The Weatherhead Initiative on Gender Inequality (WIGi) was started in 2015 by Jason Beckfield, Iris Bohnet, Mary Brinton, Claudia Goldin, Alexandra Killewald, and Kathleen McGinn. The initiative recently concluded its research in the spring of 2019.
WIGi was designed to facilitate interdisciplinary, comparative, wide-ranging research and scholarly discussions of gender inequality in postindustrial societies. To that end, the initiative welcomed the perspectives of economists, sociologists, anthropologists, political scientists, and demographers. Funded students and invited speakers from Europe, North America, East Asia, and the Middle East shared their expertise on topics from daycare to discrimination and from the workplace to the welfare state. The result was four years of lively discussion and the emergence of a community of individuals—undergraduate and graduate students, postdoctoral and visiting scholars, and faculty—committed to understanding the causes and consequences of gender inequality in the postindustrial world.
In its four years, WIGi hosted almost forty seminars—which typically attracted a few dozen participants, including doctoral students from schools across the Harvard community in addition to WCFIA visitors and faculty. WIGi funded an impressive thirty-eight graduate and undergraduate research projects with grants totaling over $210,000. Each fall, one seminar was devoted to presentations by WIGi undergraduates, and in the spring one seminar was devoted to presentations by the WIGi doctoral students. This provided the opportunity for WIGi-funded students to receive feedback at an early stage of their projects.
WIGi also hosted several special events, including the April 2018 conference, “Gender Equality: It’s About Time” and the April 2019 event, “Harvard Hears You: The 2019 Summit on Gender Equity.” On September 25, 2019, WIGi cochair Jason Beckfield was a panelist at the Paris-Boston Women’s Forum, an event dedicated to the discussion of issues shaping the future of gender equality across all sectors of the economy. WIGi faculty have been invited to provide commentary on specific aspects of gender inequality and social policy for a number of major news outlets, including broadcasts in the US as well as in European and East Asian countries.
Left to right: Cultural expert Jess Weiner; fashion influencer Nicolette Mason; designer Christian Siriano; and actress Laverne Cox speak at Harvard University's Memorial Church at the end of a day-long summit on gender equity. Credit: Rose Lincoln/Harvard Staff Photographer