Northeastern University researchers study the unique role women play in building resilience

The unique role that women play in building resilience, particularly the role they play in strengthening communities, is the focus of three Northeastern University (NU) researchers.

Funded through a Global Resilience Institute (GRI) seed grant, “Women and resilience in moments of social crisis: A feminist perspective,” brings together resilience expert Dr. Jennie Stephens, network scientist Dr. Brooke Foucault Welles, and feminist scholar Dr. Suzanna Walters.

The project aims to explore and examine networks of women strengthening community resilience as they respond to a diversity of social crises. Utilizing the strengths of their interdisciplinary cross-scalar collaboration, the research team will focus on understanding how women’s networks respond to disruptions.

“By enhancing understanding of the role of women’s networks in resilience, a more nuanced gendered perspective in resilience research will be strengthened,” the researchers note in an interview with NU’s School of Public Policy and Urban Affairs, adding that they’re committed to having both academic and broad societal impact.

Funding for the project was awarded by GRI in May 2017, along with 10 other interdisciplinary teams, all of which are focused on an array of resilience-related topics. The application period for a second round of GRI seed grant funding closed at the end of January.

Looking ahead, Stephens, Foucault-Welles and Walters will convene a Women in Resilience Symposium in March 2019, in partnership with Northeastern’s Women’s, Gender, and Sexuality Studies Program, where scholars and practitioners will share experiences, best-practices and insights of the strengths and mechanisms of women-based networks.

“After reviewing literature on individual, community, and social resilience, we have come to strongly believe that social networks play a major role in shaping resilience among communities and individuals, and that they are the primary tool that we can leverage to gain a strong quantitative and qualitative understanding of resilience at multiple scales,” the team explains. “We believe the network allows us to see who structures well-being through a networked community and how they do it.”

To learn more about GRI’s seed grant program, visit