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Teaching the Language of Gender

LAU has introduced two courses this semester in an effort to promote gender expertise in the Arab world.

Undergraduates can now opt to take electives in Introduction to Gender Studies and Representations of Women in the Arts and the Media. LAU already offers a number of courses relating to women’s rights and feminism, including classes relating to economics, sociology, psychology and media.

“LAU’s history is rooted in education for women and the courses are a natural extension of that,” said Dr. Dima Dabbous-Sensenig, director of the university’s Institute for Women’s Studies in the Arab World (IWSAW) and who will be teaching the courses. In line with LAU’s unique heritage as having evolved from Lebanon’s first school for girls, the university’s 2011-2016 Strategic Plan is also committed to strengthening gender perspectives across all disciplines and programs.

‘Gender’ can be described as the socially defined roles, attitudes and values attributed to individuals on the basis of their sex, and  is increasingly recognized as a key pillar organizing societies around the world. The courses will engage students’ critical thinking skills in exploring how gender identity structures everything from social relations and behavior to economic and political power.

“It’s inconceivable to have a quality education without knowing how gender affects every single aspect of our lives,” said Dabbous-Sensenig. Individuals with training in women’s and gender studies are increasingly sought after by employers in diverse fields, ranging from international corporations, the finance industry, civil society and government. “There are so many job opportunities that require that kind of expertise. In today’s workplace, if you don’t know about gender dynamics, you are at a huge disadvantage,” she said before adding that the School of Arts and Sciences will soon be offering a master’s degree in women’s studies, coordinated by IWSAW.

Established in 1973, IWSAW is committed to development work and academic research on women in the Arab world. One of LAU’s oldest institutions, IWSAW also publishes Al Raida, an interdisciplinary journal on gender scholarship and activism in the Arab world. Al Raida is in the process of becoming a bi-annual, double-blind, peer-reviewed journal.

In keeping with its historical legacy as a center of learning for women, LAU is committed to gender equality in employment. Of 302 full-time faculty members, an impressive 42 percent of full-time faculty members are women. Women constitute 51.85 percent of the university’s 511 full-time staff members, while roughly 48 percent of the student population is female.