About Us

Our Mission

We leverage the strengths of UW-Madison to be a convener and leading voice in education, applied research, and impactful engagement to promote global wellbeing and full participation of women in society.

Our Vision

To Make Life Better For Women And Make The World Better For All

The Challenge

In Wisconsin and around the world, women experience challenges to their health and wellbeing that are rooted in underlying inequalities related to gender, race, poverty, and other factors.

• 222 million women and girls do not have access to family planning. In Wisconsin, high racial disparities in infant mortality rates show that better access to quality healthcare is needed for all women and children.

• Women experience a 23% pay gap around the world, and 49% percent of women are in vulnerable or informal employment. In Wisconsin, women earn only 78% of what men in equivalent roles earn.

• Globally, over 31 million girls do not have access to primary school. Research in the U.S. shows that when women attain higher education, they are disproportionately impacted by sexual harassment and assault, which impact educational success and professional development.

• The effects of natural disasters, humanitarian crises, forced migration, pollution, scarcity of food and water, and climate change disproportionately impact women.

• Only 22.8% of national legislative seats around the world were held by women in 2016. In the Wisconsin legislature, this ratio is only 23.5%. Among the top 500 companies in the S&P 500, only 24 had women CEOs in 2015.

Women’s underrepresentation is a missed opportunity in leadership for preserving the environment, building peace, and creating sustainable communities.

The 4W Response: The Special Role of Higher Education

Higher education has a unique role to play in making life better for women. Since 2014, the 4W Initiative has established UW-Madison as a leading voice in gender and wellbeing. 4W provides a collaborative, interdisciplinary space for networking, leadership development, innovation, and project development and implementation.

We believe that every woman has a right to be free from unjust suffering, to have basic needs met, and to thrive. Our major impacts are in three areas: Programs, Platforms, and People.

  • 4W Programs: Taking Research to Practice and Practice to Scale
    Our faculty and students engage women and their communities directly, and we also build capacity to make change by engaging with civil society actors, the private sector, and policy-makers.
    We work to bring research to practice and good practices to scale in Wisconsin and around the world. Institutions of higher education are uniquely positioned to provide evidence from research that promotes wellbeing and gender equity, to identify promising solutions, and to work with partners to implement social change at scale. Read more
  • 4W Platforms: Bringing People Together Around Pressing Issues Related to Gender and Wellbeing
    We bring people together to respond to pressing issues related to gender and wellbeing.
    Each spring, the Annual 4W Summit, offered in partnership with the University of Wisconsin Women’s & Gender Studies Consortium, brings scholars, practitioners, activists, and community together in Madison. The Summit is presented in conjunction with the J. Jobe and Marguerite Jacqmin Soffa Lecture.
    These activities take place under the auspices of the UW-Madison UNESCO Chair on Gender, Wellbeing, and a Culture of Peace, part of a global network of UNESCO institutions serving as think tanks and bridge builders between academia, civil society, local communities, research, and policy-making. Read more
  • 4W People: Cultivating Leadership
    We cultivate leadership in students and scholars who connect with each other through 4W and our affiliated programs.
    In addition to our scholarly community, thanks to a proactive grant seeking strategy, partnerships, and generous gifts from alumni and friends of UW-Madison, 4W is able to directly support undergraduates, graduate students, and faculty through internship and funding support.
    4W connects people across the university, and participants report a feeling of community, a sense of voice, and a validation of their work.
    Learn more about 4W leadership.

Core Principles

The 4W Initiative is grounded in human rights principles. This means working toward equal rights for women and girls as an end in itself, while also recognizing the important role that women play in sustaining families, communities, civil society, local and global economies and our earth. 4W values build on each other, beginning with basic needs and freedom from harm, and moving toward full agency and global leadership.

4W activities will incorporate the following core principles:

  1. Basic needs and human rights;
  2. Equality for women;
  3. Leadership; and
  4. Fully inclusive sustainable communities.