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Reaffirming Action: Designs for Diversity in Higher Education, 2003-2007

Doing Diversity in Higher Education Findings from the twelve Reaffirming Action case studies are described and analyzed in Doing Diversity in Higher Education: Faculty Leaders Share Challenges and Strategies, a book edited by Winnifered R. Brown-Glaude and published by Rutgers University Press, 2009.

Comments on the book:
“This book makes an important contribution to our understanding of diversity work on the ground and the crucial role of collaboration among faculty leadership and administrators. It is an invaluable resource for those involved in diversifying higher education in a challenging legal environment.”
Lee Bollinger, president, Columbia University

“Doing Diversity in Higher Education is an extraordinary collection of essays by faculty leaders from a diverse group of colleges and universities. Their candid analyses of a broad range of transformation efforts are a testament to both the successes and short-comings of this important work. In the context of an ongoing backlash against diversity initiatives in the academy—despite the urgency of these projects—it is refreshing to witness the tenacity and courage of such a group.” Beverly Guy Sheftall, founding director, Women’s Research & Resource Center, Spelman College

The Institute for Women’s Leadership was the recipient of a four-year grant from the Ford Foundation to conduct a research-action project to identify, examine and disseminate change strategies in institutions of higher learning that are demonstrably working to enhance racial and gender equity. The Reaffirming Action: Designs for Diversity in Higher Education project placed special emphasis on the role of faculty as change agents in leading and supporting progress toward diversity goals in selected institutions of higher education.

The purpose of the project was to pinpoint more precisely than has been done to date specifically what roles faculty play in initiating and supporting the kinds of organizational structures, policies, practices, leadership, networks, cultures, and programs that contribute to successful and sustained progress in advancing racial and gender equity. The Institute for Women’s Leadership selected faculty teams from twelve institutions of higher education to participate in the Reaffirming Action research initiative including: Clark-Atlanta University, Columbia University, Rutgers University, Smith College, Spelman College, University of Arizona, UC-Davis, UC-Santa Barbara, University of Maryland, University of Miami, University of Missouri, and University of Vermont.

A key argument of the Reaffirming Action study was that barriers related to race and gender equality are embedded in institutions’ organizational structures and practices. Consequently systemic change has been difficult to achieve. Yet while these barriers do exist, faculty members have managed in different ways to break them down, demonstrating time and time again various models of leadership for change.

The co-principal investigators for the Reaffirming Action research initiative were: Mary S. Hartman, University Professor and Director, Institute for Women’s Leadership; and Cheryl A. Wall, Board of Governors Zora Neal Hurston Professor of English, Rutgers, Rutgers University.

The Project Director was Dr. Winnifred R. Brown-Glaude, who was also the recipient of the first Rutgers Presidential Post Doctoral Fellowship and is currently Assistant Professor of African American Studies, The College of New Jersey.

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Re-Imagining Work and Community: Work, Family, and Community in the Lives of New Jersey Professional Women, 2001-2005

CLASP This collaborative research project between the Institute for Women’s Leadership and the Center for Women and Work, which was funded by the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation, investigated the ways that professional women in dual-earner households define and interact with their multiple communities. The project involved interviews with thirty-one women managers from New Jersey pharmaceutical companies, financial services, and information technology firms. The guiding questions were: (1) How do professional women in dual-earner marriages define their communities and think about community involvement? (2) What civic and other structures enable and support women’s ability to achieve success in their work? And (3) How do professional women use their talents in support of their communities?

The project investigators concluded that professional women think about their communities broadly, and include the home, the work place, the neighborhood, the town, their children’s schools and athletic groups, church voluntary associations, friendship networks, alumnae groups, sororities, and the nuclear and extended family in their definitions of community. We also found that professional women demonstrate leadership in the contexts of work, household, and community and use their managerial posts as springboards to expand their influence in all areas of their lives. As change-makers, women in middle to upper management positions are taking the lead in striving to create new, less “gendered” models for behavior in the workplace, the family, and the wider world.

Another key finding was that, rather than diminishing their community involvement, women’s expanded work roles allow them to build strong links in their communities as they apply their professional skills to their voluntarism. Our study also confirms other research that demonstrates the high degree of stress and time pressure that workers experience in the twenty-first century global economy, as well as the inadequacy of support structures for them in the workplace, family, and community.

The co-principal investigators for the Re-Imagining Work and Community project were Mary S. Hartman, University Professor and Director, Institute for Women’s Leadership; Patricia A. Roos, Professor, Department of Sociology and Co-Director, Center for Women and Work; and Mary K. Trigg, Associate Professor, Department of Women’s and Gender Studies and Director of Research and Leadership Programs, Institute for Women’s Leadership.

View Publications
Patricia A. Roos, Mary K. Trigg, and Mary S. Hartman. “Changing Families/Changing Communities: Work, Family, and Community in Transition.” Community, Work & Family," April 2006.

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