Associate Director of Research

Areas of Expertise: Access to Higher Education, Center on the Economics of Reproductive Health, Civic & Political Engagement, Economic Security for Survivors, Immigration, Job Training Success, Politics, Religion & Women's Public Vision, STEM and Innovation, The Status of Women and Girls, Violence & Safety, Workforce Development & Job Training

Cynthia Hess is the Associate Director of Research at IWPR and Scholar in Residence at American University. In this capacity, she oversees IWPR research on numerous issues including recent projects on workforce development and job training.

Under her tenure, IWPR expanded its longstanding Status of Women in States project and launched an accompanying website, While at IWPR, Cynthia has directed several projects, including on Social Security and immigration, and has contributed to research on women’s activism and leadership, women in STEM, and other topics. Cynthia’s wide-ranging is a sought after expert and has been quoted in a number of media outlets including The Washington Post, Fortune, Governing magazine and, The Boston Globe.

Prior to joining the Institute for Women’s Policy Research, Dr. Hess taught for two years as a visiting faculty member in the Philosophy and Religious Studies Department at St. Mary’s College of Maryland. Her scholarly work has focused on the intersection of feminist theory, theology, and peace studies, and her publications include Sites of Violence, Sites of Grace: Christian Nonviolence and the Traumatized Self as well as articles on terrorism, traumatic violence, and religious peacemaking. Dr. Hess received her Ph.D. from Yale University and her A.B. from Davidson College.


The Future of Care Work: Improving the Quality of America’s Fastest-Growing Jobs

Executive Summary Paid adult care work jobs are expected to increase substantially in the coming years, due to both an aging population and a comparatively low risk of automation for many of these jobs. These jobs, however, are among the lowest quality occupations in the U.S. labor market, with paid adult care workers facing low…

Assets for Equity: Building Wealth for Women in Central Ohio

Executive Summary Building wealth is integral to women’s economic security, good health, and overall well-being. Wealth—the value of assets minus debts—enables women to weather unexpected economic hardships and provides them with resources that allow them to have proactive control over their lives, giving them the chance to pursue educational degrees, business ventures, or other opportunities…

Dreams Deferred: A Survey on the Impact of Intimate Partner Violence on Survivors’ Education, Careers, and Economic Security

Executive Summary Intimate partner violence (IPV)—in which one person seeks to control another through psychological, sexual, financial, and/or physical abuse—has long-lasting health, educational, and economic consequences for survivors. Previous research indicates that IPV has substantial economic costs for both survivors and society; one recent study, for example, estimates the lifetime costs of IPV—including the costs…

Sexual Harassment and Assault at Work: Understanding the Costs

In recent months, the #MeToo movement has raised the visibility of sexual harassment and assault at work and the personal toll it takes on women’s lives to unprecedented levels. Workplace sexual harassment is widespread, with studies estimating that anywhere from almost a quarter to more than eight in ten women experience it in their lifetimes…