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Wendy Smooth

Associate Professor, Women's, Gender and Sexuality Studies

Wendy Smooth, associate professor, women’s, gender and sexuality studies, was selected by the White House Council on Women and Girls to participate in the White House conference, “Advancing Equity for Women & Girls of Color: A Research Agenda for the Next Decade,” held on Nov. 13, 2015.  Smooth was selected as one of the foremost voices writing on the experiences of women of color as law makers and women of color in public policy.

At Friday’s day-long summit, the White House revealed a plan to renew commitments to uplift the lives of women and girls of color. What did you learn about the agenda for the next decade and will you and Ohio State be involved in the effort?

At the summit, The White House announced two critical commitments to this effort -- one a $100 million, five-year initiative led by Prosperity Together, comprised of public women’s foundations from across the country including our own Women’s Fund of Central Ohio. The second is an $18 million funding commitment by the Collaborative to Advance Equity Through Research, an affiliation of American colleges and universities, research organizations, publishers and public interest institutions, led by Wake Forest University. The latter represents a clear path for Ohio State to join our peers in developing a research agenda that will help to address the significant gaps in our knowledge base regarding the experiences of women and girls of color. Over the next decade, researchers, activists, philanthropists and policy makers will unite to work toward improving the lives of women and girls of color.

How can universities empower women of color to live up to their potential as envisioned by President Obama in his address to the Congressional Black Caucus in 2014?

So much existing data is not disaggregated by race/ethnicity and gender, which impairs our abilities as researchers to fully investigate the experiences of women and girls of color. The White House has already taken steps to address this need by making information generated by the federal government more accessible and broken down by race/ethnicity and gender. This is an important start, and going forward future data collection efforts need to explore strategically oversampling to fully include women and girls of color in research.

I certainly see a role for researchers here at Ohio State to work in collaborations with our colleagues across the country who share a commitment to enhancing our knowledge base on women and girls of color. The summit focused our attention on several critical areas in need of our additional focus as researchers -- education, violence, health including mental health, economic development, criminal justice, and images of women and girls of color in the media -- areas the White House Council on Women and Girls identified from their initial research. The all-day summit marks just the beginning of collaborations between thought leaders in academia, government and the non-profit sector. I look forward to how we as a university community will join in these exciting efforts!

Talk about your own scholarship and research on women’s experiences in political institutions and the impact of public policies on women’s lives?

My own research on women of color state legislators demonstrates that they are the policymakers most likely to represent these interests as top concerns on their legislative agendas. Women of color state legislators will play a critical role in translating research into policy action. We first must equip them with the research and data they need to substantiate interventions that will improve the lives of women and girls in their states. The potential for long term substantive change is great, as more light is shed on the actual conditions women and girls of color face. This more intentionally intersectional approach to research and policy development is a significant move forward for the policymaking community and we, as researchers will play a critical role in equipping them with the data and findings that will provide a better understanding of the specificity of women and girls of color’s experiences. Such advancements in research and data collection will prepare women of color state legislators to move forward to propose the necessary interventions.

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