The overturning of Roe v. Wade has heightened awareness of some of the broader issues the feminist movement and other allies for women’s rights have long championed, particularly advancing gender equality and economic well-being in societies around the globe.

Stanford scholars have studied some of the difficulties of reaching those goals and the many obstacles women face, whether it is at work, in the classroom and education, or as leaders. They have examined how gendered biases are perpetuated, why gender diversity and inclusion are imperative, and what can lead to prejudiced attitudes, assumptions, and adversities ultimately changing.

From the fields of business, social sciences, the humanities, law, education, health, and medicine, here are what Stanford researchers have to say about the evolution of women’s rights and the obstacles to advancing gender equity.

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Impacts of overturning Roe v. Wade, and the U.S. Supreme Court

The decision by the U.S Supreme Court to overrule Roe v. Wade in the Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health case will carry many wide-reaching and serious consequences for women, say Stanford professors. By ending the constitutional right to abortion, a protection women have had for nearly 50 years, it will now be up to states to decide what reproductive choices are available for women – regardless of the circumstance. 

“No matter the reason a woman seeks to terminate a pregnancy – including because her health is jeopardized, because she was raped, because the fetus has a condition making death likely shortly after birth – a majority of state legislators may usurp that deeply personal decision,” said Stanford law Professor Jane S. Schacter in the wake of the decision. 

Here, Stanford professors shed light on the ramifications the reversal will have, as well as research on the divergence between the justices’ positioning versus public opinion, which the Roe v. Wade overruling highlighted.

A constitutional earthquake: Jane Schacter on SCOTUS decision to overturn Roe v. Wade

Stanford law Professor Jane Schacter, an expert on constitutional law and sexuality, discusses the Supreme Court’s decision to end the constitutional right to an abortion.

Using economics to understand the wide-reaching impacts of overturning Roe v. Wade

The greatest burden of abortion restrictions will likely fall onto low-income women and minorities, says Stanford economist Luigi Pistaferri.

Stanford’s Bernadette Meyler on possible SCOTUS decision to overturn Roe v. Wade

Constitutional law scholar Bernadette Meyler discusses the leaked Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization memo and the implications of a possible decision.

The gap between the Supreme Court and most Americans’ views is growing

A new study finds that not only has the court’s majority shifted dramatically rightward in the past two years, its stances are now significantly more conservative than most Americans’.

Protecting reproductive health information after fall of Roe v. Wade

Michelle Mello writes that the overturning of Roe v. Wade – ending federal protection over a woman's right to an abortion – could also expose her personal health data in court.

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The pandemic’s effect on women

While the overturning of Roe v. Wade has sent shockwaves across the country, the global pandemic continues to be problematic, particularly among women and people of color. According to Stanford sociologist Shelley Correll, the pandemic alone may set gender equality back a generation as women take on an unfair burden of job losses and child care.

“Feelings of burnout have increased over the last year for both men and women, but more so for women,” Correll said, noting how mental health challenges and the lack of reliable child care continue to be problematic. “My big concern, in terms of gender equality, is that this high level of burnout is going to either drive women out of the paid workforce entirely or cause them to dial back their careers to something that is more manageable.” 

Over the coming months, it will be increasingly clear what the ramifications of both the end of Roe v. Wade and the pandemic will have. But what is already apparent is the urgent need to ensure access to health care, child care, and education, Stanford scholars say. Here is some of that research.

It’s time to prioritize humane, thriving work environments

The global pandemic is an opportunity to make fundamental changes to how society approaches work by creating working environments centered around creativity, problem-solving and equity, says Adina Sterling.

The real benefits of paid family leave

Paid family leave is not a “silver bullet” for advancing gender equity in the workplace, Maya Rossin-Slater says, but it is beneficial for family health and well-being outcomes, particularly infant and maternal health and overall financial stability.

Gender equality could be set back by an entire generation, sociologist warns

Coming out of the pandemic is an opportunity to build more equitable workplaces. Otherwise, burnout is likely going to either drive women out of the paid workforce entirely or cause them to dial back their careers, with long-term consequences for gender equality, says Stanford scholar Shelley Correll.

Equity and inclusion key issues in new work-life balance

With work, school and family life all taking place in our homes, the challenges may be greater for women, according to a focus group consisting of corporate and nonprofit leaders convened by Stanford’s VMware Women’s Leadership Innovation Lab.

Stress during pregnancy doubled during pandemic

As the first shelter-in-place orders took hold in California, pregnant women reported substantially elevated depressive symptoms, potentially adversely affecting their health as well as that of their babies.

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Feminism and overcoming gender discrimination across history

For feminists, choice over reproductive health symbolized the human right to self-determination, said Estelle Freedman in her seminal book, No Turning Back: The History of Feminism and the Future of Work (Ballantine Books, 2003). 

As Freedman explains, “Feminists have increasingly insisted that women’s health and children’s welfare must be central to international reproductive policies. In this way, reproductive choice can help alleviate economic injustice as well as extend human rights to women.”

