

We see you. We are listening. And we are committed to keep doing what needs to be done until justice is a reality for all. We recognize and thank our many community members who have been engaged in this work and are simultaneously enraged and exhausted. We invite those who are new to the cause of anti-Black racism to join us as we work toward a society that uplifts and centers the most marginalized amongst us. Please feel free to share additional resources or questions on this form as we work to consolidate efforts on this page.

 

Anti-Racist Resource Lists

We also suggest you take a few moments to go to a Black-owned Bookstore and order items there to financially support Black community members.

HCWC Strategy Against Anti-Black Racism

The Women’s Center has and will continue to center the voices of women of color in our advocacy and programming. Below outlines our strategy for moving forward with this work at a time of heightened awareness of and resistance to anti-Black racism.

  1. Introduce & consolidate resources for fighting anti-Black racism

  2. Collaborative programming with other offices and departments that highlight allyship and social justice, such as Summer Solidarity Circles.

  3. Continued support of Women of Color Collective

  4. Renew collaborations with student organizations that center the Black community in our regular programming and events, including a focus on intersectional issues raised by felony disenfranchisement and voter suppression

  5. Continued financial support of Black student organizations through Women's Week and our ART Grant process

  6. Increased emphasis on intersectionality and privilege in our educational materials, including Gender 101 Workshops

  7. Continued advocacy for increased discussion space for masculinity of color

  8. Ensure continued emphasis on unbiased hiring and retention practices and diversity on our team, including undergraduate, graduate and full time staff members

  9. Support Women’s Cabinet advocacy in support of intersecting issues, such as enhanced HUHS resources to support women, gender minorities, and students of color and the University’s response to allegations of racism and sexism within the HUPD

  10. Promotion of diversity in STEM through our WiSTEM Mentorship Program and through the Diversity in STEM Coalition and collaborative work and advocacy efforts with the Diversity in STEM Working Group

Homophobia

Our specific goals to work toward combating homophobia are coming soon. 

Ableism

Our specific goals to work toward combating ableism are coming soon. 

 

 

Annual Reports

Since the Women's Center was established in 2006, we have published reports on our work annually.

View reports

A stack of Women's Center annual reports on a counter

 

 

Locating Women's Centers Over Time

 


Give to the Women's Center

Your gift empowers us to meet our commitment to raising awareness of women's and gender issues at Harvard and helps us provide an inviting space to have these meaningful conversations with students. 

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