Advancing feminist scholarship through activism

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Advancing feminist scholarship through activism

by Kristine Kilanski on Thursday, November 12, 2015 - 11:49am

Shelley Correll was recently awarded the 2016 Feminist Lecturer Award by Sociologists for Women in Society (SWS), a non-profit feminist organization dedicated to promoting social justice. Although Correll, professor of sociology at Stanford University, has been the recipient of numerous grants and awards over her career, she notes that this award was one of the most personally meaningful. The SWS award uniquely recognizes a scholars’ scholarship and her activism, a combination that has been a goal of her work since she began her career. “This award meant the world to me,” reflects Correll. 

The Feminist Lecturer Award honors SWS members who have demonstrated a strong commitment to conducting scholarship from a feminist perspective. The timing of the award is doubly meaningful, as it came during her leadership of the Clayman Institute as the Barbara D. Finberg Director. Both the Clayman Institute and SWS are organizations committed to putting scholarship into practice for gender equality. 

Correll sought a Ph.D. in sociology because she wanted to help make the world a more equitable place for women and other marginalized groups. While graduate school gave her the tools to become a strong researcher, her involvement in SWS provided Correll with a model for putting the skills and knowledge she had gained as a sociologist to use in promoting change. She realized “that there was a way to be both a really good scholar and also to be actively working to promote social equality.” As Correll explains, “I wanted to do both of those things. Before [joining SWS] I hadn’t really seen a way that that was possible.” For Correll to be recognized by SWS with the Feminist Lecturer Award validated that “at this point in my life that I’ve really been able to do both things,” following in the footsteps of SWS scholars she considers role models, including, Cecilia Ridgeway, Myra Marx Ferree, Paula England, Jennifer Glass, Barbara Risman, Joey Sprague, and Christine Williams.

What Correll appreciates most about the Feminist Lecturer Award is that it requires the recipient to develop a feminist lecture to be delivered at SWS’s 2017 Summer Meeting and at two colleges where a feminist perspective is marginalized or has been unwelcome. “This award not only recognizes the recipient. It also asks her to use the award’s platform to advance feminist change.” Correll plans to share the foundational arguments of a book she is currently writing called “Delivering on Diversity.” This book illustrates how organizations can foster cultures of inclusion and innovation by eliminating the negative effects of stereotypes on the careers of women and other groups.

Throughout her career, Correll has sought to identify and dislodge the biases that women and racial/ethnic minorities face in the workplace and which undermine these workers’ careers. She is well known for her research on the “motherhood penalty,” which demonstrated how stereotypes about mothers (such as the commonly-held belief that mothers are less committed to their careers than childless women) act to penalize mothers in the paid labor force. She is also highly regarded for her demonstration of the value of social experiments to advancing feminist scholarship. 

In addition to shedding light on the mechanisms that operate to stymie the success of women and racial/ethnic minority workers, Correll has actively sought to combat these mechanisms through her research, public outreach, and activism. For example, as the director of the Institute, Correll is leading a team of researchers who are testing the effectiveness of interventions to reduce bias in the workplace. She is active in disseminating best practices for increasing and maintaining workplace diversity and equality that have derived from the Institute’s work, weighing in on gender- and workplace- related issues in the news and travelling across the country to give talks to organizations seeking to reduce bias. In addition to these efforts, Correll has been a strong advocate for increasing the representation and supporting the success of underrepresented groups within the academy through her committee work and mentorship. “Shelley’s work offers the missing link of how to create sustainable, positive change,” comments Lori Nishiura Mackenzie, executive director of the Clayman Institute and collaborator on the research projects. “I believe people in the field have been waiting for these insights, and these insights should create much more inclusive – and innovative – organizations, globally.”

"Shelley’s work offers the missing link of how to create sustainable, positive change,” comments Lori Nishiura Mackenzie, executive director of the Clayman Institute.

For feminist scholars seeking to pursue a career that combines scholarship and activism, Correll provides this advice: “You should never lose sight of what brought you to graduate school in the first place. You shouldn’t let other people’s goals become your goals. Figure out how the drive and motivation that brought you to graduate school can exist along with having a respected career, because you are going to be more effective working towards gender equality as a faculty member with an established reputation.”

Correll is the third sociologist at Stanford University to receive the Feminist Lecturer Award. Professor Cecilia Ridgeway, a past faculty fellow of the Institute and professor of sociology at Stanford, received this honor in 2008. Paula England, former professor of sociology at Stanford (currently at New York University) received the award in 2009.


About Sociologists for Women in Society: SWS is a nonprofit professional feminist organization dedicated to supporting the development and dissemination of sociological feminist theory and scholarship; transforming the academy through fostering feminist leadership, career development, and support for institutional diversity; and promoting social justice through activism.


Shelley Correll
Professor of Sociology and Organizational Behavior

Shelley Correll is professor of sociology and organizational behavior at Stanford University and the Barbara D. Finberg Director of the Clayman Institute for Gender Research. Her expertise is in the areas of gender, workplace dynamics and organizational culture. She is currently writing a book called Delivering on Diversity: Eliminating Bias and Spurring Innovation

Kristine Kilanski
Postdoctoral Research Fellow

Kristine Kilanski is a Postdoctoral Research Fellow at the Clayman Institute for Gender Research. Kristine utilizes mixed methods to study gender, work, and poverty. Find more information at: