Center for Women in Government and Civil Society

The Center for Women in Government and Civil Society

Promoting Gender Justice and an Equitable Society 

For 45 years, CWGCS has been a premier academic research and education center with a social change agenda.  

We expand opportunities and create possibilities for women and their families. The Center for Women in Government & Civil Society is part of the Rockefeller College of Public Affairs & Policy


A world where people of all background participate equally in shaping the future.


CWGCS seeks to deepen and broaden political access, economic opportunities and social inclusion for women by strengthening the capacity of government, nonprofit and business sectors to implement gender-responsive, inclusive and equitable policies, practices and services.

Guiding Principles

  • Participatory decision-making and mutual respect 

  • Recognition and celebration of diversity among women 

  • Sensitivity toward boundaries, including those of geography and identity 

  • Engagement with the community to inform our practices and work 

  • Continuous evaluation of our work towards achieving gender equity 

  • Readiness to embrace challenge as an agent of growth 

Core Values

Equity, Inclusion, Diversity, Integrity, Equality

Strategic Focus

Provide purposeful research and transformative education that: 

  • Fill the knowledge gap about women’s status and facilitate the implementation of evidence-based approaches to advancing equity. 

  • Raise awareness about gender and intersecting inequities. 

  • Promote equal participation of women in all aspects of society. 

The staff and Board of Directors of the Center a rigorous research and education agenda that focuses on advancing women’s status in four emphasis areas: Women & Leadership, Economic Security, Health & Gender-Related Disparities, and Safety & Wellbeing.

Women & Leadership

The lack of balanced representation of women at the decision-making tables in every sector, particularly in public service leadership, is one of the most critical challenges we face as a society today. It is a challenge because, when we do not see women equitably represented at the decision-making tables, we tend to trust government less and have less confidence in the credibility and legitimacy of government. We tend to have less faith in the ability of government to fully represent us and genuinely act in our interests. All of this translates to political alienation, less political participation and an unhealthy democracy. The perception of exclusion of women from decision making can be absolutely destructive to the health of our representative democracy.  

When women are not equally represented in leadership, we tend to treat critical societal needs and issues as “women’s issues.” The needs and issues that affect women disproportionately tend to be marginalized. When we keep in place structures that stigmatize women and shed doubt on their competency and ability to serve as leaders, we tend to maintain the cycle of exclusion. When we do not have role models who look like us, we cannot be what we cannot see. Furthermore, when we narrow the pool of talent from which we are drawing, we diminish our ability to capture the full potential of the workforce. 

While women have made incredible strides, we must work hard to change the balance in gender representation at every decision-making table. To do so, we must help women construct and internalize leadership identities and provide them with the tools to address subtle and invisible forms of gender bias that interfere with their leadership identity construction. 

Economic Security

There are artificial dichotomies that hinder women from accessing high paying careers in science, technologies, engineering and mathematics. This is a matter of economic justice and gender justice, but it is also a matter of maintaining economic development and global competitiveness. Our ability to meet workforce needs mandate that we widen the pool of talent that we are drawing from to include women and minorities. Our changing demographics point to this critical need. Furthermore, research illuminates disparities in economic, political and social outcomes between foreign and native born Americans. We must reform implicit and explicit institutional cultures as well as formal and informal structures that create exclusions and marginalization and that sabotage women. 

Health & Gender-Related Disparities

There is a growing body of evidence that women and men experience health problems differently. These differences are not only functions of biology, socialization and societal norms, but service structures, environments and conditions as well. The service-providing system does not sufficiently take into account the differences between male and female experiences.  There is a need to raise awareness about women’s unique health needs and promote a gender mainstreaming framework that calls for taking into considerations gender differences in polices, practices and protocols.

Safety & Wellbeing

Despite the progress women made, the statistics about women subjected to forms of violence against women in the US and globally are shocking. The persistence of this problem is a clear indication that, as a society, we have not yet succeeded in getting rid of the idea of female subordination and control. The objectification of women in popular culture and in the media exacerbates the problem. 

