1136 Lane Hall
204 S. State Street
Ann Arbor, MI
Mission & History
The Institute for Research on Women & Gender (IRWG) is one of U-M’s leading interdisciplinary research units. Established in 1995, IRWG:
- acts as an institutional umbrella for ongoing disciplinary and interdisciplinary research focusing on women and gender throughout the University
- stimulates, coordinates, and supports these research efforts
- heightens the presence and impact of the University of Michigan in the areas of women and gender scholarship, both nationally and internationally.
IRWG serves as an organizational center for scholarship related to women and gender and establishes short-term, faculty-led research programs and larger research initiatives that focus on timely and compelling issues. Research explores the impact of culture, ethnicity, social class, economics, history, sexuality, and health on women’s and men’s lives. In addition, IRWG encourages new research and collaborations by sponsoring seminars on works-in-progress and by presenting cutting-edge research by internal and external speakers and visiting scholars.
IRWG offers several funding opportunities to U-M faculty and graduate students to encourage scholarship on women and gender across disciplines. It serves as a base for study and discussion groups, providing opportunities to network, share work in progress, and discuss relevant and timely topics of interest to a community of scholars across disciplines.
A central goal of the Institute is to disseminate important findings to both the academy and the general public. The results of the Institute’s research are communicated to local, national, and international audiences through a variety of media. In collaboration with other University units, IRWG hosts events such as conferences, lectures, discussion groups, and artistic exhibits that are often global in scope. The Institute also keeps archival information as a resource for all scholars.
IRWG is based at the University’s Ann Arbor campus. It is housed in historic Lane Hall, which it shares with the Women’s Studies Department, the ADVANCE Program, and the Center for Advancing Research and Solutions for Society.
The Institute for Research on Women and Gender was established in 1995, after several pioneering Women’s Studies faculty members, including Professor Abigail Stewart (Psychology and Women’s Studies), organized themselves and approached President James J. Duderstadt with a proposal to establish a new University “structure” to meet unmet needs and fulfill the President’s goals, as outlined in his Agenda for Women.
Women’s Studies, founded in 1973, was already established as an interdisciplinary program that legitimated the study of women at U-M by offering courses and supporting new research models that incorporated women and gender as valid jumping-off points. Alongside Women’s Studies, the Center for the Education of Women (CEW), founded in 1964, had long helped community women and students achieve their professional and educational goals.
Yet, by the mid-’90s, more than 20 years after the University heralded a new era for women, no unit existed to strengthen and focus the many, varied faculty research projects related to women and gender that had emerged throughout the University– often in isolation, unknown to each other. Professor Stewart and her colleagues pointed out the need to President Duderstadt:
In order to compete effectively for a role in the national discussion of significant issues affecting women, we must create an institutional structure that can bring together the disparate faculty research efforts at the University, focus them in significant program areas, and stimulate needed research on understudied problems demanding new or better scholarship. [Women’s Studies and CEW] cannot by themselves stimulate and facilitate the university-wide research agenda envisioned for the Institute. Strong institutional links with both CEW and Women’s Studies are essential, and will only strengthen all three.
President Duderstadt immediately recognized that this proposal would help address his goal, as described in his Agenda for Women, “to make the University of Michigan the leading institution for the study of women and women’s issues.” He authorized the establishment of IRWG under the Office of the Vice President for Research, with Professor Stewart as the first director. Initially housed in West Quad, IRWG moved to West Hall in 1996, and finally to its current home in Lane Hall in 2000.
From its inception, IRWG took interdisciplinarity and global frameworks seriously. Program areas, guest speakers, and visiting scholars were also enmeshed in the IRWG fabric from the start. Even the first areas of interest: Women’s Health, Feminist Theory, Gender and Popular Culture, Differences among Women, Women and Development, and Women, Work and Public Policy remain key concerns at IRWG today.
Since its early years, IRWG has grown to represent the interests of all U-M faculty members who use the experiences of women and gender as a prism to better understand ourselves and the world we live in. Today IRWG is a well-established and appreciated part of our academic community, as evidenced by our location in Lane Hall, a treasured, landmark building on the U-M campus. We are proud to call this historic building home and honor it on our Web site.