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An incredible night, 40 years in the making

Nov 17 2014

On November 6, 2014, we united faculty, staff, scholars, advisors, students and community members who have been long-time supporters of the Clayman Institute at Stanford University over the past four decades. Addressing the crowd of over one hundred guests, Clayman leaders from past and present offered rousing toasts and colorful anecdotes that inspired wry laughter, sober reflection and even a few tears as attendees paid tribute to the Institute’s history. With each speaker’s remarks and cheers from the audience, it was apparent that their words conveyed a combined vision for the Institute: to focus the next forty years on accelerating the pace of progress on gender equality, as there is much more work to be done in order to achieve real change.

The Institute’s 40 year celebration reception took place at Bechtel International Center, where current director Shelley Correll kicked off the night with a brief overview, noting that the Institute has had three names, three locations, ten directors and a range of research focuses since its founding in 1974. “The one constant is our mission: to produce and translate research that advances gender equality,” remarked Correll. “We want to renew that mission today.” She next hailed her fellow directors for their exceptional contributions and accomplishments, noting how many of these leaders subsequently moved on to handle new roles, programs and centers across the university, which had the effect of “putting gender scholarship out all over the campus.” 

When the Institute opened its doors in 1974, women made up only 7% of Stanford faculty. The increase to 27% today represents progress; however, Correll warned, the continued overall lack of women in leadership positions in government, universities and corporations should be raising alarms. “At a societal level,” she reminded the crowd, “we have to ask ourselves: what do we not know? What problems are not being solved, what diseases are not being cured, what’s not being innovated, because women’s voices are not being fully included in the top sectors of our society?”  

Then the Institute’s Advisory Council Chair, Michelle R. Clayman continued the series of toasts by saluting the Institute’s directors and founders, including the three students who worked with first Director Myra Strober to establish the Center for Research on Women (CROW) (now known as the Michelle R. Clayman Institute for Gender Research).  Clayman drew laughter from the crowd when she noted that as the Institute looks ahead to its work over the next forty years, “we stand on the shoulders of giants… albeit petite, very chic giants, with razor wit.” Following Clayman’s remarks, individual tributes were given by former directors Strober, Marilyn Yalom, Judith Brown, Deborah Rhode, Iris Litt and Barbara Gelpi; History Professor Estelle Freedman; Faculty Director of Feminist, Gender and Sexuality Studies Christine Min Wotipka; Dr. Marcia Stefanick, Professor of Medicine at the Stanford Prevention Research Center; former undergraduate research assistant (and current student at the Law School) Tierney O’Roarke; and Institute Executive Director Lori Mackenzie.

The audience in attendance represented a cross-section of university departments, as well as the Schools of Business, Law, Medicine and Education, reflecting the institute’s interdisciplinary roots and broad campus reach. While guests mingled and enjoyed champagne and a light buffet on the Center’s outdoor patio, an adjacent room housed a slide show depicting the Institute’s history, and exhibits from each of the last four decades showcasing key programs, reports, conferences, event materials and correspondence drawn from the Stanford Libraries’ Special Collections archives. Included items ranged from copies of the Institute’s first newsletter and compendium listing the relatively few university courses relating to women available at the time (from Winter 1975), to the many papers, reports and books generated by Institute scholars, courses and programs over the years. Also featured was a colorful timeline poster created for the 40th Anniversary that highlighted the Institute’s past and current directors, and its historic milestones. For the full narrative on the Institute's past and present, read "The Clayman Institute 40 Year History."  

Another highlight of the evening was the large commemorative cake depicting the distinctive diagonal entryway of Serra House — the Institute’s beloved home for thirty-five years and a gathering place for sharing knowledge and creating conversation. 

While speakers paid homage to the Institute’s past, their remarks consistently turned to the challenges ahead. Founding Director Strober moved the crowd to laughter again when she described an early conversation that took place during the final negotiations to establish CROW back in 1974: “I got a question from an administrator on campus who was nervous about having a Center for Research on Women, quote unquote ‘forever.’ ‘Would I agree,‘ he asked me, ‘that as soon as we solved these “women problems,” the university could close the center?’  ‘Oh yes!‘ I told him,” Strober recalled, as her audience roared. “’For sure! As soon as these problems are solved!’”  Closing her tribute, Strober offered a toast to “the future, where, indeed, all the problems with which the Clayman Institute is concerned are solved — not in our lifetimes, but perhaps in our great-granddaughters’ lifetimes.” Cheering guests raised their glasses in accord.


A gender lens
exposes gaps in knowledge,
identifies root causes of barriers,
and proposes workable solutions.