CWGCS has been relentlessly working to fill the knowledge gaps about the status of women, develop evidence based approaches to advance gender parity, strengthen system responsiveness to the needs of women, raise awareness about existing inequities, and deepen and broaden women's access to educational and economic opportunities. Our vision of a society, free of gender inequities where women and men of all backgrounds participate equally in shaping the future, remains at the center of everything we do. 

Our work must continue until women, locally and globally, are equally represented in leadership, feel equally competent as their male counterparts in running for office and confident in their advancement in a ceiling-free society, and are assured of their access and success in any and all occupations. 

Together, we can keep the momentum alive, and make our collective vision a reality. Get involved with your Center for Women in Government & Civil Society! 

Board of Directors

The Directors are drawn from both the public and private sectors, from agencies and advocacy groups, labor and management, elected and appointed officials, former Fellows on Women & Public Policy and academia.

CWGCS Board of Directors

Karen Carpenter-Palumbo

Terri Crowley
Vice President 

  • Dr. Rukhsana Ahmed 
  • Honorable Dr. Dorcey Applyrs 
  • Dorianne Blanchard 
  • Lola Brabham 
  • Kathleen Brady-Stepien 
  • Dr. Shanleigh Corrallo 
  • Honorable Patricia Fahy 
  • Desiree Farley
  • Dr. Janell Hobson 
  • Canon Kay Hotaling 
  • Honorable Rachel Kretser 
  • Dr. Julie Novkov 
  • Dr. Jennie Law  
  • Honorable Kelli Owens 
  • Susan Pedo 
  • Mary Ellen Piche 
  • Dr. Debernee Privott 
  • Jessica Tanguay 
  • Lauren Tobias 
  • Ruth Walters 

Dina Refki, DA
Executive Director 
Email Dina 

Sue Faerman, PhD
Co- Chair, Women's Leadership Academy
Email Sue

Jisang Kim
Research Associate
Email Jisang

Esther Kim
Research Assistant
Email Esther

Eunhyoung Kim, PhD
Senior Research Associate

Joan Nellhaus
Fiscal Manager
Email Joan

Dr. Debernee Privott
Co-Chair Women’s Leadership Academy
Email Debernee 



Center for Women in Government & Civil Society
Draper 312

135 Western Ave
Albany, NY 12203
United States

Phone 2


Women & Leadership

Leadership education for aspiring, emerging and senior women leaders at critical career junctures. Research to fill the knowledge gap on the status of women leaders and institutional climates locally, nationally and globally.

Academy - Programs

NEW Leadership™ New York

This program strengthens policy knowledge and skills of undergraduate women, while positioning them to become advocates for change. This intensive week-long summer program fosters the principles of leadership through action, and guides participants’ community/campus action projects.


NEW LeadershipTM New York (NLNY), is a program of the Women's Leadership Academy (WLA) at the Center for Women in Government & Civil Society (CWGCS). In partnership with the National Education for Women’s  (NEW) Leadership Network, a bi-partisan program to educate college women about the political process and teach them to become effective leaders, NEW LeadershipTM New York is the first and only program of its kind in New York State.  A week-long, residential undergraduate leadership development program for women, NLNY strives to instill the knowledge, skills and abilities necessary for effective political engagement and community organizing.

The goals of the New Leadership New York program are to increase:

  • Self-efficacy of participants regarding leadership capacity and capabilities
  • Knowledge of political and policy-making processes, and ways by which women can shape the public policy process
  • Leadership principles and approaches of women political and policy leaders; how political campaigns are organized and run
  • The critical importance of diversity in enriching the democratic political participation
  • Awareness and preparedness of career options in the fields of politics and public policy
  • Skills in developing and organizing a campus or community engagement project at their home institutions or communities

Check out the NEW LeadershipTM New York brochure.

Program Sponsors

The Center for Women in Government & Civil Society would like to thank the following sponsors for their generous support of NEW LeadershipTM New York program:

  • Southwest Airlines
  • CWGCS Advisory Board
  • Ernest O. Reaugh Trust Fund

The Center would also like to thank the many individuals -— board members, fellows and friends — who gave generously of their time and resources to make this program a success. Thank you.

