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Will discuss gender performativity for food.
January 25, 2012 9:52 AM   Subscribe

What kind of jobs should I be looking for that are women's/gender studies related? I like working on issues more than with people.

I have a graduate certificate in women's/gender studies that I sort of stumbled into and ended up liking more than my actual MA program. I feel the most passionate about addressing race/gender/sexuality issues in society. I don't really have any volunteer experience or credentials besides the certificate - I haven't had the opportunity to teach or TA for women's studies classes. I am 26 and trying to break into some sort of feminist, LGBT, anti-racist, or all of the above advocacy work.

I think ideally, I would like working for NOW or some sort of feminist action coalition. (My perfect business card would read "Feminist Lesbian Badass Extraordinaire").

I could also see myself working for community organizations like anti-sexual assault programs, domestic violence shelters, etc. However, I much prefer to work with systems or issues rather than individuals. (I'm an INTP, if it helps, though I don't put huge stock in that defining my life). I'm not super empathic or good at "connecting" with people, so in the long run I think canvassing or one-on-one counseling would be ill-fitting for me. I think I am good at writing and talking about academic or social issues. I enjoy public/group speaking. I think I am a pretty good teacher. I can speak intelligently about topics pretty improvisationally.

I think I could be good at something like blogging, but honestly am not sure if I have the motivation to be a professional blogger. I read a lot of blogs now and love talking about issues, but I feel like most of my info comes from reading blogs already, so... how would my blog be new or interesting?

What kinds of jobs or careers should I be looking at? I don't even know what job title an entry-level person at NOW, Planned Parenthood, etc. would have. I have perused Idealist.org and it seems like most jobs I find are for fundraising or counseling-type work. Do you have a job like I am describing? How can I get into this field?
posted by nakedmolerats to Work & Money (11 answers total) 7 users marked this as a favorite
 
I have a friend with a Women's Studies degree who is a social media strategist.
posted by KokuRyu at 10:04 AM on January 25, 2012


However, I much prefer to work with systems or issues rather than individuals.

Every single person I know who works for progressive/advocacy groups (PP, NARAL, NGLTF, etc.) spends a large amount of time working with individuals - not clients and such, mind you, but other staff in their orgs or other coalition partner orgs. They all go to meetings like crazy, and when they're not in meetings, they are attending or giving trainings to groups on their issues. I don't know if this kind of wrangling with individuals stuff would bug you, but in advocacy work, that is a large part of the work.

As for entry-level - well, PP and the like hire admins like everyone else, and that's often a common way to start in an org like that if you don't have any other specific organizing/managing experience. Some of the larger organizations (used to?) offer paid internships that were not just for students only, and that's a foot in the door as well.

Breaking into this work also happens when volunteers become paid staff. But you have to volunteer first.
posted by rtha at 10:22 AM on January 25, 2012


This probably isn't the type of answer you're looking for, but I'd argue that you could use the amazing array of gender studies/LGBT awareness/social justice skills you have in any career that brings you into contact with people (whether they be people you are actively helping, or people who can make a difference in policy, activities of organizations, etc).

I too found myself with a graduate degree that I desperately wanted to use but in a way that deviated from how most people went about using it. Probably the biggest relief (now growing into something like joyful enthusiasm) of my recent life has been arriving at the understanding that I can use my interest in media literacy and gender/women's studies every single day in one way or another, even though it does not appear in any way, shape, or form in my job description (K-8 tutor and substitute teacher, if it matters).

Just being yourself and using your knowledge in any field you choose can and will make a difference in the lives of everyone around you.

