Postgraduate Courses in Women’s Studies

By Gemma Creagh - Last update


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If you’re thinking about a postgraduate course in Women’s Studies, now is certainly the time. In the wake of the #MeToo movement and #TimesUp, gender issues and equality are on the forefront of a lot of conversations. And heated ones at that. The political climate worldwide is shifting, ebbing and flowing to the left and right. Demands for the freedoms and rights of women and a backlash to negative media representations are taking place in countries previously thought to be inherently conservative. Meanwhile, on a more local level, our recent series of referendum results have illustrated how Irish society is leaning away from the staunchly traditionalist Catholic values it had held since our independence.

Love them or hate them, these discussions around quotas, adequate representation, and media analysis are now part of the universal dialogue. Unconscious bias is a term no longer restricted to academics. It’s being broken down and utilised by companies to encourage diversity, and address inequality in the professional realm. How can we take this even further?

About Women’s Studies

Women’s Studies, now more commonly referred to as Gender Studies, has often been at the genesis of social change. Civil rights and bodily autonomy are at the heart of the second wave feminist agenda, spanning back to movements in the ’60s. Presently, you might hear many people say: Everything is fine now. Sure, women are allowed to work. What’s the problem? Stop being hysterical.  There has, in recent years, been a strong kickback to the strides that have been made towards equality. The rise in Neo-fascism is a direct, knee-jerk reaction to the ‘threat’ of the modern feminist movement and issues surrounding immigration. While it’s nice to believe that one day, courses like this will be wholly unnecessary, right now, a postgraduate course in Women’s Studies is exactly what you need to arm yourself with targeted information to help you enact change.

Course Content

As the saying goes: if you can see it, you can be it. After the X Files graced TV screens in the ’90s, a seismic shift happened in the world of STEM. The traditionally male realm of science, biology, and medicine saw a large spike in the influx of young women taking up courses and entry-level jobs. These girls were inspired by the intelligence and competency of Dr. Dana Scully. They modeled their professional careers after her. This phenomenon is referred to as ‘The Scully Effect’. Much of the inequality and gender imbalance we experience stems from misperceptions and implicit biases masquerading as facts. Women are bad drivers. They don’t have great spatial awareness. Women don’t like Maths. Men are better at Engineering. A postgraduate course in Women’s Studies will not only help you call out these obvious falsities, but also see the trickier, subtle ones deeply ingrained in the collective unconscious.

These are all learned bises, and we all have them. As members of a society, we can’t escape being influenced by our peers. At their most fundamental level, programmes like these break down these inherent systems. They deconstruct the language surrounding gender and gender issues and leave you with a greater understanding of the world as a whole. Unfortunately, the problems surrounding gender disparity have been around for a very long time; even if you study this subject at PhD level, you won’t be able to cover it all. Common topics of focus might include specific case studies from various time periods; the history of sexuality; homosexuality and/or queer culture; civil rights and related movements; worldwide, cultural and  historical perceptions of gender; gender-based violence; the analysis of patriarchal influences within texts and media; and the present state of gender politics across the world. As you can see, there’s a lot to cover.

Why Study Women’s Studies?

Do you want a critical and comprehensive understanding of the current state of gender roles? What impact does inequality have on women across the world? Are you passionate about social justice? Women’s Studies at a postgraduate level is perfect for gaining insights and perspectives from a number of academic fields within the Humanities and Social Sciences. You will learn analytical, written, and verbal communication skills which will serve you in the working world, no matter where you end up.

The natural career progression for Women’s Studies graduates would be to work in politics or for an NGO. You could get into lobbying or work in community care roles. Some graduates venture in the business world as project managers or consultants; while many stay in research and academia. Other suitable jobs might be as a teacher, writer, journalist, or in an advocacy role.

What you need to qualify

If you’re considering a postgraduate course in Women’s Studies, it’s usually expected that you have already completed an undergraduate degree in sociology, politics, history or any relevant fields. Have you demonstrated an interest in the subject throughout your undergrad? If you are in your final year and are wracking your brain thinking of a thesis subject, now’s the time to focus your studies!

Usually, you will need a minimum of a 2.2 Honours or equivalent in an honours-level Bachelors degree (NFQ Level 8). If you have lots of experience volunteering or working in a related area, check with your potential training provider; relevant experience can sometimes help you in qualifying as an applicant.

If this is an area you are passionate about, take that plunge. Yes, we’ve come a long way, but presently we have a lot further to go before gender equality is reached worldwide. With a postgraduate qualification in Women’s Studies, you can be a part of that change. Or at the very least, destroy anyone in a heated argument, and hopefully help change a few minds in the process.


Gemma Creagh

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