Fellowship on Women & Public Policy 

The Fellowship is a six-month, rigorous, and multi-faceted leadership development program primarily for graduate students. It is designed to provide a springboard for aspiring women leaders to pursue careers in public policy while increasing the capacity of New York State government and civil society. Now celebrating its 30th year, the Fellowship has graduated more than 300 women who occupy public policy leadership positions across the state and nation and around the globe.


The Fellowship is a six-month, rigorous, and multi-faceted leadership development program primarily for graduate students. It is designed to provide a springboard for aspiring women leaders to pursue careers in public policy while increasing the capacity of New York State government and civil society. Now celebrating its 30th year, the Fellowship has graduated more than 300 women who occupy public policy leadership positions across the state and nation and around the globe.

The Fellowship Provides

  • Policy-related placements in New York State agencies, the Legislature and statewide nonprofit advocacy organizations.
  • Policy field experience and academic coursework in public policy and advocacy.
  • Professional development and co-curricular activities such as workshops, conferences, policy field trips, and community service opportunities.
  • Network Mentoring Program that gives access to over 300 alumnae fellows and other accomplished policy and social change agents.

Who is eligible?

The Fellowship program is open to graduate students and working professionals who have successfully completed a minimum of 12 graduate credits in any academic discipline and have a minimum of 3-5 years of work experience.

Award and application

The Fellowship offers a $10,000 stipend and tuition assistance for academic coursework. In the spring semester, fellows are full-time graduate students at Rockefeller College with policy-related field placements for thirty hours a week from January through June. Health plans are available.

Access the application.

Click here to learn more about the 2022 Fellows and their placement offices. 

Read about the Fellowship in our brochure.

Please Email CWGCS for more information.

Host a Fellow

CWGCS Seeks Regional Partners

The Fellowship on Women & Public Policy is an intensive leadership development program designed to maximize the skills and contributions of women to achieve excellence in public service. Using a balanced and comprehensive approach to leadership development, the Fellowship combines academic instruction and field placement with personal and professional development.

Interested in Hosting a Fellow?

The Fellowship on Women & Public Policy is an intensive leadership development program designed to maximize the skills and contributions of women to achieve excellence in public service by working in partnership with NYS agency, legislative and nonprofit offices. 
Please contact us or fill out the survey to share with us what you are looking for in a Fellow

What are the Benefits of Hosting a Fellow?

  • Promote excellence in public service. The fellowship is an extraordinary opportunity for organizations to contribute to preparing a new generation of public policy leaders.
  • Fill the pipelines of women’s leadership. By hosting a fellow, agencies are contributing to promoting balanced and effective leadership.
  • Expand organizational opportunities to better serve the needs of women, children, families, the socially disadvantaged and people of color.
  • Bring fresh, informed perspectives. Fellows introduce different ways of analyzing problems and tackling issues.
  • Recruit new talent. The Fellowship helps attract qualified graduates and professionals to the organization, cultivates interest in the agency’s work and helps fill current and future vacancies.
  • Save money. Fellows are highly qualified and cost much less than hiring a full-time employee.
  • Fellows work in their placement organization 30 hours a week, for a six month period from January through June. Your organization gets the benefit of a full-time staff person with no commitment to the Fellow beyond the six month time frame.
    Please Note: All Fellowship placement offices must be located within the Capital District area of New York State.
  • Fellows are highly skilled, graduate students who possess a minimum of 3-5 years of prior work experience.
  • Fellows are supported and coached by CWGCS staff throughout their placement; if an issue arises CWGCS helps to resolve it.
  • The Fellowship program is funded through MOU's with placement agencies. The overall cost of hosting a Fellow is significantly less than hiring a staff member.


Cost Sharing Information

CWGCS strongly encourages organizations to explore cost sharing options. For example, if a number of units/divisions in an agency are working on a joint initiative, they can partner on funding a Fellow who would be shared amongst the units and could potentially be responsible for coordinating the initiative. Alternatively, units can split the time of the Fellow (30 hours per week) amongst them and share the cost of supporting the Fellow. There are several models that can be explored and we would be happy to talk further with you about available options.


