When the Associated Colleges of the South brings its biennial Women’s and Gender Studies conference to the University of Richmond this spring, Kosh Kempter, ’11 (above left), and several other UR undergraduates will present research findings alongside Ph.D.s, graduate students, and writers who set the agendas in these fields.

As an aspiring economist, Kempter is concerned about the gender gap in economics — in 2007, the percentage of tenured economics professors in the U.S. who are women was lower than in any other field, including engineering and sciences.

Kempter researched this gap as part of a course on Women and Gender in Economics taught by Dr. KimMarie McGoldrick. She found that at each level of education, from undergraduate to tenured economics professors, the number of women gradually decreases. “The largest drop occurs in graduate school,” she says.

While Kempter feels that her major in mathematical economics at Richmond has prepared her for the rigor of graduate school, she’s not confident that other women feel the same way. “The research suggests that a lack of women mentors, women being told that they are naturally worse at math than men, and having a family is what gradually pushes women out of economics and academia,” she says.

“We as a society are very cognizant of low representation of women in math and science, but it is shocking how low it is in economics as well,” she says. “I think it is important information to share.”

In 2010, Kempter participated in a panel at the National Women’s Studies Association Conference in Denver. She drew from her research to discuss fields that have low proportions of women. Now, she has the opportunity to present on campus at Emancipatory Knowledge: Women’s and Gender Studies NOW, which will feature feminist scholar Dr. Patricia Hill Collins as the keynote speaker.

“One of the best parts of these conferences is that you get to be exposed to remarkable women who have been leaders in the feminist movement,” she says.

Katrina Minoza, ’11 (center), is also turning a research lens on a topic that affects her personally — the coordinate college system at UR. “I am exploring whether or not the coordinate system affects gender development on our campus and to what extent it has affected the lives of students here,” she says.

Minoza is using the conference as an opportunity to tie together elements from her majors in sociology and women, gender, and sexuality studies. “The conference environment is really supportive of undergraduate research,” she says.

“Over the past couple of years, I have been learning a lot about the social construction of gender and other theories, so I am happy that my research will help me apply what I have learned.”

Thanks to a fellowship with the School of Arts and Sciences, Caitlyn Duer, ’11 (right), has been researching identity expression of Indian women in British and American films for nearly a year.

“Food, clothing, leisure activities — all of these are ways of expressing one’s self,” says Duer. “I’m commenting on the ways that films present diasporic women as objects of consumption, then exploring how these women rebel by getting creative with consumption.”

Duer is a double major in theatre and English, combined with women, gender, and sexuality studies. This will be her first opportunity to present research at an academic conference. “I’m planning on going to graduate school next year, so presenting my work and getting feedback is imperative,” she says.

The conference also will give students a chance to connect with leading feminist bloggers Courtney E. Martin and Samhita Mukhopadhayay, editors of feministing.com. “It’s extremely exciting,” says Duer of this opportunity.

“I follow the feminist blog scene closely. These writers not only blog about opinions, but they incorporate legitimate scholarship into their writing, which has helped me in my own academic work,” she says.