EC.718 / EC.798 (G)  D-Lab: Gender

The power and cultural dynamics of gender and development


D-Lab: Gender

Gender roles in most societies are based on imbalanced power relations between women and men, which result in inequities for women. It is important to understand how both our own and other societies construct masculine and feminine roles, and the impact those constructs have on all aspects of life. Understanding men’s and women’s roles in society and the power dynamics between them are key to understanding how interventions can have an impact on these relationships. Too often, development interventions inadvertently further degrade conditions for women and girls and change men’s roles in unintended ways. Therefore, a gender-sensitive approach to development is essential when designing and implementing local and global initiatives. 

This course will explore gender roles, illuminate the power dynamics and root causes of inequality, provide a framework for understanding gender dynamics, and offer students the skills they need to conduct a gender analysis and integrate gender-sensitive strategies into large- and small-scale development solutions. Initially, we will focus on understanding gender dynamics in our own lives and then, through hands-on activities, apply that analysis in a broader context, both in our own localities and in international situations. Lectures by the course instructors and guest speakers, including filmmakers, journalists, and development workers, will prompt critical discussion about the social, economic, and political conditions that shape gender in development, particularly in regard to the design and implementation of appropriate technology, as well as agricultural and job creation initiatives. Labs will include hands-on experiences with key tools that students will apply to real-life situations over the course of the term. 

Students will have the opportunity to work on an international field project, which can be completed during the semester or, with permission from the instructors and contingent on funding availability, may be continued during MIT’s Independent Activities Period (IAP) in January. 

Requirements: This class requires readings, presentations, and an in-depth research paper that utilizes key analysis tools.

Prerequisites: Students must attend the first day of class and admission will be decided at that time. Enrollment limited to 12 students.


Course Information
Instructors: Libby McDonald, Martha Thompson
Semester Offered: Fall (Offered since 2016)
Lecture Location: N51-350
Lecture Times: Lectures & critical discussion: T 9:30-11:30; Lab & field work, Th 9:30-11
Units (credit hours) 6
Class Size: 12 students
Grading: A/B/C/D/F