Tribute to our Founding Director, Shulamit Reinharz

On June 4th, the WSRC Board hosted a celebration of our Founding Director, Shulamit Reinharz, at the Brandeis University Faculty Club. Dr. Reinharz will retire on June 30, 2017. Evelyn Murphy, Scholar Emerita and Founder of The Wage Project, shared what the WSRC meant to her. Below are Dr. Murphy's remarks:

Shula asked me to talk tonight about my experience as a scholar at the WSRC. This is my story.

I applied to become a visiting scholar at the Women's Studies Research Center in 1998. Little did I realize the door of opportunity I had opened! 

For more than a year prior to that, I had been discussing with my dear friend Carol Goldberg the research I was doing on the gender wage gap. It was she who suggested that I become a scholar.

My application was accepted and I soon began meeting with my study group, 8 women scholars also pursuing research in the social sciences. Each week, one of us presented our work. When my turn came, I was stunned. Rhoda Unger asked about a Canadian psychologist whom I had never heard of, yet whose work was directly related to my research. Meg Bond opened my eyes to sociologists also examining the wage gap. Others chimed in. 

Now, I had been reviewing the literature for several years.  I thought that I knew it all. Obviously, I did not! 

Undaunted--yet much better informed!--I proceeded to write what I believed was the ,definitive book about the  gender wage gap in America, documented with mind-numbing data only an economist can love! By 2001, I was happily sending my manuscript off to major publishers in NYC. 

Rejections poured in, all saying the same thing "Dear Ms. Murphy, I am sure this is a very important book, however, we must decline to be your publisher at this time. Good luck."

Now every year, scholars can choose to present their work to all the other scholars, the larger Brandeis community, and the general public. I did that in 2002. After presenting my research on the gender wage gap, even mentioning the rejections by publishers, another scholar, a journalist, EJ Graff, came up to me afterward. She said: “I'll write the book the way you talk,  not the way you write!" That was my aha moment!

By the next year, Simon & Schuster had committed to publish Getting Even: Why Women Don't Get Paid Like Men and What To Do About It.  Publication date: 2005. Without this unique, extended array of scholars, Getting Even would never have seen a bookshelf.

But the book itself is only part of the story. Just as important was the activism started by the book.

Given how long the wage gap has persisted in America, the book concluded that women have to act to get employers to react and pay us fairly (a theme enlarged on ten years later in Sheryl Sandberg's lean in circles). So, while a scholar, I founded a nonprofit, The Wage Project (Women Are Getting Even) to be the activist arm of the book. 

Over the next decade, The WAGE Project, facilitated salary negotiation workshops on 400 campuses in 49 states teaching young women about to graduate, in intimate groups 20-40 at a time, how to get paid fairly as they start their careers. At the same time, WAGE facilitated salary negotiating workshops for working women-- women in academia, lawyers, custodians, physicians, CPAs, librarians, YWCA staff, community workers, every working woman you can imagine--to get paid fairly for the position she holds or seeks. 

Several years ago, the American Association of University Women bought these workshops in order to scale their impact using their 200,000 members. WAGE pivoted and I persuaded Boston Mayor Walsh to be the nationwide model for workshops delivered to large numbers of working women. He committed to provide these workshops, free of charge, to 85,000 working women in Boston over 5 years. That's 1/2 the working women in the city!  Other major cities are delivering the workshop, too, although none as ambitiously as Boston. 

The year after that, Deb Goldberg was elected Treasurer of Massachusetts. Clearly in the tradition of her mother and Avram, she is now delivering these workshops in cities and towns throughout the state!

The Women’s Studies Research Center is about the intersection of research, art and activism. My story is about research and activism. Yet I am just one example of hundreds of scholars who embrace this mission--some combining arts and activism; others like me, research and activism; and some exceptional scholars wrap their arms and intellects around all three, research, art and activism.

Scholars arrive at the WSRC having already achieved significant accomplishments in their fields, yet intent on doing more...on creating their next contributions to society.   The WSRC spawns new careers for some, imaginative thinking for others. 

I cited my time line as a scholar, stretching more than a decade, to illustrate a common phenomenon: scholars affiliate with the WSRC for years. It’s not one-and-done, yet every year, every scholar has to be accountable.

Each scholar brings her own --(and a few 'his own') --intellect, experience, sense of purpose... and dedication to the WSRC. And get this: Every scholar contributes to the others. That is the essence of this remarkable community.

So one has to ask: how did this all come about?

Quite simply: Shula. It's Shula's creation! 

Albert Einstein once said: 

“It is the supreme art of the teacher to awaken joy in creative expression and knowledge.”

Now, I'm the nerdy part of the WSRC. But walk into the Center, and you will see the 'supreme art of this teacher': you'll see a dilapidated warehouse turned into art gallery, you'll see homey decorations in workspaces. Sometimes you'll see over the top, edgy feminist art. Other times, you'll hear elegant music. The atmosphere exudes creativity....and culture.

That's Shula. She delights in it all. She has made space for every aspect of women’s expressions of ourselves and our lives.  Her exuberance is infectious, her joy, boundless.

And yet, the aspect of Shula I believe all scholars appreciate most, is her respect for everyone. She listens. She learns. And most of all, she teaches all of us humanity.

Thank you, Shula.

In addition, Brandeis University's Institutional Development Department created a video thanking Shula. We thank David Nathan and Caroline Cataldo for putting this together.