Gender Action Group

The Gender Action Group enriches the Washington and Lee community by promoting equality and mutual respect among the members of our community through thoughtful and steady programming. The Gender Action Group provides a forum for critical thinking and intelligent discussion about gender issues and issues that intersect with gender at monthly meetings. Members anticipate gender problems before the happen to both prevent the entrenchment of negative gender dynamics and provide a healthy atmosphere for women and men on campus.

Contact: Iman Messado '19



The Gender Action Group was formed by Annie Persons, '15, under the guidance of Professor Ellen Mayock in an effort to address gender issues on campus in a steady, transparent way. In order to achieve the goals of taking action and continuing the conversation about gender equality, the Gender Action Group (Gender Action Group) held its first meeting in March 2014. Gender Action Group is unique because its members include a combination of faculty, staff, undergraduates, and law students.


The Gender Action Group Constitution - drafted and revised in June, July, August, and September of 2015 --was sent to current members via e-mail prior to submitting an application for recognition to the EC. All members had at least twenty-four hours to propose changes to the constitution before it was submitted.


Gender Action Group's aims are:

1. To provide a forum for critical thinking and intelligent discussion about gender issues and issues that intersect with gender;
2. To generate campus programs and events that promote a healthy atmosphere for women and men on campus; and
3. To anticipate gender problems before they happen and thereby prevent further entrenchment of negative gender dynamics.


The focus of the Gender Action Group is to promote gender equality on campus through events, social media and blog action, and related activities.

The purpose of the Gender Action Group (Gender Action Group) is to address the student body's concerns surrounding gender inequality.
Gender Action Group has served its purpose in the past by:

1. Providing a forum for students to voice their experience with gender inequality on both W&L's campus and in their day-to-day lives. Gender Action Group meetings and events serve as a safe space to not only discuss uncomfortable topics but also offer possible solutions.

a. Example: At the F-Word (feminism) panel, held March, 26, 2015, a first-year female expressed her concerns regarding gender discrimination in a classroom setting. Panelists, professors, and audience members proposed solutions and shared similar stories.

2. Addressing classist and sexist issues on campus.

a. Example: After classist and sexist fraternity party invitations were brought to Gender Action Group's attention, Gender Action Group's action resulted in an e-mail opt-out for first-year students who would prefer not to receive unsolicited e-mails.

3. Bringing gender equality to the forefront of student thought.

a. Example: The week leading up to Fancy Dress, Gender Action Group held a panel and tabled, creating conversation on campus, thus acting in accordance with the third aim of Gender Action Group outlined in article III.

4. Promoting understanding about topics that intersect with gender.

a. Example: Misconceptions and meanings surrounding the word "feminism" were explored by the student body:

i. At the F-Word Panel; and
ii. In Elrod Commons the week leading up to the F-Word Panel. Gender Action Group members tabled this week, encouraging students to freely and unabashedly express "what feminism means to them" on post-it notes to be displayed on poster boards, complete with feminist quotes and pictures.


Gender Action Group is the only organization of its kind on Washington and Lee's campus. Any member of the Washington and Lee community, including faculty, staff, undergraduates, and law students, who is in good standing with the university and interested in working towards Gender Action Group's aims, is eligible to join the Gender Action Group.

Gender Action Group's monthly meetings provide an educational platform for lively debate and the exchange of ideas. Since Gender Action Group aims to promote positive culture change by challenging the entrenchment of negative gender dynamics, all members of the Washington and Lee community, regardless of support for Gender Action Group's aims, are eligible and encouraged to participate in Gender Action Group meetings and activities. Gender Action Group embraces diversity of individuals and ideas. Gender Action Group intends to represent all voices at meetings. By enGender Action Grouping in healthy debate, Gender Action Group aims to strengthen beliefs supporting gender equality and respectfully challenge beliefs contributing to negative gender dynamics.


