What Is a Women’s Studies Major?

liberal arts
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By Deshan Mendis
Last updated on August 10, 2023

In honor of International Women’s Day, take a closer look at women’s studies degree programs at US universities.

A young female teacher teaching a small group of international students while sitting on a table

International Women’s Day, held annually in March, celebrates women’s social, economic, cultural, and political achievements around the world. It also serves as a day of action to support women’s equality. But promoting gender equity and championing women’s rights doesn’t have to be limited to just one day: If you enroll at a US university, you can earn a degree in women’s studies, and pursue this important work as both a student and future professional. 

Read on to learn more about what women’s studies is and the career opportunities it holds!

What Is Women’s Studies?

Women’s studies is an interdisciplinary field that looks at how society and culture define gender roles. History, psychology, media, sociology, literary criticism, and anthropology are several fields that make up women’s studies courses. Women’s studies classes often raise important questions about social and political institutions, family and relationship roles, and how we learn. As a field of study, women’s studies offers new ways to think about gender, race, class, and ethnicity. 

Women’s rights and gender equality issues impact international policies, economies, health, and more. Undergraduates who major in women’s studies become well prepared to handle pressing issues in law, medicine, business, social work, education, and the arts and sciences.

To highlight the importance of women’s studies, let’s take a global perspective and consider the potential impact of women’s rights worldwide.

The Global Interest in Women’s Rights

Women’s full participation in society is critical to obtaining better global security and stability. For example, when women are economically empowered, they invest in their families and communities, contributing to healthy local economies that in turn foster more stable societies. Accelerating women’s economic empowerment is also crucial to ensure growth and self-reliance in developing nations.

International Women’s Day emphasizes the importance of women in global societies and is a day to reflect and take action on equality and diversity. The 2023 International Women’s Day focus is #EmbraceEquity, building a world that is diverse, equitable, and inclusive. 

Women’s contributions to the economy are significant. Countries with a stronger gender balance in individual workplaces and the greater workforce experience more prosperity, innovation, and stability. The same is true for businesses: Those with a higher proportion of women in leadership, management, and overall labor force outperform those with a lower proportion of women. The greater the gap in opportunity between men and women, the more likely a country may engage in violent conflict. Nations where women have equal opportunity, on the other hand, are more likely to handle problems peacefully.

Universities in the US offer many opportunities for women to become the leaders society needs. If you are interested in this area of study, your first step is choosing a women’s studies major.

Choosing a Women’s Studies Major at a Liberal Arts University in the US

Pursuing women’s studies at an American university provides great benefits for international students. Throughout your program, you have the chance to work with students from all over the world, allowing you to experience different cultures and expand your professional network. You can build the skills and knowledge you need to explore diverse career opportunities and gain a global perspective while you study.

With Shorelight, you have access to top-ranked and international student-friendly universities in the US to start your major in women’s studies. During your women’s studies program, you’ll learn to think critically, analyze political and social structures, and develop key skills from your liberal arts program, such as: 

  • Communication skills — Expertly convey your ideas and solutions, both in writing and conversation. 

  • Research skills — Gather and interpret information and data, evaluate ideas and research, and use critical thinking to solve problems.

  • Interpersonal skills — Understand, accept, and collaborate with people from many backgrounds and perspectives. 

  • Critical thinking skills — Analyze and evaluate claims, recognize assumptions, and make informed conclusions.

These skills are applicable across many industries. 

What will your specific courses as a women’s studies major include? Check out two programs at Shorelight universities:

Gender and Women’s Studies: University of Illinois Chicago

Gender and Women’s Studies (GWS) at the University of Illinois Chicago is an interdisciplinary major that teaches students to think critically and to analyze the world’s political and social structures. 

Students study a wide range of topics and gain a broad understanding of how and why gender and sexuality matter in the world. GWS students learn not only about gender and sexuality issues, but also about race and class, diversity and multiculturalism, and cultural, political, and social issues. Students develop analytical, research, writing, communication, leadership, and organizational skills, and learn how to resolve important societal challenges. This knowledge can be applied to a variety of jobs and life experiences.

A few courses that you can expect under this degree are:

  • Global Perspectives on Women and Gender — Engage in historical and contemporary debates, focusing primarily on global concerns.

  • Psychology of Women and Gender — Explore a critical examination of research and gender across the lifespan, including the way gender shapes all aspects of life.

  • Feminism and Social Change — Delve into the historical development of feminist models of social change, as well as strategies of contemporary feminist activism.

Women’s and Gender Studies: Florida International University

The Bachelor of Arts in Women’s and Gender Studies at Florida International University is an interdisciplinary study of women and gender in cross-cultural and historical perspectives. Students explore how women’s lives have been shaped by history, culture, nationality, class and other elements of diversity. Courses are coordinated through the Center for Women’s and Gender Studies, founded in 1982 — one of the oldest scholarly centers of its kind in the US. Graduates of this program have worked in law and social justice, STEM, health, education, and the arts.

Here are some courses that you can pursue under the Women’s and Gender Studies degree at FIU:

  • Introduction to Global Diversity — An evaluation of diversity across the globe in terms of race, ethnicity, religion, culture, gender, age, sexuality, ability, and status to assess systems of inequality and privilege. 

  • 19th-Century Women Write the Empire — Reflections from Victorian women writers of color and how their experiences are reflected in literature.

  • LGBT and Beyond — A global learning foundations course that introduces students to the study of non-normative sexualities around the world.

Once you secure a degree in women’s studies, the career opportunities awaiting you are vast and diverse, spanning a variety of industries.

Career Opportunities for Women’s Studies Graduates

On average, people who major in the field of women’s studies can earn approximately $80,000 a year. Women’s studies graduates can go on to work in roles such as:

Human Resources Manager - $117k Salary

Understanding gender-related issues can be extremely valuable when it comes to recruiting, interviewing, hiring, and retaining employees. As a human resources manager, you are in charge of creating a safe and encouraging working environment for all staff members.

Marketing Specialist - $67k Salary

A background in gender/women’s studies could prove to be extremely useful when it comes to marketing products or services in ways that appeal to particular groups of people. Your insight can help develop inspirational campaigns while addressing sensitive challenges.

Media Analyst - $72k Salary

Media analysts are often involved in managing the reputations of organizations or specific brands. These roles require you to know how people of different social identities are portrayed in traditional and online media, including social media. Knowledge from your women’s studies program creates a strong foundation to thrive in this role.

Project Manager - $74k Salary

A degree in women’s/gender studies in combination with other skills can make you an expert at cooperating with diverse people, organizing complex information, and managing strategic organizational activities. Many progressive companies and nonprofit organizations need people with this combination of social and cultural expertise.

Majoring in a versatile program like women’s studies can open up career possibilities in a variety of industries. The skills obtained from your degree program can be leveraged across multiple roles, giving you access to career paths that work toward societal change. 

Shorelight’s advisors are always ready to support you with exclusive services designed for international student success!

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