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Northwestern Buffett Institute for Global Affairs

Language Curricula and Gender

The Language Curricula and Gender working group aims to investigate how language curricula draw on and perpetuate gender stereotypes and how these curricula can be reassessed to challenge and overcome these stereotypes in order to advance gender equality in language learning and beyond.

Visit the group's website

About the Project

Pedagogical and curricular practices are not gender neutral. Although previous researchers have explored gender inequities in education, few have focused on how such inequities apply to the everyday practices of language education and the role that these practices play in promoting and perpetuating these inequalities.  Whether first language, second or other, language curricula, in particular play a significant role in contributing to and reifying gender stereotypes and perpetuating gender discrimination cross-culturally. Our primary objective is to investigate how language pedagogy and curricula can be marshalled to confront gender discrimination by interrogating these stereotypes in an effort to advance gender equality in language learning and beyond. Learn more in the Buffett Brief on curricula and gender equality, or explore more Global Working Groups' research in the collection of Buffett Briefs >>


Ultimately, our goal is to better understand the ways that language pedagogy reinforces and exacerbates cultural assumptions and stereotypes about gender while developing resources – both actual materials and community connections – that will enable language instructors to challenge and ultimately disrupt those assumptions and stereotypes and, at the same time, to think critically and teach dynamically about the intersection of language learning and social justice. Our project seeks to promote inclusivity through curricular and pedagogical changes that reconceptualize the language classroom as expansive spaces for critical reflection and language proficiency. Learn more about the group's latest developments >>

Group Members

  • Rana Raddawi, MENA Languages, Arabic & Translation, Weinberg College of Arts and Sciences
  • Marcelo Worsley, Computer Science and Education and Social Policy, School of Education and Social Policy
Group members:
  • Hasheem Hakeem, French, Weinberg College of Arts and Sciences
  • Jingjing Ji, Chinese, Weinberg College of Arts and Sciences
  • Franziska Lys, German, Weinberg College of Arts and Sciences
  • Shannon Millikin, Spanish & Portuguese, Weinberg College of Arts and Sciences
  • Ragy Mikhaeel, MENA Languages, Arabic, Weinberg College of Arts and Sciences
  • Julia Moore, English Language Programs, The Graduate School, and by courtesy, Linguistics, Weinberg College of Arts and Sciences
  • Gabriel Restrepo Parrado, PhD candidate in Spanish and Portuguese, Weinberg College of Arts and Sciences
  • Gregory Ward, Linguistics, Gender & Sexuality Studies, and, by courtesy, Philosophy, Weinberg College of Arts and Sciences
  • Michał J. Wilczewski, Polish, Weinberg College of Arts and Sciences
  • Ana Williams, Spanish & Portuguese, Weinberg College of Arts and Sciences

Student research assistants:

  • Leticia Sukman Demello (School of Communication, Communications Studies '26)
  • Aya Ibrahim (McCormick School of Engineering, Civil Engineering, Architectural Engineering and Design '25)
  • Amaya Luna Mikolic-Berrios (Weinberg College of Arts and Sciences, Political Science and Creative Writing '25)
  • Kydie Al Moutaa (Weinberg College of Arts and Sciences, Neuroscience and Global Health '25)

Latest Work and Developments


Research Activities

  • The Language Curricula and Gender group has designed a pilot survey that they plan to administer to language instructors at Northwestern University to study current practices that may facilitate or inhibit gender equity and inclusion in language classrooms. The group will also administer a survey to Northwestern students about their experiences  with inclusive teaching practices in language classrooms.
  • The group has also enlisted the support of undergraduate and graduate research assistants to examine gender bias and inclusivity in language textbooks used in university courses. The research assistants will conduct text analysis as well as interviews with instructors and publishers.
  • Group member Ana Thomé Williams has been conducting research on the representation of women in the traditional written press in important newspapers in Portuguese speaking countries such as Portugal, Brazil, Mozambique and Angola, which will lead into the preparation of pedagogical activities for Portuguese language learners.

Engagement Activities  

  • Group lead Rana Raddawi co-chaired the Women Forum and Workshop on Women in STEM in the Middle East at the Malta Conference in November 2022. 
  • In December 2022, Rana Raddawi represented the Language Curricula and Gender group at a Salzburg Global Seminar on Education, Transformation and Gender in Salzburg, Austria. The program brought together key stakeholders from around the world to develop new solutions and ways of reframing longstanding challenges about ways in which gender continues to impact education outcomes.
  • In fall and winter 2022, the group hosted public lectures from Professor Kristen Syrett from Rutgers University on Creating Space for Gender Equity and Inclusivity in Pedagogical Practices as well as Professor Maha Bali from the American University in Cairo on Infusing Care and Gender Equity into Language Teaching.
  • In conjunction with the Council on Language Instruction's 25th annual Chicago Language Symposium in April 2023, the Language Curricula and Gender Equality group hosted a workshop with symposium attendees on how to make foreign language textbooks linguistically and culturally gender bias-free and inclusive. The workshop featured presentations from the University of Leipzig's Professor Erwin Tschirner on his major revision of a first-year German textbook as well as the University of British Columbia's Professor Ervin Malakaj on their Department of Central, Eastern and Northern European Studies' German Program outcomes.
  • Immediately following the workshop, the group hosted a roundtable discussion with publishers, textbook authors, researchers, administrators, instructors and language learners on the requirements, challenges and potential solutions for world languages programs and departments striving to combat gender bias through their work. 
  • Group leads Professors Rana Raddawi and Marcelo Worsley discussed the importance of gender equity in foreign language education and how their Global Working Group is tackling the issue in an interview with The Daily Northwestern >>
  • In June 2023, Ana Thomé Williams presented two papers:
    • "Português língua estrangeira e questões de gênero: a representatividade da mulher na sociedade". (Portuguese as a foreign language and questions of gender: women representation in society._  Universidade Nova de Lisboa, Portugal, International Conference on Portuguese language Teaching, Training and Research, June 19–21, 2023.
    • Desenvolvendo a competência simbólica em português: questões de usos da língua, gênero e representatividade da mulher na mídia escrita” (Developing the symbolic competence in Portuguese: questions of language use, gender and women representation in the written media. University of Salamanca, Spain, 105th American Association of Teachers of Spanish and Portuguese Conference. June 24–28, 2023.
  •  In spring 2024, the group will present the results of their survey administered to current or former language instructors at Northwestern University to examine how language instructors perceive their language teaching materials as well as classroom dynamics through the lens of gender and gender equity.

Teaching Activities  

  •  Co-lead Rana Raddawi is developing a course on gender in the language classroom for undergraduates and graduate students to be offered in fall 2024.