We are celebrating 50 years at UC Berkeley in October 2022. Originally founded as the Center for the Continuing Education of Women (CCEW), the center initially focused on re-entry women and also facilitated research about women. Our center's story is also intertwined with Gender and Women's Studies, the Beatrice Bain Research Group, the Transfer, Re-Entry, and Student Parent Center and the Prytanean Alumnae. Over time and after a few name changes, our center evolved from building resources for communities of women to fostering belonging for people of all genders and sexualities, as well as advocating for inclusive policies and practices, and monitoring campus climate.
As one of the community centers on campus, the Gender Equity Resource Center has been committed to fostering an inclusive, safe experience for everyone at Cal. Our programs and services focus on gender and sexuality, strengthening the women's and lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender queer + communities, and prevention and support services related to sexual and intimate partner violence and hate crimes.
Taken from the Review of the Women’s Resource Center, June 23, 1997 by Carla Trujillo, PhD. Additional Research by Linsay Etienne, Sabrina Robleh, and Erin Tatum, Summer 2012
In the 1960's, members of the Prytanean Alumnae Association played a key role in convincing the University to establish a center to support women’s educational goals and career aspirations. After ten years of lobbying by faculty, alum’s and women on campus, the Center opened in October, 1972. It was originally named The Center for the Continuing Education of Women. Its primary emphasis was for re-entry women. Its secondary emphasis was to facilitate research about women. The Women's Faculty Club provided space for the Center and the Prytanean Alumnae Association raised $20,000 to provide the Center's initial funding. An anonymous donor provided additional support of $40,000. The Center's first Director, Anthropology Professor, May Diaz, termed the Center a "visible welcome sign to women who wish to return to higher education." The Center moved to building T-9 after one year. (The "T" buildings were replaced with the Doe Library addition in 1995.)
In 1975, the next Director, African American Studies Professor, Margaret Wilkerson, indicated that the 'WRC's' mission was to be an information clearinghouse, research center, and should also provide counseling to women students. The library was established in 1975 and there were 20 employees: 2 full-time, 18 part-time.
In 1976, a research conference titled “A Second Look at the Second Sex” was Berkeley’s first research conference on and by women. Then called the Center for Continuing Education of Women, it held a forum for the presentation and discussion of feminist research in many academic fields. It was essentially the first feminist research conference at a major university. It evolved from the idea of former Associate Director of the Women’s Center: Dr. Helene Wenzel.
In 1977 a second research conference was sponsored by the center entitled “Contraceptive Hormones and Human Welfare” which was triggered by Dr. Marian Diamond’s discussion of her work “Concern about the Brain and the Pill” at the first conference
By 1980, the Center's role as a catalyst for expanding women's educational opportunities was reflected in a new name, The Center for the Study, Education and Advancement of Women. In 1981, continuing under the direction of Professor Wilkerson, the Center received two large grants. The first, a Ford Foundation grant, enabled the Center to sponsor research fellows, colloquia, conferences, and publications, including the Directory of Research on Women on Campus. The Ford Foundation grant expired after 3 years.
One such conference was in 1981, entitled “Women and Work in the ‘80s: Perspectives from the ‘30s and ‘40s”. This brought together scholars who had completed significant research on black working women, dealing with the intersection of the marketplace and household.
In 1983, the second grant, from the Agency for International Development resulted in a conference titled “Women and Work in the Third World” This brought together women practitioners and scholars from the United States of America and Third World countries to discuss women’s participation in national and multinational industries in the third world.
In 1985, there were staffing changes. Professor Wilkerson left as Director and an interim Director was hired. The number of employees in the Center was reduced to 10. Interns had already been put to use since 1982 due to declining funding. This was continued. Vice Chancellor R. Park proposed that the Center be merged with Women's Studies. A Joint Subcommittee reporting to VC Park opposed the merger, pointing out the very different function of these units. The Joint Subcommittee recommended a tri-partite arrangement of a 1) Research Institute, 2) a Women's Studies Department, 3) a Women's Center. These three units were to be jointly responsible for the Women's Center Library collection. The library was designed to house basic materials common to these constituencies. The efforts of Faculty, staff and students culminated in a commitment from the University to support the full development of Women's Programs in each area of the campus mission: teaching, research, and service.
