UH launches women, gender, sexuality think tank
The University has launched a first-of-its-kind think tank that focuses on how gender and sexuality affects life in Houston.
The Institute for Research on Women, Gender & Sexuality will be housed in the College of Liberal Arts and Social Sciences, and is the first University-based think tank that focuses on gender and sexuality and the ways those aspects of someone’s identity impact life, according to a news release.
“We aim to spark community discussion: engage current and future leaders, transform public policy, and enhance well-being,” said Elizabeth Gregory, director of IRWGS. “Since demographically Houston forecasts America’s future, our findings will inform national discussion as well.”
The institute will not only focus on how gender and sexuality affect life in the region, but domestic and sexual violence, LGBTQ and transgender equality, gendered health disparities, sex trafficking and more.
IRWGS faculty will generate data and research on the ways gender and sexuality affect all aspects of life, Gregory said.
Even though the institute was announced last week, they are already researching on ways to decrease the prevalence of domestic violence in Houston and surrounding areas.
“In one project we’re working with a group of organizations that deal with domestic violence (including hospitals, law enforcement, shelters, and others) to track the incidence and work to improve the methods of intervention in DV in Houston,” Gregory said.
The number of deaths attributed to domestic violence increased by 47 percent from 2017 to 2018, Gregory said.
The institute has been in development since 2016, according to Gregory, and officially became a UH institute in spring 2019.
The institute will also allow research opportunities for students and will bring faculty from outside of UH to participate in the think tank.
“We hire graduate students as Research Assistants and soon we hope to involve undergraduates in research as well through their professors,” Gregory said.
IRWGS is dealing with the challenges they face due to being the first of their kind by collaborating with groups that share their mission and specialize in the research the institute focuses on.
“We are meeting up with organizations around town that work in these realms, sharing information, and developing collaborations,” Gregory said. “This involves a lot of work and a lot of learning, but it’s fascinating.”
The institute gets its funding through donations and fundraising they do throughout the year, but since the IRWGS has just begun, they currently have an adequate amount of funding to keep going.
“Fundraising is also an ongoing effort,” Gregory said, “since though we have sufficient funds for the moment, there is no shortage of projects and more staff would be welcome.”