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Foundations and Strategic Plan


Check out our 2021 - 2026 Strategic Plan in it's entirety or follow the tabs below to grab the information you are looking for. 









The Women’s Center pursues gender justice for staff, faculty, and students through advocacy, support, education, and research.

We are committed to gender justice institutionally, locally, nationally, and globally for women and gender expansive people. We are actively pursuing a feminist future that accounts for all forms of marginalization through the development of next generation leaders and through the shared work of creating a fully inclusive Northwestern.

The Women's Center hosts ongoing support spaces and thematic annual programming. We determine our educational goals, advocacy work, research agendas, and commitments of our support in accordance with our strategic priorities: those areas of greatest need which we pursue on a five-year cycle.

The Strategic Priorities for the Women's Center represent five-year commitments to areas of focus deemed most in need of our attention by our staff, stakeholders, and campus partners.

To the greatest extent possible, we seek to align our goals with available data on campus needs, in partnership with the Office of Institutional Research, Human Resources, the Office of Institutional Diversity and Inclusion, the Organization of Women Faculty, and in response to the reports conducted by institutional task forces and working groups. We are equally committed to setting goals that draw from the strengths of our staff.

Once selected and confirmed for a five-year commitment, the strategic priorities shape the advocacy, support, education and research aims of the centers.

The Women's Center Staff selected the following strategic priorities in the summer of 2021. They have, however, been altered through the process of strategic plan drafting over the course of the 2021 - 2022 school year.

Belonging for Black Women and Gender Expansive Staff & Faculty

We will plan for and assess our contributions in two main areas in service to the retention of and accountability toward Black women and gender expansive staff and faculty:

 First, how our programming and targeted advocacy and support fosters belonging.

Second, how well we promote to the construction of race and gender conscious cultures on our campuses through education.

We have elected this population upon which to focus our efforts toward belonging in acknowledgment of the low rates of Black staff satisfaction in the 2017 staff campus climate survey, and in conversation with shared staff and faculty experience, including those who have made the decision to part with Northwestern. No one unit can assure a positive experience or workplace environment for staff or faculty beyond their direct supervision; however, in naming this priority it is our hope that our programming and our advocacy efforts will foreground those most affected by institutional inequities.


Safety and Well Being for Trans and Gender Expansive People

In this five-year period we will continue to advocate for improvement in crucial quality of work and life matters on campus, such as competent and comprehensive health care, data management, equity, and accessibility. We are equally engaged in shifting campus culture through education and providing programming and support to build community amongst gender expansive students, staff, and faculty.  

Our advocacy efforts are guided in part by the recommendations of the Gender Queer Trans and Nonbinary Task Force Report of 2019 (see GQNBT Report at OIDI). We are pursuing all recommendations noted therein in close collaboration with our parent unit, the Office of Institutional Diversity and Inclusion and continuing the important work of ongoing research into the needs of affected populations.

The safety and well-being of gender expansive staff, faculty, and students is perhaps the most urgent and underdeveloped issue of gender justice on Northwestern’s campuses. While OIDI and the Women’s Center continue to learn of and respond to ongoing concerns for gender expansive populations, the report from 2018-2019 continues to serve as a useful guide for the work ahead.

The 2019 Student Survey—taken by “123 current or recent undergraduate and graduate students ages 18+ who identified as genderqueer, non-binary, transgender, or another non-cisgender identity” signaled “Health Care and Insurance as the highest-priority area. This was followed (in order) by Bathrooms, Names & Identity, Classrooms, Residential Life, University Resources, Community Connection, and Common Spaces.” Thus, most of the research and advocacy we are actively engaging in through this strategic priority involves sustained partnerships with a wide variety of university offices.

Our centers are also empowered, however, to provide support-services and community building for trans and gender expansive staff, faculty, and students independent of our campus partners. Our individual commitments toward making our centers welcoming spaces for gender expansive people are identified in our annual action steps. We further possess the necessary expertise and pedagogical perspective to offer crucial education for the broader campus community toward the realization of a fully inclusive Northwestern.

Creating A Culture of Common Cause

In this five-year period we are seeking out ways to engage beyond the community that self selects into our educational programming and support services. 

We recognize that to make the university better for those facing gender-based and other intersecting forms of oppression, we must pursue harm reduction by welcoming uninitiated audiences into greater understanding of broad social justice values. The Women's Center maintains a long-standing commitment to opt-in community building and educational programming. At the same time, we are working with university partners to make possible sustained and impactful transformation over time with individual units, departments, and colleges. This priority serves to remind us to meet our communities where they are while striving to keep them engaged beyond the basics of compliance and civility.  

A scaffolded and forbearing approach to education is one way we invite all Northwestern communities into the cause of gender justice.

Our Center is also well positioned to educate and lead on matters of social justice through the transparency and integrity of our daily operations.  As it continues to grow through future action steps, our shop with intention page will highlight local businesses owned by women and gender expansive people and document how our unit is living our values through the allocation of university dollars.








Each summer the staff of the Women's Center gathers to evaluate progress made on the actions steps set for the academic year that has just concluded. We learn what works and what does not, what reaches and engages our community, where we are having an impact and how.

From this knowledge we are able to chart a path for the coming year.  

With this combination of a five-year consistent commitment to specific areas of growth for gender justice and annual flexibility and recalibration, we aim to do the greatest possible good within the bounds of our limited resources.

The action steps named in this version of the Strategic Plan are those which have been set for the 2022 - 2023 school year. For many, a next step in a subsequent year is already clear. For others, we are excited to use this year as a pilot that helps us find our way.

The drafting of annual action steps helps us to focus and pace our work and be honest about our capacities.

We hope it will also model to our communities, in particular students, the iterative and ever-learning nature of social justice work.







FY23 Assessment by NU Women's Center


In our 2021-2026 Strategic Plan, we use the terms "women" and "gender expansive people."

English, like many languages around the globe, has been in a period of rapid expansion on the subjects of gender, sex, and sexuality since the early days of the sexual revolution and perhaps even more robustly in recent years. The Oxford English Dictionary, a frequently cited source for canonical or formal language, has moved to include the terms "bi-gender," "agender", and "trans*," as well as added a gender-related definition for the term "non-binary," to name a few updates. We celebrate that change while noting also that the terms we use to describe our own bodies, feelings, relationships, and identities live full and purposeful lives well before achieving mainstream usage and acceptance.

This exciting period of increased self-definition and access to deeper and more precise terms with which to know one another means also that it is easy to be out of date.

In this document we refer to the constituencies we most directly serve as "women and gender expansive people." By "women" we—here and everywhere—mean trans and cis women. By "gender expansive people" we mean those who are agender, nonbinary, trans masculine, trans*, bigender, pangender, gender fluid, gender nonconforming, intersex, and two-spirit. This list is not exhaustive or sufficient as a means of representation. The term "gender expansive people" will not ring as correct or ideal to all of our audiences. We are happy to continue to grow our knowledge and our language toward a place of greater inclusion. As we do so, please know that a great deal of thought and conversation goes into the linguistic choices we make. We put forth our words with intention and in the spirit of respect.

Strategic Planning Process


The Women's Center is committed to institutional transformation. This means that we advocate for the communities we seek to support and educate, but also that we model a just future in our daily operations.

The process of establishing our strategic plan serves as one example of our approach to collaborative and responsive work.

We begin by naming aloud the injustices we observe in our communities and work from there to solicit more voices, adapt, solicit, adapt. The result is a plan that took a year to make and many adjustments to make a right fit for our unit.

Notably, this process does not conclude with the plan's publication, but with a return to community to name the ways we can work together for gender justice.