In 1986, a name change to The Women's Resource Center occurred in addition to the establishment of the Women's Studies Department and the Beatrice Bain Research Group on Women and Gender, named in memory of the Women's Center's first Associate Director. The needs of the center shifted and the new focus was on students rather than research (now taken care of by the Beatrice Bain Research Group) This shift was also due to the fact that the Center’s prime funding for the last three years came from student registration fees as opposed to research grants in the past. In 1986, due to another funding reduction, the number of Women's Resource Center employees was reduced to five. Alice Jordan was hired as the full-time Director. Interns were used to develop programs focusing on issues such as child-care, sexual harassment, student parenting, status of women as campus employees, undergraduate/ graduate networking, and the re-entry program (which had died after Professor Wilkerson left). The WRC was moved to the Golden Bear Center, an area centrally located on campus. Also, the Rape Prevention Education Program and the Safety Outreach Program were moved to the women’s center
In 1987, the WRC Library began a major shift to provide materials in support of each of the three aforementioned Women's Program Areas. A major factor affecting the library was that the WRC changed from being a center for research and counseling re-entry women to almost exclusively a student oriented center. Career counseling materials were de-emphasized in the library and materials for academic work were emphasized.
The librarian in 1982, Jane Scantlebury, noted the increased demand for reference service and obtained a grant from the Prytanean Society to buy bibliographies and directories. More references, bibliographies, and vertical file subject information were also acquired. The library /information center also serves the needs of others besides students on campus as it provides services to people in the community as well as those from national and international communities.
In 1987 the Coordinating Committee on the Status of Women [formerly the Title IX Committee] had been granted extended powers - which included monitoring the status of women on campus. It was consistent with the Gibbs Committee suggestion –the Gibbs committee was established in the wake of the alleged rape of a first year by three football players and has issued a report giving recommendations on improving the campus climate for women. The CCSW was a committee that consisted of faculty, student and staff members. The committee chair was Sally Fairfax.
In 1989, the WRC had a retreat sponsored by Interim Provost, Catherine Tassan to bring together discussion by a cross section of women on campus to develop a shared vision and discuss ways to carry out that vision through a revitalized Women's Center. Key students, staff, and faculty were brought together which resulted in a new advisory committee structure to undertake the task of organizing a collective voice for women on campus and providing the WRC with a broad base of support to carry out an expanded mission. There was agreement at that time that the WRC was vitally important, that it should build on its current vitality and effectiveness and grow stronger, continuing the advocacy role it has provided. Discussion focused on establishing a Coalition of women's organizations and groups with a steering committee generated to design the coalition's agenda. A list of ten issues were generated that were considered to be the areas affecting women most. (See Appendices.) Additionally, the conference participants also provided a list of recommendations.
The WRC continued to provide services to students such as sponsoring/ co-sponsoring conferences, sexual misconduct referrals, counseling, advocacy, and training, crisis intervention, student advising and referrals, library I informational services, student group development, and student parents.
In 1996, the WRC was part of the Student Life Development Reorganization and was subsumed under the direction of Student Activities and Services (SAS), which is directed by Karen Kenney. The Director of the WRC, Alice Jordan, was re-assigned to Coordinating the Student Parent Project (which is also housed in the WRC). The WRC has been without a Director/Coordinator since July 1996. Karen Kenney served as Acting Director, and as 1997, Nancy Chu served in this position.
In 1999, the Women’s Resource Center, underwent its name change to the Gender Equity Resource Center, in order to recognize the changing populations that were being served at the Center as well as to acknowledge its shift in educational philosophy. GenEq served not only women but also the lesbian gay bisexual and transgender (LGBT) community. We currently focus the scope of our work on gender, sexual orientation, and their intersections of identity.