About NWSA
What is Women's Studies?
Code of Ethics

The National Women's Studies Association

Established in 1977, the National Women's Studies Association has as one of its primary objectives promoting and supporting the production and dissemination of knowledge about women and gender through teaching, learning, research and service in academic and other settings.

Our commitments are to: illuminate the ways in which women’s studies are vital to education; to demonstrate the contributions of feminist scholarship that is comparative, global, intersectional and interdisciplinary to understandings of the arts, humanities, social sciences and sciences; and to promote synergistic relationships between scholarship, teaching and civic engagement in understandings of culture and society.

NWSA recognizes that women's studies is broader than what happens in the classroom and acknowledges women's centers staff as feminist educators. Campus-based women's centers have a long history of working together with women's studies to transform the curriculum, the campus environment, and society at large.

Through their scholarship and pedagogy our members actively pursue knowledge to promote a just world in which all persons can develop to their fullest potential—one free from ideologies, systems of privilege or structures that oppress or exploit some for the advantage of others. The Association has more than 3,000 individual and 350 institutional members working in varied specialties across the United States and around the world.

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What Is Women's Studies?

Women’s studies has its roots in the student, civil rights, and women’s movements of the 1960s and 70s. In its early years the field’s teachers and scholars principally asked, “Where are the women?” Today that question may seem an overly simple one, but at the time few scholars considered gender as a lens of analysis, and women’s voices had little representation on campus or in the curriculum.

Today the field’s interrogation of identity, power, and privilege go far beyond the category “woman." Drawing on the feminist scholarship of U.S. and Third World women of color, women’s studies has made the conceptual claims and theoretical practices of intersectionality, which examines how categories of identity (e.g., sexuality, race, class, gender, age, ability, etc.) and structures of inequality are mutually constituted and must continually be understood in relationship to one another, and transnationalism, which focuses on cultures, structures and relationships that are formed as a result of the flows of people and resources across geopolitical borders, foundations of the discipline.

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National Women’s Studies Association Code of Ethics
Adopted by the Governing Council June 2005


The National Women’s Studies Association’s (NWSA’s) Code of Ethics sets forth the values, provisions, and ethical standards that underlie staff/members’ responsibilities and conduct. These values, provisions and standards should be used as guidelines when examining everyday organizational activities. They constitute normative statements for NWSA members and staff and provide guidance on issues that members/staff may encounter in their work with and for the organization.

NWSA’s Code of Ethics consists of an Introduction, a Preamble with a statement of values, General Provisions, and specific Ethical Standards. The Preamble and General Provisions of the Code are goals to guide members/staff toward the highest ideals of NWSA. Although the Preamble and General Principles are not enforceable rules, they should be considered by members/staff in arriving at an ethical course of action and may be considered by ethics bodies (Ethics, Equity and Diversity Committee and Conflict Resolution Committee) in interpreting the Ethical Standards. The Ethical Standards set forth enforceable rules for conduct by members/staff. The Ethical Standards are not exhaustive. Any conduct that is not specifically addressed by this Code of Ethics is not necessarily ethical or unethical.

Membership/employment in the NWSA commits members/staff to adhere to the NWSA Code of Ethics and to the Policies and Procedures of the NWSA Conflict Resolution Committee. Members/staff are advised of this obligation upon joining the Association and are informed that violations of the Code may lead to the imposition of sanctions, including termination of membership and/or employment. NWSA members/staff subject to the Code of Ethics may be reviewed under these Ethical Standards only if the activity is part of or affects their NWSA work-related functions.


This Code of Ethics articulates a common set of values, consistent with NWSA’s mission, which sets the framework for NWSA’s organizational structure and practices. The mission statement of the National Women’s Studies Association states that: "NWSA has a vision of a world in which all persons can develop to their fullest potential and be free from all the ideologies and structures that consciously oppress and exploit some for the advantage of others."

NWSA recognizes that this is a vision for which we strive, and at the same time recognizes that members of NWSA have different conceptions of feminism and the best methods for achieving NWSA’s mission. However, we affirm Aurora Morales’ vision for an inclusive approach to our work in NWSA; she writes, “Real inclusion is both straightforward and intricate, complex and interesting enough to spend a lifetime working for. It just requires that we understand enough about how our lives are entwined that whatever activist task we undertake we figure out how the question we’re asking or the particular piece of injustice we’re confronting can be made big enough, connected enough, to be useful to everyone.The most useful theory will be that which teaches us to use the particular, to frame big and inclusive questions, to integrate seemingly conflicting needs and sacrifice no one” (Morales, Medicine Stories, 1998).

Our goal is to create a code of ethics that is more than a set of inflexible rules, but one that helps us move toward our vision of a world of equality, respect, and social justice. Key values underlying this mission include: inclusiveness and social justice; respect for plurality and diversity; transparency, integrity and honesty; respect for the worth and dignity of individuals; and accountability of the organization to its membership with regard to its code of ethics. This is what we hope to accomplish with this code.


