Skip to content
Main content complementary image

Our Mission

The mission of the Initiative on Gender Justice and Opportunity, a part of the Georgetown Center on Poverty and Inequality, is to center marginalized girls in research, policy, and practice; to name and address the root causes of race and gender disparities; and to develop solutions that are guided by youths’ narratives and voices. The Initiative’s focus on race and gender fills a gap in the national conversation about equity, in which girls of color are rarely visible.

There can be no gender justice without racial equity, and no racial justice without gender equity. In recognition of these twin goals, the Initiative views its work through an intersectional lens, conducting groundbreaking research and developing innovative policy and practice solutions to support low-income girls and girls of color. We are focused on improving public systems, aiming to:

  • Decrease over-discipline of girls of color in school
  • Strengthen girls’ connection to schools
  • Promote gender-responsive, culturally affirming approaches to trauma
  • Improve girls’ access to healthcare and wellness, and
  • Reduce disproportionate rates of arrests and confinement.

Our areas of focus include the school to prison pipeline for girls; sexual abuse and other forms of trauma that girls uniquely experience; barriers to healthcare access; restorative justice as an innovative alternative to punitive responses and police presence; and adultification bias against Black girls.

Our Values

Justice – Our focus on fighting gender, race, and economic inequities is rooted in Georgetown’s social justice mission to serve others. We conduct research, host events, and develop policy to advance Georgetown Law’s justice-focused mission: “Law is but the means, justice is the end.”

Boldness – We elevate critical issues that are rarely a focus of policymakers and the mainstream media. We will continue to push past barriers and boldly explore complex challenges, standing with and for girls and women of color and marginalized youth.

Integrity – We work and lead with a consistent and uncompromising adherence to the moral and ethical standards of Georgetown University.

The Right to Childhood – Every child must be treated in a developmentally appropriate way, free of racism, discrimination, and bias that result in trauma, unfair treatment, and poor health and education outcomes.

The Initiative grew out of the Center’s Project on Marginalized Girls, which began with a grant from The Atlantic Philanthropies in 2011. Since that time, the Initiative has become a national leader on girls’ issues and is viewed as a key member of the community. We have published widely recognized publications that contribute to the field and receive significant national media attention; hosted events that range from webinars to White House conferences to an evening in a national art museum; and collaborated with scholars from institutions across the country and with girls of color who comprise our Youth Advisory Committee, which ensures that our work is in alignment with girls’ own articulation of their concerns and priorities.

We prioritize collaboration and partnership, especially with women-led organizations. We work across Georgetown’s various campuses and with external scholars, practitioners, and organizations who are engaged in multidisciplinary work on women’s and girls’ issues, ranging from direct service to national advocacy.

The Initiative values the power of youth voices as an important source of insight and knowledge. In addition to our regular meetings with our Youth Advisors, we have published a compilation of artwork and stories by girls of color to amplify youths’ perspectives, and we conduct qualitative research with girls to learn from their insights and lived experiences.

The central concern of the Initiative’s work is to improve public systems’ engagement with youth of color who identify girls, from schools to the healthcare system to juvenile justice. Specifically, we aim to decrease over-discipline, increase access to education, strengthen responses to trauma, improve reproductive health access, and reduce inappropriate rates of arrests and confinement. Our research projects target the school to prison pipeline for girls; restorative justice as an innovative solution to over-discipline; the phenomenon of adultification bias against Black girls; and the unique forms of trauma that girls experience.

Our Team

Professor Peter Edelman

Professor Peter Edelman

Faculty Director

Rebecca Epstein

Rebecca Epstein

Executive Director, Georgetown Center on Poverty and Inequality

Professor Thalia Gonzalez

Professor Thalia Gonzalez

Senior Scholar

Chloe B. McKenzie

Chloe B. McKenzie

Consultant
CEO and Founder of BlackFem®

Rhea Shinde

Rhea Shinde

Research Assistant, Georgetown Center on Poverty and Inequality

Toella Pliakas

Toella Pliakas

Intern, Georgetown Center on Poverty and Inequality

Attorney Advisory Board

Mannone Butler

Mannone Butler

Executive Director, Criminal Justice Coordinating Council of Washington DC

Lisa Collins

Lisa Collins

Intellectual Property, Indemnity and Litigation Partner, BakerHostetler

Alyssa Harvey Dawson

Alyssa Harvey Dawson

Chief Legal Officer and General Counsel, Gusto

Sara Farabow

Sara Farabow

Partner, Seyfarth Shaw LLP

Terri Jackson

Terri Jackson

Executive Director, Women's National Basketball Players Association

Colin Murray

Colin Murray

CEO for North America, Baker & McKenzie LLP

Leslie Turner

Leslie Turner

Former Senior VP/Secy/General Counsel, The Hershey Company

Schools for Girls of Color Project Team

The Initiative founded Schools for Girls of Color Learning Network. We co-lead the Learning Network with the National Black Women’s Justice Institute. Young women and girls of color act as our
Youth Advisory Committee.

Leaders

Dr. Sydney McKinney
Executive Director, National Black Women’s Justice Institute

Dr. Sydney McKinney

Executive Director, National Black Women’s Justice Institute

Dr. Sydney McKinney has over a decade of experience developing and managing child welfare and criminal justice research and evaluation in applied settings. She has extensive experience in the areas of performance measurement and implementation assessment. Prior to joining NBWJI, she worked at a large social service provider in New York City where she oversaw data analytics for the organization’s behavioral health clinics, child welfare, and housing programs.

She also worked at the Vera Institute of Justice performing research and evaluation on topics such as restorative justice, stop and frisk, status offense reform, and alternatives to incarceration. Dr. McKinney holds an MPH from Columbia University, an MA in Law and Society from New York University, and a Ph.D. in Sociology from New York University.

Samaura Stone, MSW
Director of Policy and Advocacy, National Black Women’s Justice Institute

Samaura Stone, MSW
Director of Policy and Advocacy, National Black Women’s Justice Institute

Youth Advisory Committee

Aliya Horton
Columbus, OH

Aliya Horton

Columbus, OH

Jade Thompson
Miami, FL

Jade Thompson
Miami, FL

Oumou Kaba
Bronx, NY

Oumou Kaba

Bronx, NY

Trinity Woodson
Suffolk, VA

Trinity Woodson

Suffolk, VA

Manzili Akokayi
Greensboro, NC

Manzili Akokayi

Greensboro, NC

Tiffany Ofori
Columbus, OH

Tiffany Ofori
Columbus, OH

Schools for Girls of Color Steering Committee

Kalisha Dessources FiguresKalisha Dessources Figures

Special Assistant to the President for Gender Policy

Monica McLemoreMonica McLemore

University of California – San Francisco

Jeannette Pai-EspinosaJeannette Pai-Espinosa

National Crittenton

Joanne SmithJoanne Smith

Girls for Gender Equity

Shiwali PatelShiwali Patel

National Women’s Law Center