Myra Strober: thirty five years of gender scholarship, and counting

by Theresa Johnston on 10/16/09 at 11:07 am

myra_stroberWhen Myra Strober spearheaded Stanford University’s first Center for Research on Women (CROW) in 1974, the need for serious scholarship and advocacy on gender issues was painfully obvious. At the time, American women were earning only 59 cents on the dollar compared to men. There was little recourse against sexual bias and harassment in schools and workplaces, and few role models for university students who wanted to combine family life with careers outside the home.

Thirty five years later, Strober says, “I think we’ve made a lot of progress.”  Women now are earning 78 cents on the dollar compared to men, and they comprise more than half of college undergraduates, medical students and law students. Businesses are more open to the idea of parental leaves, part-time arrangements and child care subsidies for their employees, while at home men are devoting more time to household tasks and parenting.

“Women are getting more education, staying in the workforce, gaining work experience, and there’s less discrimination,” says Strober, a Stanford professor of education and professor by courtesy in the Graduate School of Business. At the same time, she says, there’s still plenty of gender-oriented teaching and scholarship left to be done –particularly in the area of work-family balance. “That’s the real difficult issue facing my students today: How do you have a successful, demanding career and still raise a family? If you’re jetting twice a month to Singapore, or you’re going to Singapore and your wife is going to London, who’s minding the store?”

Strober knows firsthand the challenge of combining a demanding career with motherhood. After earning her doctorate in economics from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and serving as an assistant professor at the University of Maryland, she came west to teach at UC-Berkeley, only to be denied a starting spot on Cal’s tenure track. The reason, her department chair confessed, was that she had two babies.

Fortunately Stanford didn’t have such qualms, and offered her an assistant professor position in 1972. But the incident stoked Strober’s interest in women’s labor issues, which in turn led three female Stanford students to seek her out. Would it be possible, they asked, for Strober to launch a center for research on women – a place on the Farm where academic research on women’s issues would be sparked, nurtured, and publicized?

“Center for Research on Women, early years”

“Center for Research on Women, early years”

Looking back, Strober says, laughing, “It was a really crazy thing for an assistant professor to do. I was raising very young children; my husband had a demanding career, and I was the first woman faculty member ever at the Business School, so that was a challenge.” Nevertheless, the more she thought about the novel idea, the more it made sense. “There was nothing else like this in American higher education, and the time was right.”

With Strober at the helm and contributing $100,000 in seed money, it didn’t take long for other Stanford faculty and community members to jump on board. One of her greatest allies was Jing Lyman, wife of the university president. “Not only did she like the idea herself,” Strober recalls, “but her advocacy in high places was very important.” Tapping into an extensive network of friends, Lyman launched a support group called the CROW Associates that helped to raise the center’s profile on campus. Before long, enthusiastic audiences were lining up for the center’s popular lunchtime lectures and publications.

“Serra House today”

“Serra House today”

Now renamed and relocated in Serra House, and supported by a $10 million endowment, the Michelle R. Clayman Institute for Gender Research still has a packed events calendar that includes monthly lectures, seminars, and at least one major community conference each year. At last count, the Institute had 160 Stanford faculty affiliates, a third of them men. The Institute also offers a variety of research and graduate dissertation fellowships, allowing respected scholars from Stanford and beyond to concentrate on gender-oriented scholarship, share their work and find like-minded collaborators.

Reflecting on its 35th anniversary, Strober likes to think of the Clayman Institute as her third child – one blessed from the start with support from a caring community, and exceeding beyond anyone’s expectations. As she explains, “Our goals in the beginning were modest: We wanted to raise issues of gender and to be a beacon of outstanding work. But now the Clayman Institute is not only a light on campus, it has become a national and international beacon. Everybody knows that one of the major places for gender research is right here. And that is an amazing and heartwarming accomplishment.”

The Clayman Institute is hosting a 35th Anniversary Celebration on Friday, October 23, 2009 at 3:15 pm at Levinthal Hall, Stanford Humanities Center. The event includes a symposium: How Gender Can Save Lives: Redesigning Medical Research.

