Helping Women and Girls of Color Thrive

Photo: Members of the University of MInnesota's Women and Girls of Color Engagement and Research Initiative Planning Team

There are many gaps in the world of research. One of the most longstanding is the dearth of studies focused on women and girls of color. And that’s a problem, says Rebecca Ropers-Huilman, because “If we are going to have comprehensive, accurate, nuanced knowledge in our society, we need to make sure we have a diversity of people doing the exploring and investigating. In every subject area, if there are no women of color, we need to change that.”


A professor and Vice Provost for Faculty and Academic Affairs, Ropers-Huilman is a member of the team heading up the University of Minnesota’s Women and Girls of Color Initiative. Part of a national collaboration inspired by the White House Council on Women and Girls, the initiative aims to increase research opportunities for women of color, as well as the number and breadth of studies related to improving the lives of women and girls of color.


Launched in 2017, the initiative began with three “Critical Conversations” held at off-campus sites where community members and University faculty could come together to talk about topics that are important to the well-being of women and girls of color in Minnesota. Following each event, teams of University and community partners who were in attendance were invited to submit grant proposals for community-engaged research projects addressing each topic: the impact of recent immigration and deportation decisions on girls, women and families of color; promoting the health and healing of girls and women from indigenous communities and communities of color; and improving education for girls and women of color.


To enhance the research component, the initiative is also working with the Robert J. Jones Urban Research and Outreach-Engagement Center (UROC) where Lauren Martin, Director of Research, recently wrapped up a report for the Young Women’s Initiative of Minnesota. The report offers strategies for eliminating disparities for young women of color, American Indian young women, LGBTQ youth, young women with disabilities, and young women from Greater Minnesota.


“The UROC research team played a key role in engaging community-based wisdom from young women of color and their communities for the Young Women's Initiative of Minnesota,” Martin says. “And we are thrilled be part of the University's initiative to continue building on what we have learned by prioritizing the voices and leadership of women and girls of color in research at the University."


Research related to the initiative will be ongoing as the project evolves. So far, four community-university collaborative teams have received funding for proposals related to the first Critical Conversation. Funding decisions on the latter two topics will be made in 2018. “The U has resources, and this is one way to use them to support people,” Ropers-Huilman says, explaining that she doesn’t just mean financial resources. “There’s a lot we can learn by combining the knowledge faculty may have with the lived experience that people in the community have. We need partnerships that benefit everybody involved.”

For more information, visit the project's website.