Our organization is based on an "all hands on deck" style of leadership. We do not have elected offices; rather, the group is comprised of members from each undergraduate class, the law school, faculty from various departments and staff. Each member is expected to take on one task (e.g. a blog entry, a publicity campaign, or organizing an event) per month and to have completed it for the next month's meeting. Self-initiative drives the sharing of responsibilities; in other words, members volunteer to complete a task. To share responsibility and maintain credibility, Gender Action Group rotates who records and distributes minutes each month. This leadership approach supports in both theory and practice the mission of our organization.

The environment Gender Action Group intends to create does not support a hierarchical structure. Subordination is counter to Gender Action Group's values but at the core of hierarchical organizations, by definition. We are about empowerment, not putting people in power. Gender Action Group firmly believes the passion of its diverse and talented members alone will allow Gender Action Group to thrive without assigning titles and official roles. In the Gender Action Group, roles are defined by talents.

This "all hands on deck" style of leadership supports the unique membership and participation of Gender Action Group members. Each member has the power to make as little or as great a contribution as desired. While the sustenance of Gender Action Group may be questioned, the structure of our organization supports change. New members are welcomed and encouraged to take on tasks as early as at the conclusion of the first attended meeting, if so inspired. It is also worth noting that Gender Action Group's structure supports the Executive Committee's recognition of student autonomy. The Executive Committee states, "student organizations offered on campus vary year by year." Acknowledging and accepting the change in student organizations on campus, the sustenance of Gender Action Group without elected offices need not be a point of concern. If nothing less, the trust Gender Action Group places in all members can only allow the organization to thrive by providing an endless source of individuals willing to contribute to the organization's aims.

The Gender Action Group's unique style of leadership also supports Washington and Lee University's mission as a liberal arts institution. The mission statement reads, "Washington and Lee University provides a liberal arts education that develops students' capacity to think freely, critically, and humanely and to conduct themselves with honor, integrity, and civility." By challenging traditional leadership styles and exploring new forms of self-government, the Gender Action Group encourages the free, critical, and humane thinking Washington and Lee hopes to inspire in its students.

Research shows that successful groups around the world that model Gender Action Group's organizational style not only exist but also thrive. Research can be provided upon request.

Communication Facilitator:

Though Gender Action Group does not have elected offices, a communication facilitator is agreed upon by all members for each academic year. This is a student to whom others can go for information about Gender Action Group and/or with concerns about gender equality on Washington and Lee University's campus. The communication facilitator serves as a trustworthy liaison able to connect individuals with the Gender Action Group. The communication facilitator is chosen based on demonstrated commitment to the Gender Action Group. After being nominated, the chosen student contact is agreed upon by Gender Action Group's current members. The communication facilitator, upon appointment, will contact the Executive Committee Vice President regarding the change of position.

Responsibilities of Communication Facilitator include:

• Working closely with Gender Action Group advisor
• Corresponding with Executive Committee representatives
• Organizing and facilitating meetings
• Informing and updating current Gender Action Group members on upcoming events, meetings, and group developments
• Extending to all corners of campus through outreach
• Managing events specific to the organization in addition to W&L community events, such as the Student Activities Fair
• Preparing constitution and budget proposal before meeting with the Executive Committee
• Handling administrative tasks as they arise
• Acting consciously to embody Gender Action Group's values, thus setting a positive example for the W&L community
• Empowering all students


Gender Action Group enriches the Washington and Lee community by promoting equality and mutual respect among the members of this community through thoughtful and steady programming. It also combines the efforts of like-minded students and faculty members, bonding the community through a common goal. In fact, in Winter 2015, Gender Action Group facilitated, through WGS, a discussion between the leaders of shared-interest groups (e.g. SPEAK, WLSO, SHAG) in order to centralize campus efforts surrounding gender issues. While Gender Action Group supports the missions of these groups, it is important to note that Gender Action Group is the only group of its kind and is in demand among the current student body, with 34 students expressing interest by signing-up to receive communication from the Gender Action Group at the 2015 Student Activities Fair.