Women's Leadership News | March 13, 2020
A Letter from IWL Director Rebecca Mark
Dear IWL Friends,

I am writing my first letter as Director of the Institute for Women’s Leadership (IWL) at a moment when we are losing the comfort of even a hug or a handshake, and when business as usual is no longer an option. I am thinking both about what it means to be a woman in these times and what it means to be a caring human being.

To be human in the face of catastrophic change and the present pandemic means turning our hearts and resources to: those whose jobs and paychecks are precarious, who are food insecure, homeless, without access to quality health care; to elementary, high school, and college students who lose vital resources when they are sent away from school; to those for whom self-quarantining at home means facing intensified domestic abuse; to mothers who lack adequate childcare; to prisoners who are trapped without access to resources; to the caretakers and nurses in hospitals and nursing homes, the majority of whom are women, who are endangered on the front lines of Covid-19 care; to climate refugees living in precarious conditions throughout the world.

I have only been at the IWL for ten weeks but I can say that I cannot think of a better place to call home at this difficult moment. Every day when I go to work at our deceptively modest white house, the staff, faculty, and students make me feel truly optimistic, even during these deeply sad times. I am confident that the work of all units in the IWL consortium and its affiliates throughout Rutgers are making our community a safer, more compassionate, and sustainable place and are offering the world the highest level of research, advocacy, and policy formation for women anywhere.

I believe that young women who are going through feminist leadership training at the IWL, experiencing women’s community building in the residence programs and social justice work at Douglass Residential College (DRC) are ready to lead us through this upside-down world. I know that those students who participate in NEW Leadership workshops at the Center for American Women in Politics (CAWP) or have the opportunity to contribute to policy work for the Commission on the Status of Women at the UN with the Center for Women’s Global Leadership (CWGL) know the full global context of our future challenges. 

I am certain that those graduate students from the School of Social Work who support policy and research focusing on issues of violence and assault with the Center for Violence against Women and Children (VAWC) and research fair work practices with the Center for Women and Work (CWW) will live with social justice awareness the rest of their lives. I am convinced that all those in the SciWomen community who work on grants and are mentored by world renown women scientists will fight hard for gender equity in STEM as they move into positions of power. I anticipate eagerly how the next generation of artists, who assist in making women artists visible through the Feminist Art Project with the Center for Women in the Arts and the Humanities (CWAH) will transform the way we can visualize and create a post-patriarchal and equitable world. 

As a professor in the Women's Gender, and Sexuality Studies Department (WGSS) , I am constantly reminded of the fast-paced movement of ideas, and the ways in which
interdisciplinary research seminars at the Institute for Research on Women (IRW) and courses on feminist theory and practice, intersectionality, history, and media studies taught by the WGSS, are building a more sustainable, and humane intellectual discourse.

But right now, we are worn down by melting glaciers and disappearing bees, irresponsible leadership and greed. We are sick with despair about children in cages at the border, xenophobia, white supremacy, and unending wars. We are gearing up to survive a pandemic of unknown proportions, and what we know is that we can only do so by becoming our most caring and I would contend most feminist and anti-racist selves. We must lead with the mind and the heart. At IWL, we believe in the power of community. The IWL consortium community has proven itself stronger than any one of us individually. This is what women’s leadership means to me. I am honored and humbled to serve and advocate for the IWL consortium.

Rebecca Mark 
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