'As a Gender Studies student and a young woman, I face the world through a highly-gendered lens every day.'

Marketing & Communications intern Elaine O'Donnell

Although I completed my undergraduate studies in English Literature and Sociology, I was always interested in gender and gendered perspectives. After being inspired by one of my lecturers I decided to pursue a Masters' degree in Gender Studies. I moved to the Netherlands last year and began my course at Utrecht University. My interests lie in language, policy, representation, decolonisation and feminist urbanism.

As an intern in Projects, Acquisitions & Corporate Relations in the Marketing & Communications department I work with projects, create content for students and alumni and engage with academics on their work and research. As part of my Masters’ programme, we are encouraged to find an internship that relates to gender. Coming from a very theory-dense background, I was interested to see how some of these ideas and concepts might be applied in a practical sense during my internship.

'It has been encouraging to see theories from my Gender Studies background put into practice in the flat-hierarchical structure of IHS and their work.'

Much of my work focuses on IHS’s projects, which have been a useful insight into how urban development training, research and advisory roles are carried out. The focus on local governmental participation and multi-partnership collaborations in many of the projects aligns with the feminist research practices I have implemented in my own course assignments. A key tenet of feminist research is the focus on participatory methods and gaining the perspectives of those who the research involves, and this approach is evident across the work IHS does.

'It’s a welcome surprise to see an institution implement what they say into what they do.'

As part of my internship, I am also conducting a research project in postcolonial approaches to displacement-induced resettlement. This has been bolstered by conversations with academic staff who have expertise in gender and urban development, as well as individual research. I have been able to apply theories from my course such as decentralisation and decolonisation to urban issues, which has opened up the world of feminist urbanism. However, although there has been progress made since gender began to garner attention in urban development in the 1980s, the field of feminist urban studies is still relatively small. 

'Being able to combine my own gender knowledge with the resources and conversations I’m having at IHS has led me to a branch of feminism I didn’t know existed!'

Unfortunately, gender studies and feminism itself still face a lot of stigma, and many large conglomerations will simply tick the gender training box and move on. There needs to be a stronger implementation of tools that create long-lasting change and a shift towards inclusive policy and planning. As Hannah Ardent said, ‘The city is an organized memory; women are the forgotten ones in history.’