Freedman, along with other Stanford scholars, has studied the evolution of feminist movements and women’s rights across history and the fight for economic justice and human rights in America and across the globe. Some have also examined these movements’ flaws, including historically overlooking people of color and people with a disability. Here are some of their findings.

How World War I strengthened women’s suffrage

Times of crisis can be catalysts for political change, says Stanford legal scholar Pamela S. Karlan. For women activists in the early 20th century, the catalyst was World War I.

The 19th Amendment is a milestone, not endpoint, for women’s rights in America

As the centennial of the 19th Amendment approaches, the milestone in women’s suffrage must also acknowledge the intersection of gender and racial justice in America, says Stanford scholar Estelle Freedman.

Left out of the vote

As the centennial of the 19th Amendment approaches, Stanford scholar Rabia Belt wants to acknowledge a history often overlooked in discourse about the franchise: people living with disabilities.

Why taking gender out of the equation is so difficult

Even as old stereotypes fade, gender remains “a very sticky category,” says Ashley Martin, assistant professor of organizational behavior.

Power forward

Tara VanDerveer, head coach of the Stanford women’s basketball team, talks about the state of women’s sports on the 50th anniversary of Title IX.

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Roadblocks in the workplace

In 2020, women earned 83 cents to every dollar men earned, according to data from the U.S. Census Bureau. While the wage gap has narrowed over time, it still persists. Is it because of discrimination? Occupational differences? Workforce participation?

Scholars at the Stanford Graduate School of Business have tried to answer questions like these, including Stanford labor economist and Professor Emerita Myra Strober, who has dedicated her career to examining sexism across society, including the workplace.

“The American way, if you will, is to reward people who are valuable by paying them more. What’s not fair is rewarding them because you think they’re going to be more valuable before the game even starts. Managers should take people in entry-level positions and try to groom them all to see who turn out to be best,” Strober said in a 2016 interview. Strober suggests companies ought to examine salary disparities, offer paid parental leave and subsidize or offer childcare, and encourage workplace flexibility as ways to diversify and equalize the workplace.

Here is that interview, along with other research from scholars affiliated with the GSB who have examined gender differences and biases in the workplace and in leadership.

Is workplace equality the economy’s hidden engine?

In 1960, 94% of doctors and lawyers were white men. Today that number has fallen to 60%, and the economy has benefited dramatically because of it.

The language of gender bias in performance reviews

How negative stereotypes about men and women creep into a process intended to be meritocratic.

How race influences, amplifies backlash against outspoken women

When women break gender norms, the most negative reactions may come from people of the same race.

Having more power at the bargaining table helps women – but also sparks backlash

A large-scale study of job negotiations finds that women with stronger options were penalized for being too assertive.

How companies can solve the pay equity problem

A labor economist reveals how to close the pay gap.

Solving Silicon Valley’s gender problem

The authors of a survey on women in high tech answer the question: What now?

Making research, education more inclusive

In academic research, particularly the sciences, a gendered perspective has historically been overlooked, says Stanford historian Londa Schiebinger.

Such an oversight has come at a cost: For example, in clinical drug trials, women have been excluded on the grounds of reproductive safety – meaning that when drugs hit market, doses may not be suited for female bodies. 

“Integrating sex and gender as variables in research, where relevant, enhances excellence in science and engineering,” said Schiebinger, who is the John L. Hinds Professor in the History of Science in Stanford’s School of Humanities and Sciences. “The operative question is how can we harness the creative power of sex and gender analysis for discovery and innovation? Does considering gender add a valuable dimension to research? Does it take research in new directions?” 

Schiebinger has spent her career finding creative ways to make science more inclusive. Here is some of that work, and work by others – including research showing the barriers women have faced as students in K-12 and at the PhD level.

A hidden obstacle for women in academia

A sweeping new study finds that women are penalized for pursuing research perceived to be “feminized” – an implicit bias surprisingly strong in fields associated with women.

Gender diversity is linked to research diversity

Gender diversity in science comes down to more than just who is on the team. The research approaches and types of questions the field addresses also shift – and lead to better science.

Sex and gender analysis improves science, Stanford scholars say

Including a gender and sex analysis in scientific research can open the door to discovery and innovation, according to a study performed by Stanford historian Londa Schiebinger and a group of scholars.

Female researchers pay more attention to sex and gender in medicine

Sex and gender affect how people react to drugs or other therapies, but are often overlooked in research. Stanford researchers find that medical research teams that include women more often account for sex and gender in their work.

Whose history? AI uncovers who gets attention in high school textbooks

Natural language processing reveals huge differences in how Texas history textbooks treat men, women, and people of color.

High-stakes exams can put female students at a disadvantage, Stanford researcher finds

A new study suggests that women are more heavily influenced than men by test anxiety, and points to ways to help close the gender gap.