If you have questions, please contact CWGCS at [email protected] or by phone at 518-442-3898.

Why Women's Leadership?
  • Women make up 51% of the population, yet they remain underrepresented in policy leadership positions.
  • The underrepresentation of women in leadership positions weakens the democratic foundation of our nation and has critical policy implications for citizens.
  • In order to promote women’s leadership, women must be provided with opportunities to broaden their policy knowledge and engage in arenas of collective action.
  • Broadening women’s opportunities for acquisition of policy knowledge and leadership skills advances the vision of a society free of gender inequities and ensures that the potential of women as leaders is fully realized.
  • Embedded in a public university, CWGCS’ mission is intertwined with strengthening civic engagement and public policy leadership at the state and local levels.
  • CWGCS programs cultivate and nurture values of democratic life, provide a training ground for future civic and political leaders, promote access to policy knowledge and enrich students’ education at the University at Albany.

Economic Security

Awareness-Raising on occupational segregation issues and issues that have a disproportionate and/or adverse impact on women. Research to fill the knowledge gap on education and workforce-related issues adversely affecting women.


The Non-Traditional Employment & Training Program

NET (Non-traditional Employment & Training) Project provides state-wide technical assistance for non-traditional career options to Career and Technical Education institutions that sponsor Carl D. Perkins funded programs. As per the Act, non-traditional occupation has been defined as any occupation in which one gender comprises less than 25% of the employment within that field. For more information, please visit the NET Program website.


The Immigrant Integration Index

The Immigrant Integration Index seeks to deepen understanding of the moderating effects of nativity status, race/ethnicity and gender in shaping the economic outcomes of foreign-born New York State residents.

Health & Gender Based Disparities

Develop evidence based approaches to strengthen healthcare system response and service structures to diverse populations including culturally and linguistically diverse patients.

Safety & Wellbeing

Research & Education to systematically eradicate gender-based violence and increase protections for women.

CWGCS Publications

CWGCS periodically publishes research reports and briefs related to our projects.

Research Topics
Women & Leadership
Economic Security


  • Refki D., Avci B., Krans E, Muro A., Sangdod S. and Bhargava N (2016-2018) Immigrant Integration Index: The New York State Experience.
  • Refki D., Avci, B., Krans, E, and Muro, A. (2016) Immigrant Integration Index: The New York State Experience.
  • Refki D., Avci, B. (2016) Economic Integration of the Most Vulnerable Immigrant Population in New York State. Policy Brief. Center for Women in Government & Civil Society
  • Easter, M; and Refki, D. (2004). Research Facts & Findings: The Changing Face of NYS: Immigrant Youth in Every Community. A quarterly publication by Cornell University (Invited).
  • Easter, M; and Refki, D. (2004). Practice Matters: Creating Successful Programs for Immigrant Youth. A quarterly publication by Cornell University (Invited).

Support CWGCS

Your generosity has played a significant role in keeping the Center for Women in Government & Civil Society (CWGCS) strong. It has enabled us to continue to prepare the next generation of women leaders, keep the vision of balanced leadership on the front burner of public discourse, complete the public record on the status of women, inform decision makers on women’s access to political and economic opportunities, and facilitate the implementation of evidence based gender-responsive approaches that transform institutions.

The generous support of our friends and partners helps us move the women’s agenda forward, and enables us to advance CWGCS’s work:

  • Women and Leadership
  • Economic Security
  • Healthcare Systems & Disparities
  • Safety & Wellbeing

We look forward to your continued involvement with us. Together, we can keep the momentum alive, and make our vision a reality.

Make a Gift online

PLEASE NOTE: To be sure your donation benefits the Center, your gift must be designated to "The Center for Women in Government & Civil Society" (with any additional information)  by typing in the comment field under "Gift Instructions' on the donation form.

You can make a donation with your credit card through a secure server at the University at Albany using this form.

Make a Gift by mail

You or your company can send a tax-deductible contribution to support the Center’s work. Checks should be made out to:
University at Albany Foundation/cwgcs

Mailing address:
Center for Women in Government & Civil Society
Draper 312
135 Western Avenue
Albany, New York 12222