On Monday, Rutgers University announced that it is endowing a chair in the name of Gloria Steinem—American feminist icon and co-founder of Ms. The Gloria Steinem Endowed Chair in Media, Culture and Feminist Studies will not only honor Steinem’s legacy as a women’s rights activist and journalist, but will honor her work in media by focusing on ways to diversify voices in media and information technology.
The creation of this chair is a collaboration among the Rutgers’ Institute for Women’s Leadership, School of Communication and Information and The Department of Women’s and Gender Studies at the School of Arts and Sciences. One of Steinem’s requirements for the position is that it be open to non-academics, such as people who work in technology or media.
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Organizers hope to fill the chair by the 2016-2017 academic year, and an advisory board has been assembled for it. Some prominent individuals on the board include Sheila Johnson, cofounder of Black Entertainment Television, Geraldine Laybourne, cofounder of Oxygen Media and Natalie Morales, a Rutgers graduate who now is the new anchor for NBC’s Today show.
Individual gifts from people such as Sheryl Sandberg, chief operating officer of Facebook and author of Lean In: Women, Work, and the Will to Lead, and Mortimer Zuckerman, owner and publisher of New York’s Daily News and U.S. News and World Report, will endow the chair along with grants from the Ford, Knight and Revson Foundations. The chair has already received over $1 million in donor pledges.
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Besides her writing and founding of Ms., Steinem also cofounded The Women’s Media Center in 2005 in an effort to amplify women’s voices by creating media advocacy campaigns, training women and girls to get involved in media and other related efforts. The union of philanthropy and media education in The Gloria Steinem Endowed Chair in Media, Culture and Feminist Studies will carry on a lasting legacy for Steinem, who has acknowledged how media can affect power relations and what is accepted in society.
In an interview with The New York Times, Steinem discussed her position on the power of media:
Literally, I’ve spent most of my life working in the media. That has made me hyperaware of how it creates for us the idea of normal, whether or not the normal is accurate. Especially for groups that have been on the periphery for whatever reason: If we can’t see it, we can’t be it.
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Photo courtesy of Marnie Joyce licensed under Creative Commons 2.0