In its one and a half years of existence, the Women's Group at the Kennedy School of Government has held informal discussion groups and meetings attempting to focus women working in the public sector.
"When I went to my first classes and receptions. I felt my eyes traveling around the room picking out the number of women, and I felt strongly that we were a definite minority at the school, especially since most of the staff was male too," said founding member Betsy L. Smulyan.
The rigors of the graduate classes became the initial focus: "We'd make sure that some of the sexist readings would be eliminated from a certain course," Smulyan said, adding, "Then we started to spread to some of the internal school things."
last Saturday's seminar. "Eleanor Roosevelt: the Politics of Conscience," looked closely at the former First Lady's contributions to politics and also examined two of the main issues confronting women in government today the feminization of poverty and international human rights.
The event drew approximately 180 members of the Harvard community, showing the depth the group's following has already reached. In the past year the student coordinators have organized three other events including a colloquium on "Masculinism at Harvard," a seminar on women in the work place, and a panel discussion with women members of the Massachusetts Cabinet.
Smulyan and other second year public policy students Joanne Markasy and Lisa Posner founded the organization last year, forming a support base for students through brown bag lunch discussion groups and attempts to recruit more women to the school. Since then, its concerns have broadened to include faculty hiring, admissions and community affairs.
"Our goal is simply to encourage more women in careers in the public sector," said Nancy E. Stier, a second year public policy student who organized last Saturday's event.
"We organize around issues with the idea that a women's group should make a statement," she added.
She explained that her deep interest in Eleanor Roosevelt inspired her to plan the event, to celebrate the centennial of Roosevelt's birth. "I was in Washington when the centennial of FDR's birthday was celebrated, and noticed that almost every time Eleanor Roosevelt came up it was almost in passing, when she was actually much more significant than that," Stier added.
In September, Smulyan began working to find members for the panel on women in poverty, while four main co-ordinators arranged for the other panelists.
The structure of the group is "pretty flexible," said first year public policy student and group coordinator Carol A. Glazer, adding. "It is evolving on a year-to-year basis, with the members deciding what they want the group to become."
This flexibility is "the most significant factor," because "all of the members then have a major role in what the group plans," Glazer added.
If it weren't for the women's group, the said, she would not be at the K-School. "That's why we're here," she said. "The calls and letters we got from members of the Women's Group encouraging us to come were inspiring."
With a core group of 30 members, the membership of the group includes every women of the K-School, and any member who attends two functions may vote in organization elections.
The school's administration has been largely cooperative, Smulyan said, adding, "As far as schools go, the Kennedy School is as unsexist as a school gets." She added that most faculty members understand the women's movement on an intellectual level, but "many take the women's movement too lightly."
Caffling the K-School program, "gearless in forms of sex," second year public policy student Michela M. Goody said the quantitative nature of the program makes it "sort of valueless [in terms of sex]. The school doesn't normally focus on these issues, partly because there's simply not enough time." Some male students have shown their support by helping the group recruit and by organizing panels.
The Women's Group works with other minority groups on issues of hiring and admissions, and has co-sponsored speaking events. But Seles said. "It's sort of hard to do around here."
Politics is not one of the group's concerns, members said, although some of them are now working for presidential candidates. "Each can be doing their won thing," Smulyan said," as long as the group support it."
The group's future focus will depend largely on the present first year students, three of whom have already been selected as coordinators. "I hope the group keeps a focus on some of the policy issues that affect women, like poverty," Smulyan said. "But internal issues of recruiting and admissions are just as important," she added