Start A Chapter

How to Start Your Local/Regional Chapter of SWS

SWS Contacts The Membership Committee is in charge of communicating with the local and regional chapters. One or more members of the Membership Committee serve as designated liaisons to the chapters. To find out who the liaison is, go to or contact the Executive Office at

Officers and Members We encourage all members of local and regional SWS chapters to also become a member of the overarching national organization. At least three members are needed to begin a new chapter. In a local chapter, there should be at least one officer who is a member of the national SWS. In regional chapters, there should be at least three officers who are members of the national SWS. A chapter in development may obtain a list of potential local or regional members from the Executive Office

fMeetings Active local and regional chapters must hold at least one meeting per year.

Notification of New Chapter Please inform the Executive Office ( of the chapter’s formation, and they will then forward this information to the Membership Committee’s chapter liaison. Include the name and address of the officers or a contact person or persons, which will be used to facilitate communication between branches of SWS.

Winter Meetings Local and regional chapters should send a representative to the Winter Meeting each year who can then report back about the meeting to the chapter. There will be a regular session, hosted by the Membership Committee, specifically for chapter representatives to address issues and share ideas.

Annual Reports Chapters should submit an annual report each year to Network News (you can find the email address of the current “newsletter editor” at The report should contain the following: current officers and their contact information, the year’s activities (even if it is only a meeting), any issues to be addressed, and any funding requests (see below under “Funding”). The report may be short if your chapter has had minimal activity. Copies of the report should also be emailed to the Membership Chair and the chapter liaison before the Winter Meeting.

Funding The Executive Office will provide up to $250 for local chapters and $500 for regional chapters annually to help support the activities of the chapters, such as a special program or speaker. Your group can request funds from the SWS Treasurer by using the online budget request form. If you have any questions, you can find the contact information for the current Treasurer on the form itself or at You can submit your request for funds at any time except during the two weeks before the Winter and Summer meetings, when everyone is very busy. Chapters that receive funds must submit a summary of the proposed event afterward.

We also encourage local chapters to register as student organizations on campus. Many colleges and universities provide funding for student groups, which can then be used before tapping into SWS funds.

Dues Chapter dues are optional. It is up to your chapter to decide if you would like to charge a small fee for dues to help cover expenses. Some chapters do and others do not. Dues are not shared in any way with the national SWS organization.

Statements Please refrain from issuing statements or taking actions on behalf of the main SWS. Any chapter may issue statements or take actions on its own behalf.

Preliminary Processes Usually a general meeting is called to propose the establishment of a local/regional SWS group. If attendees agree to form a chapter, the group elects or appoints various persons to serve as officers or coordinators. Usually at this meeting, the group also decides on local/regional membership dues, though they are not required. Experience has shown that $8.00 to $10 per person generally provides sufficient funds for activities, although it may be different in your chapter.

Chapter activities vary depending on the needs of their members. At the second meeting, most groups like to start with a major “kick off” event in order to attract more members and to establish the group. For example, you might invite a noted local/regional speaker or have a panel discussion on some issue crucial to the membership, such as “How can one balance a career and a family?” or “What does it mean to do feminist sociology?” You can get good ideas for events by reading the reports from other chapters in Network News.

At later meetings, activities may include:
• “How-to” workshops concerning professional development, e.g., how to write a vitae, how to publish, how to prepare for a job interview, how to find a non-academic job, how to counteract sexual harassment on the job, how to obtain a grant, how to write a dissertation.
• Panels to discuss controversial issues in the profession, such as whether feminist research methods differ from those of traditional research.
• Paper presentations and feedback.
• Pot-luck dinners for fun, networking, and mutual support.
• Volunteer activities in your community.

Many local/regional SWS groups participate in various innovative activities, such as:
• Organize an email list to quickly inform members about congressional legislation requiring calls or letters, or about new jobs in the area, etc.
• Contribute grants to other feminist groups or causes .
• Send a local representative to other feminist groups in the area to provide mutual help and to exchange information on joint projects.
• Bring in special interest speakers on local/regional political issues.
• Newsletter mailings that can include things like announcements of upcoming events, new teaching/research/other job availability in the area, items of general interest to the membership, reports on past meetings, etc.
• Sponsor sessions or members’ meeting/hospitality room at regional sociological conventions where SWS members can network.

The above are only some of the many activities in which local/regional groups participate. We encourage chapters to share their ideas for activities in their reports published under “Regional News” in Network News, by talking to the Membership Chair, or by contacting other local/regional groups.

Practical Tips

A chapter in the initial stage of development may apply for financial assistance for postage or other purposes. Up to $35 in assistance may be obtained by contacting the Executive Office. (Please save and submit your receipts for reimbursement.)

If your membership is somewhat spread out geographically, it helps to rotate meetings between various key locations. All members of the chapter can then share the burden of traveling a long distance equally. If your group covers an entire region (i.e., the South), your membership will probably rely heavily on communication by newsletter.

If your group is isolated geographically, try to draw members from related social science disciplines (history, anthropology, political science, etc.) — many women in such departments share the same professional and feminist concerns and it will add diversity to the chapter.

If your group meets with caution or resistance from other women or from your department, talk to the Membership Chair, who may be able to offer advice.

If your group wishes to recruit more non-academic sociologists, past experience indicates that contacting such people is more difficult (there are no centralized listings of names and affiliations). A combination of networking (using the contacts with non-academic sociologists already possessed by the group) and phone calling to various agencies will produce a list of names to contact.

Encourage local members to join the national SWS. They will receive access to the members’ newsletter Network News, the listserv, and the journal Gender & Society.

Be sure to keep in touch and share information in the Network News. We all benefit from it! Good luck!