Accessibility: NWSA, in all of its activities, will seek to make itself accessible to all members and potential members, whenever feasible, with regards to factors such as communications, mobility, ability to pay, and age.

Personal and Professional Integrity: All members and staff of NWSA must act with honesty, integrity, and openness in their dealings with other members and staff. The organization promotes an environment that values respect, fairness, and integrity.

Transparency, Openness, and Disclosure: NWSA will seek to provide comprehensive and timely information to its members concerning the governance of the organization, including changing goals, directions, and internal structures. All financial, organizational, and program reports will be complete and accurate in all material respects and fully disclosed to members through annual conferences and the organizational website. All annual and mid-year Governing Council meetings will be open to the membership.

Recognition of Institutional Racism and White Privilege: NWSA recognizes that institutional racism and white privilege are ongoing issues within its organizational culture and structure. The organization will commit to an ongoing process of evaluation of the organization with the goal of identifying and dismantling those structures and practices that maintain an institutional culture and hierarchy of white privilege and power.

Conflict of Interest: Any conflicts of interest, or the appearance thereof, should be appropriately managed through disclosure, recusal or other means (see Conflict of Interest Policy).

Co-Sponsorship: NWSA will strive to accept sponsorship only from groups that are not organized with racism, sexism, and other forms of oppression inherent in their attitudes and practices. NWSA recognizes the difficulty of this goal; however, it is clear that some institutions have practices that are more consistent with our goals than others, and we will give these organizations priority.

Requests from outside groups to electronically link web pages will be considered under these guidelines of co-sponsorship.

Each year the Chair of the Ethics, Equity and Diversity Committee will issue a written report to the Governing Council about any sponsorships that NWSA has accepted. Any member of the organization may request to see the report by contacting the national office.

Equity in Employment: NWSA will comply with all appropriate nondiscrimination and pay equity laws. We will pursue a vigorous affirmative action program so that any hiring will reflect or surpass the diversity of the membership in terms of age; gender; race; ethnicity; national origin; religion; sexual orientation; disability; health conditions; marital, domestic, or parental status, gender identity and gender expression. Further, we will strive to be an employer that treats all of its employees in a humane and fair manner guaranteeing them due process and fair treatment (see Personnel Policy for more specific guidelines).

Endorsement Policy: NWSA is a nonprofit organization. This structure prohibits us from making any endorsements that can be perceived as endorsing particular political candidates. Therefore, while it may be desirable for individuals and Women’s Studies organizations to take such stands, NWSA cannot do so.

The organization will not endorse any commercial products (see NWSA’s Endorsement Policy for reference to other types of endorsements).

Gifts: NWSA will accept unrestricted gifts from any group or individual who indicates understanding of our goals. However, no donor will be permitted to advertise any donation as if to imply that NWSA endorses that organization. Any gift donated for a specific purpose will be considered under the guidelines for co-sponsorship.

Investments: If NWSA has funds that are to be invested for future growth, NWSA will make every effort to make investments that are as socially responsible as possible.

Conference Book Exhibits: NWSA reserves the right to deny space to organizations or individuals whose products, services or business practices are inconsistent with our mission.

Appeal: Any member who believes the organization or any of its components has failed to live up to the General Provisions stated above may address their concerns to the Ethics, Equity and Diversity Committee. Violations of the specific Ethical Standards and Code of Conduct can be addressed to the Chair of the Conflict Resolution Committee. The Chair will convene the Conflict Resolution Committee to hear the allegation. The Committee, by a two-thirds majority vote, will assess the complaint and pass on its decision to the Executive Committee.


Nondiscrimination: NWSA members/staff may not engage in discrimination in the organization based on age; gender; race; ethnicity; national origin; religion; sexual orientation; disability; health conditions; marital, domestic, or parental status, gender identity and gender expression; or any other applicable basis proscribed by law.

Harassment: NWSA members/staff may not engage in harassment of any person, including members, supervisees, or employees. Harassment occurs when someone’s actions or words, based on the relevant grounds (e.g., gender, race, sexuality), are unwelcome and violate another person’s dignity or create an environment that is intimidating, hostile, degrading, humiliating, or offensive.

Sexual harassment may include unwelcome sexual advances, requests for sexual favors, and other verbal or physical conduct of a sexual nature if that behavior negatively affects or interferes with an individual’s participation in the organization, and/or creates an intimidating, hostile, or offensive work environment.

Harassment on the basis of race, color, or national origin, may include objectionable epithets, threatened or actual physical harm or abuse, or other intimidating or insulting conduct directed against the individual because of his/her race, color, or national origin that negatively affects or interferes with an individual’s participation in the organization, and/or creates an intimidating, hostile, or offensive work environment.

Non-exploitation: (a) Whether for personal, economic, or professional advantage, NWSA members/staff may not exploit persons over whom they work within the organization; (b) NWSA members/staff may not directly supervise or exercise evaluative authority over any person with whom they have a sexual relationship, including students, supervisees, or employees within the context of NWSA work.

