How to Become a Gender Studies Teacher


Gender studies is a relatively new discipline. Indeed, until recently, gender studies was more commonly known as women’s studies but even women’s studies has only been in existence for about four decades.  Emerging with the second wave of feminism in the early 1970s, early women’s studies courses sought to address what was perceived to be an exclusion of women from traditional philosophy, literary studies, and history courses. Over time, these courses turned into programs and resulted in cross-listed courses across the disciplines from sociology and economics to education and nursing. Although still primarily taught at the college and university levels, over the past decade, at least a few high school have also introduced electives in gender studies, opening up a range of new teaching opportunities for feminist educators at all levels.

How can I become an gender studies teacher at the K-12 Level?

While gender studies concepts may be introduced at the elementary school level, gender studies courses are not part of the elementary school curriculum per se. The same holds true at the middle school level. By contrast, a few high schools do offer gender studies courses. Many of these courses, however, take place at private schools where it is frequently easier to introduce new courses and concepts. Every fall, Ileana Jiménez teaches an elective on feminism at Elisabeth Irwin High School, a private school in Manhattan. Similar courses can be found at other progressive private schools and in some public high schools. Bear in mind that you still are unlikely to find any positions at the high school level that are exclusive to gender studies. In most cases, schools will simply be looking for a teacher of history or English, or another core subject, who can also design and teach gender studies courses.

How can I become a college or university gender studies professor?

At the college level, there are opportunities to teach gender studies, but beyond liberal arts colleges, many colleges do not have stand-alone gender studies programs. If you do want to teach gender studies at a four-year college, however, you’ll most likely need a PhD in gender studies or a PhD in another field with a strong track record of teaching and research on gender studies issues. A demonstrated commitment to teaching and interest in feminist pedagogical questions will also go a long way. Indeed, in contrast to many fields, gender studies hiring committees generally do care about candidate’s teaching and research contributions.

The same criteria holds true if you wish to teach gender studies at a university but with one exception: If you want to get hired in a gender studies program at a university, you’ll need a strong record of research in the field. What does this mean? In gender studies, publishing refereed articles in journals such as Signs, Feminist Theory, or Hypatia is a great way to start building an international reputation.  Publishing a book on any topic related to gender or feminism is also key. If you don’t have such a book published yet, a book in progress and ideally, a book already under review with a reputable university press will go a long way. Beyond the publication record, also make a point of attending key conferences in the field, including the annual meeting of the National Women’s Studies Association. Finally, network–yes, it may not be an old boy’s network but it is an old girl’s network and having endorsements from one or more established feminist scholars will definitely help land you a full-time tenure-track hiring line.

What is the job outlook for Gender Studies teachers?

Gender studies remains a minor field with few established programs across the United States and internationally. In addition, many of the programs that do exist rely solely or primarily on cross-appointed faculty. This means that finding a position gender studies can be a challenge. For current openings, visit the National Women Studies Association website or look for jobs under the women’s and gender studies category on Chronicle of Higher Education.



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