Heynes begins role as Gender Equity Director

By CATHERINE
PALMER
News & Features Editor

Jeannine Heynes started last week as the University’s new gender equity director.

Heynes, who has a PhD in Women’s Studies, came to Hopkins from Warren Wilson College in North Carolina where she served as director of the Center for Gender and Relationships. Over the course of her three years, Heynes worked on developing LGBTQ life, sexual assault prevention, sexual education and gender equity programs.

Heynes said that when she was offered the position at Hopkins, she couldn’t pass it up.

“I really loved that Hopkins was saying, ‘We’re branching out with our student affairs and focusing a lot on student identity and development,’” Heynes said. “So coming into a larger university where I could have a little bit more influence and start up another new program was just perfect for me.”

Heynes explained the idea of gender equity.

“What is it about your gender that [makes] you feel discriminated against? Or you don’t feel like you’re getting a full, authentic experience either in your academics or in your personal life or in your professional pursuits maybe because of some gender issues, “ Heynes said, “and that goes both ways for men and women and those who don’t identify in the binary of male or female.”

Heynes said that she would like to work with people of all genders.

“The vision is going to be to provide space and resources particularly focusing on women’s resources and empowerment, really looking at how to support women and female-identified students, whether that be transgender women, trans-feminine individuals… academically, personally, professionally,” Heynes said. “I think there’s a lot of discussion that can go on about men, male identity, masculinities. I think that’s a conversation that can have a hard time getting started, and I think somebody in my position can say, ‘O.K., we’re not focused solely on women students,’ but we can also look toward men students and what their concerns and needs are.”

Heynes said her role will primarily be to serve the student body, including both the undergraduate and graduate student populations.

“I really want to look into what groups or organizations are doing work around gender, gender identity, the empowerment and voice of women, and get a sense of the climate, of what’s going on here at Hopkins,” she said.

She is looking to develop a six to eight week long women’s leadership program. It would be a seminar-like program specifically for female students that would discuss gender, leadership and risk-taking among other things. She hopes to roll out the program as early as next fall.

Heynes discussed her role in the context of Hopkins as a research institution and a STEM-oriented university.

“I’m really hoping that the resources that come out of this office say that we recognize that being gendered in any field is an issue. Gender plays into what fields you even look into to major in. It plays into how successful you are maybe in that field. It plays into ideas of economics and pay gaps within certain fields,” Heynes said. “And so I think issues of gender and particularly women and women of color being minorities within the STEM field, I think that’s something that always needs a push.”

Heynes discussed the empowerment of women in STEM fields.

“I think those groups need a voice. I think they need somebody to empower them to say, ‘Hey, you might be the only woman of color in your field or in your lab. What are the issues that come up? How we encourage you? How can we have conversations around what that looks like to diversify the field?’” Heynes said.

“But also having conversations with men about… if you are studying something in a STEM field and it’s like, ‘Well there have been no women that have been mentioned in this field.’ How does that skew your perspective or bias?”

Heynes also plans to tackle the issues associated with having children as an undergraduate or graduate student at Hopkins. She wants to assess how maternity leave is handled at Hopkins and how it can be improved.

“In grad school, outside of grad school, in women’s careers, I think having children, being pregnant, having leave, caretaking, I think that always just sits at the forefront of people who [are] in that lifestage,” Heynes said.

“That’s definitely a conversation I want to be a part of and see how that’s being handled on campus and what I can do to encourage more inclusivity in that area. But also talk more with graduate women about ‘What’s it like? Who’s done it successfully? Who’s felt supported?’”

Heynes also wants to consider male students who become fathers while at Hopkins.

“I think having more paternity leave takes off some pressure and takes off that main responsibility for women at times,” Heynes said.

Heynes has also reached out to student groups, specifically Hopkins Feminists, Voice for Choice, the Diverse Sexuality and Gender Alliance, the Black Student Union, the Society of Women Engineers and the Women’s Pre-Health Leadership Society. She plans to collaborate with them on projects and discuss what can be done to improve gender equity at Hopkins. She also plans to work with the Program for Study the Women, Gender and Sexuality.

Heynes said she wants to be included in discussions about gender issues and diversity within the Hopkins’ faculty and staff as well.

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