Electronic Communication: The following guidelines should be followed when engaging in electronic communication.

NWSA listserves should be used for NWSA-related business only.

Do not send sexually explicit, offensive, demeaning, insulting or intimidating e-communications, ethnic or racial slurs, or anything that harasses or disparages others.

No electronic mail may be sent that is abusive or threatens the safety of a person or persons.

Do not send messages to people who don’t need to receive them.

Be thoughtful about clipping and pasting others’ messages in those you send.

Do not forward e-mail sent to you to others without the original author’s permission.

If you receive a message sent to a list of people, do not respond needlessly to the entire list.

Use a professional tone in your messages.

Be careful when using sarcasm and humor. Your “joke” could be misunderstood.

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National Women's Studies Association Policies

Prizes and Awards Policy

NWSA receives occasional requests regarding new prizes and and awards. The Association's Governing Council adopted the following policy at its June, 2014 meeting.

NWSA Constituency Groups may propose prizes for things such as essays or papers to be awarded to the constituencies they represent within the National Women’s Studies Association. Such prizes may be established subject to consideration of the Governing Council at its June meeting. Constituency groups must be in good standing in order to propose an award. Only current members of the association can be considered for awards. The association will coordinate the application process and deadlines; the sponsoring constituency group will be responsible for selecting recipients. The Association may not fund these prizes. Constituency prizes may not be approved if they place an undue burden on the national office.

Research Policy

NWSA receives frequent requests to support or participate in individuals’ scholarly research. Its limited staff size prompted the Association’s Governing Council to adopt the following research policy in June 2013:

  • Individuals who wish to survey NWSA members must provide evidence of IRB approval.
  • Individuals must conduct surveys through member-to-member communication channels.
  • Survey communications and research results must not identify that National Women's Studies Association in order to avoid the appearance that the Association sponsored or authorized the research.
  • Individuals can access publicly available organizational materials on the NWSA website or in the NWSA archive

Note that the guidelines above do not apply to research the Association itself may conduct as part of field-building projects and priorities established by the NWSA Governing Council.

Conference Site Selection Policy
Adopted by the NWSA Governing Council, June 2012

The National Women's Studies Association seeks to select conference sites that provide sufficient space to accommodate our meeting requirements while simultaneously reflecting our feminist values and commitments. At the same time, Association leaders recognize that such values are rarely realized in our culture, and consequently our conference sites will necessarily reflect cultural realities as well as our feminist ideals.

We believe that oppressive laws and systems can be addressed through feminist education and action, and that our annual meeting serves as an important space to gather, reflect, and take action.

The Association takes the following criteria into account when soliciting contracts and conducting site visits in accordance with our organizational commitments to diversity, accessibility, and social justice. Prospective sites must:

Baseline Site Selection Requirements

  • Meet NWSA meeting and sleeping rooms needs in terms of space
  • Offer sleeping room rates below $200/night

Organizational Values Requirements

  • Demonstrate their commitment to workers’ rights with preference given to unionized properties
  • Meet ADA requirements
  • Create a welcoming atmosphere for NWSA attendees: Are the city and property staff diverse? Can attendees safely walk to area eateries and attractions? Would we be sharing conference space with other groups, and if so which groups?
  • Include dining options to accommodate various dietary preferences and restrictions
  • Offer airport accessibility including the possibility of public transportation to and from conference site

The Governing Council votes to determine the final site selection among the contracts that meet the above criteria. NWSA considers prospective conference sites approximately two years—and sometimes more—in advance of the actual event.

In the event of a problem or conflict with a conference site property after the contract has been signed, the Executive Committee will appoint an ad hoc committee to review the conflict, consult with NWSA staff, and decide on a course of action. According to NWSA’s Bylaws, the Executive Committee operates on behalf of the Governing Council when the GC is not in session.

Public Statement Policy

The National Women’s Studies Association (NWSA) is frequently asked to advocate specific public policies, issue a response to an academic/institutional concern, or make a statement about the field of women’s and gender studies. At its June 2011 meeting, NWSA’s Governing Council decided that while a priori limits should not be placed on NWSA’s ability to speak on important matters related to the field of women’s and gender studies, some guidelines should govern the decision of when to make public statements. These guidelines are grounded in NWSA’s mission as a professional organization “dedicated to leading the field of women's studies, as well as its teaching, learning, research, and service wherever they be found.” Issues related to the academic field of women’s and gender studies should receive the Association’s highest attention. Such issues might include: the educational and social value of women’s and gender studies, particularly when the field is attacked or maligned; cuts to and elimination of specific women’s and gender studies academic programs and women’s centers; and academic freedom. The Association is not required to make public statements about any or all issues which meet these criteria, however, and should only do so when deemed necessary by the Executive Committee (EC) or Governing Council (GC).

Membership Assembly recommendations and Delegate Assembly resolutions must be submitted 30 days in advance of the Association’s annual conference. Recommendations and resolutions should be focused on advancing the NWSA mission. Recommendations and resolutions are subsequently forwarded to the Governing Council for consideration.

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