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17 Responses to “Myra Strober: thirty five years of gender scholarship, and counting”

  1. Andrew

    Oct 22nd, 2009

    Congrats on 35 years!

    Looking forward to the celebration tomorrow!

  2. Phyllis Grant

    Oct 23rd, 2009

    This is so inspiring! Congratulations on 35 years… thanks so much for being at Stanford.

  3. Jack Rosenhan

    Oct 23rd, 2009

    On behalf of my mother, Mollie Rosenhan, and the entire Rosenhan family, I want to congratulate The Clayman Institute (CROW) for 35 years of remaining at the helm of such very important issues. My mother would have been so proud to have lived to see this. Jack Rosenhan

  4. Michelle Cale

    Oct 23rd, 2009

    I’m looking forward to catching up with all the wonderful people in the Clayman Institute’s community later today. It’s going to be an interesting afternoon.

  5. sonyericsson опт

    Oct 24th, 2009

    This is heroic work. Thanks, LOl. Though your questions were ignored, you have demonstrated what true accountability means.

  6. Anne Petersen

    Oct 24th, 2009

    Congratulations! This is very exciting! Myra’s work to establish CROW came at a crucial time for many scholars interested in these issues. CROW at Stanford helped to legitimate the importance of the research questions. And as Myra said in the interview, important questions yet await serious study. May the Clayman Institute continue doing outstanding research for another 35 years!

  7. [...] after she organized the Business School’s first Women and Work class, Professor Myra Strober looks at the state of workplace equality scholarship today. Share, Email or [...]

  8. Mary Troyer

    Oct 26th, 2009

    Thank you to all who contribute their time, effort, and skills to this field. Many wonderful changes have taken place for women in the past 35 years! I am saddened by the fact that women earn less than men for doing the same work. And that in 35 years we have not even been able to claim .20 more per dollar on the inequity. We have a long way to go.

  9. Patricia Brandt

    Oct 26th, 2009

    CONGRATULATIONS to all who have worked to make this center a reality.

    I would be interested in knowing who were the founding mothers – and other important women (directors?) through the years.

    Carry on!


  10. Neera Kuckreja Sohoni

    Oct 26th, 2009

    I extend my heartiest congrats to Myra for her fantastic career and contribution.

  11. uberVU - social comments

    Oct 26th, 2009

    Social comments and analytics for this post…

    This post was mentioned on Twitter by KQEDScience: RT @stanford_humsci: 35 years of gender research at Stanford—and counting. Myra Strober speaks.

  12. Susan Phillips Moskowitz

    Oct 27th, 2009

    I still remember the first dual career couples workshop you had and found it inspiring.

  13. [...] to Theresa Johnston who interviewd Professor Strober and to photographer Ashley Tindall. Full Story Read the full article: Myra Strober: Thirty Five Years of Gender Scholarship AKPC_IDS += [...]

  14. Shweta Sharma

    Nov 11th, 2009

    Myra – your story on the remarkable journey on the CROW is such an inspiration to me. I am an R&D professional at an Aerospace company with very few female technical leaders and female role models. I created an affinity group for professional women 2 years ago and our strength in number is now getting us more visibility in the company. I would love to chat with you about the larger vision we have to get ideas on how to avert some kinks in the process.


  15. [...] Business Magazine explores how both male and female MBAs walk that tightrope successfully in Myra H. Strober’s “Work and Family” course at Stanford Graduate School of [...]

  16. [...] Thanks to Theresa Johnston who interviewd Professor Strober and to photographer Ashley Tindall. Full Story [...]

  17. Betsy Scroggs

    Nov 17th, 2010


    Congratulations on a very productive and innovative 35 years at Stanford. It wasn’t mentioned in the article that you participated in seminars and workshops and research projects at the Stanford Center for the study of Family, Children and Youth (otherwise known as the Family Studies Center). I was the secretary to the Director at the Center from 1982- 1990 and was very impressed with your research and seminar participation. Your graciouness and friendliness are stellar. Your broad understanding of gender and women’s issues and their effect on families was amazing. I feel honored to have met you while workingat Stanford.

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