Oct. 30, 2019

by Jonathan Haynes '20 

LISD's Project on Gender in the Global Community hosted a conversation with Fatima Goss Graves, CEO and President of National Woman’s Law Center (NWLC) on Tuesday, October 8, 2019. The session offered GGC student fellows the opportunity to discuss issues related to gender justice and security with Goss Graves who was visiting the Woodrow Wilson School for two days as a Leadership Guest. It was organized as part of the GGC student fellowship in Gender and Security. Student fellows are chosen annually from a variety of departments and programs and meet twice monthly during the throughout the academic year, and pursue independent, academically rigorous research on which they present and publish. 

Goss Graves opened the conversation by recounting the history of the NWLC and the organization’s focus since her 2017 appointment as President and CEO. Having served in NWLC for over a decade, Goss Graves was deeply familiar with the variety of methods the group uses in its focus on gender justice. During the talk, Goss Graves noted that the NWLC uses advocacy and policy crafting to impact legislation and regulations at both the state and federal level. Goss Graves also described how the organization uses cultural engagement and education to further its goals in health and reproductive rights, income security, Title IX, and anti-poverty among other areas.

The conversation and Q&A with the GGC fellows was especially timely. Goss Graves pointed out that anniversary of the virality of the #MeToo movement was approaching in two weeks, and that the Supreme Court was that day hearing arguments about whether the Civil Rights Act protects LGBT workers. She discussed how at the height of the #MeToo movement, the NWLC partnered with hundreds of leaders in entertainment and attorneys to start Times Up Legal Defense Fund. On the question of intersectionality and inclusivity of gender non-conforming and transgender individuals in NWLC's work, Goss Graves reiterated the importance of the organization’s tagline: Justice For Her. Justice For All. According to Goss Graves, the NWLC’s work, “must be about ‘her’ but also about in deep community and partnership and allyship with ‘all'.” Goss Graves continued that the NWLC is clear that they, “use gender justice strategies in a broad sense [and] center experiences and lives of girls of color” and that the organization, “understood the fight around the meaning of sex discrimination and whether it included LBTQ people was squarely [NWLC’s] fight.” Goss Graves also noted that it is, “important in [NWLC] language to not exclude those who are gender non-conforming, especially in areas of reproductive health.”

The talk continued as Goss Graves described how the NWLC  is, "largely trying to tie defensive and offensive work” while underscoring the importance of research and accuracy to uphold the organization’s credibility and effectiveness. Goss Graves left students with insight into this type of advocacy as “not for pessimists,” but that “the people who do the work believe that over some course of time we will get there, not by accident but intention and doing the work.”

Fatima Goss Graves is President and CEO of the National Women's Law Center. Goss Graves, who has served in numerous roles at NWLC for more than a decade, has spent her career fighting to advance opportunities for women and girls. She has a distinguished track record working across a broad set of issues central to women’s lives, including income security, health and reproductive rights, education access, and workplace fairness. She is among the co-founders of the TIME’S UP Legal Defense Fund. Prior to becoming NWLC's President, Goss Graves served as the Center’s Senior Vice President for Program, where she led the organization’s broad program agenda to advance progress and eliminate barriers in employment, education, health and reproductive rights and lift women and families out of poverty. Prior to that, as the Center’s Vice President for Education and Employment, she led the Center’s anti-discrimination initiatives, including work to promote equal pay, combat harassment and sexual assault at work and at school, and advance equal access to education programs, with a particular focus on outcomes for women and girls of color.

Goss Graves has authored many articles, including "A Victory for Women’s Health Advocates," National Law Journal (2016) and "We Must Deal with K-12 Sexual Assault," National Law Journal (2015), and reports, including Unlocking Opportunity for African American Girls: A Call to Action for Educational Equity (2014), Reality Check: Seventeen Million Reasons Low-Wage Workers Need Strong Protections from Harassment (2014), and 50 Years and Counting: The Unfinished Business of Achieving Fair Pay (2013). Goss Graves received her B.A. from UCLA in 1998 and her J.D. from Yale Law School in 2001. She began her career as a litigator at the law firm of Mayer Brown LLP after clerking for the Honorable Diane P. Wood of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit. She currently serves as an advisor on the American Law Institute Project on Sexual and Gender-Based Misconduct on Campus and was on the EEOC Select Task Force on the Study of Harassment in the Workplace and a Ford Foundation Public Voices Fellow. She is widely recognized for her effectiveness in the complex public policy arena at both the state and federal levels, regularly testifies before Congress and federal agencies, and is a frequent speaker at conferences and other public education forums. Goss Graves appears often in print and on air as a legal expert on issues core to women’s lives, including in the New York TimesWall Street JournalWashington Post, AP, Chicago TribuneLA TimesSan Francisco Chronicle, CNN, MSNBC, and NPR.