Sorry I can't offer more concrete advice (i.e. apply for this job right here, it's perfect!). Just thought I'd put my two cents in on finding ways to use knowledge when you didn't think you could.
posted by Temeraria at 10:26 AM on January 25, 2012


I am a member of a union that is very active in Social Justice. It is the biggest Union in Canada (I think) and they do have paid staff that are researchers. Interacting with people is a big part of most jobs though, I'm in the library field and despite what most people think, there are few jobs that don't involve meetings, presentations and teamwork. It seems to be the culture of work now.
posted by saucysault at 10:33 AM on January 25, 2012


It sounds like you want something policy-related. Have you considered looking for jobs with local and state politicians dealing with LBGT outreach and policy issues? Then you transition to the "revolving door" of public sector and private sector advocacy as you move between policymaking in the government and advocacy in NGOs and lobbying groups.
posted by deanc at 10:37 AM on January 25, 2012 [1 favorite]


you could get into public health. there's lots of population-specific work being done by both nonprofit orgs and government agencies.
posted by entropone at 10:59 AM on January 25, 2012


Every single person I know who works for progressive/advocacy groups (PP, NARAL, NGLTF, etc.) spends a large amount of time working with individuals - not clients and such, mind you, but other staff in their orgs or other coalition partner orgs. They all go to meetings like crazy, and when they're not in meetings, they are attending or giving trainings to groups on their issues. I don't know if this kind of wrangling with individuals stuff would bug you, but in advocacy work, that is a large part of the work.

I should clarify - I am fine and enjoy communicating with coworkers, staff, etc. and I like teaching or speaking to groups. I just don't feel like a very outwardly "warm" person when talking to strangers in emotional situations, so I don't think I am cut out for cold-call canvassing or counseling, for example, victims of rape or abuse one-on-one, even though I do care very deeply about these issues. (If that makes sense).

Thanks very much for the suggestions so far. I have considered a career in public policy... I guess I should check out yet another degree..
posted by nakedmolerats at 3:34 PM on January 25, 2012


People I know who do public policy work mostly all started without an MPP or MPH degree. Go get some experience before you dive into another grad program! (It will also make you more attractive to MPP/MPH programs if you get to the point where getting the degree makes sense.)
posted by rtha at 3:51 PM on January 25, 2012 [1 favorite]


rtha - awesome! Thanks! Do you know anything about their entry level titles/organizations by any chance?
posted by nakedmolerats at 4:00 PM on January 25, 2012


They mostly started out as activists and/or volunteers, and worked as things like admins, program associates, program coordinators....The titles can be very specific to any particular organization, though, so what one place calls a program associate, another might call something totally different that sounds better (or worse) but still has basically the same responsibilities.

Where I work now (nonprofit think-tanky kind of place), a lot of entry-level folks are called program associates or assistants, and they may start as (paid) interns in college who transition to associate/assistant positions. But it depends, because some of our program areas have kind of specific levels of knowledge needed, so some folks come in with grad degrees and prior work experience. A lot of the folks I know who do public policy/health policy work are where they are now because of their experiences in ACT UP - which tells you something about our ages and our political leanings!
posted by rtha at 4:12 PM on January 25, 2012


I also have a women's studies degree, and have worked in non profits since 1990. I think it is importat you understand working in advocacy isn't just knowing the issues ... it is knowing how to advocate and be an effective organizer.

You likely have strong research and writing skills from your MA, but these may be academic writing skills, not always the type of writing done in advocacy. Think tank work may be best for your current skills -- but I suggest you start volunteering for groups that you connect with politically and meanwhile look for work --in any field-- that develops skills in the area you think you could bring to those groups.

If you are in Canada check out charityvillage.ca, I am sure there is something similar in the US to get a sense of the work -- and yes, much of it is fund raising.

Also, remember advocacy takes many forms -- non profit lobby groups, campaigning for candidates, developing neighbourhoods with municipal offices, credit unions that give community grants, doing original research that can be used, writing news columns, designing posters, raising funds, and running a (co-op!) coffee shop where all the local activists hang out and are supported to host their events. Virtually any skill set is useful somewhere, so look at your skills first, and then see how they can be turned to support your cause.
posted by chapps at 1:19 PM on January 29, 2012


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