Photo of Hilary Lips

Hilary Lips



Training Location(s):

PhD, Northwestern University (1974)

BA, University of Windsor (1970)

Primary Affiliation(s):

Radford University (1989-present)

University of Winnipeg (1974-1989)

Psychology’s Feminist Voices Oral History Interview:

Other Media:

Professional Website

Dr. Hilary Lips at Radford University

Career Focus:

Power; gender and culture; sex differences; women and work.


Hilary Margaret Lips was born on June 17, 1949, in Ottawa, Ontario, Canada. Between 1965 and 1967 she pursued an undergraduate degree in science at the University of Ottawa. From there, in 1967, she went on to study psychology at the University of Windsor. While at Windsor, Lips began noticing that some women there were interested in women's rights and after reading The Feminine Mystique Lips went from thinking that "these women are crack pots, like [there are]... no problems obviously anymore, to realizing that yes... [there are] still...some big problems." This was the beginning of Lips's development as a feminist.

In 1970, after graduating from the University of Windsor with an honors Bachelor degree in psychology, Lips applied to numerous Canadian universities, such as the University of Toronto and York University, for her graduate work. However, she chose to move to Chicago, Illinois with her fiancé and attend Northwestern University. When she first arrived at Northwestern there were no women in the social psychology department, and only two women had been hired by the time she left the university. Lips worked onDonald Campbell's research team to evaluate the Woodlawn service project, a "community-oriented project which was supposed to help the residents of Woodlawn, ... an African American region...where there was a lot of poverty and...problems." Moreover, due to frequent anti-war protests, the university agreed to allow students to create and teach courses themselves. Consequently, in 1973 Lips and her officemate co-taught a seminar course on sex and gender. The materials they used for the course were mimeographed articles, including Naomi Weisstein's now-famous article, Psychology Constructs the Female.

Inspired by the Chicago Women's Liberation Union, "an extremely important and active group at the time," Lips began working with numerous other women to create the Evanston Women's Liberation Center (EWLC). The group started off by meeting in each others' basements until a church gave them an office that they could use as their permanent center. At the beginning they held weekly meetings which 30 to 40 members usually attended: "Most people were pretty collaborative but there was one woman...[who] just thought she knew more than anybody...she terrorized everybody...and [they] let her terrorize [them]...." This type of experience, where one person achieves so much power over others, made Lips both angry and frustrated and "led to a very long and productive interest in power".

At the EWLC, Lips and the other members of the group worked to support women running for office and were attempting "to get the Equal Rights Amendment passed in Illinois." Moreover, they opened a branch of the Chicago Women's Liberation Union's free legal clinic in Evanston. Women usually came to the clinic seeking marriage related-legal help. Even though most of the members of the EWLC did not have any legal expertise, they learned the basic law, answered basic questions, and referred their clients to law students. This was an important group for Lips because it intensified her "feminist analysis of things."

Lips completed her Master's degree in social psychology, in 1973, and her Ph.D., in 1974, at Northwestern University. During the same year Lips took an assistant professor position at the University of Winnipeg, in Manitoba, Canada. She and Nina Colwill, who was a graduate student at the time, worked together on the book The Psychology of Sex Differences, published in 1978. In 1979, due to her continuing interest in power, Lips published the article "Women and Power: Psychology's Search for New Directions." Around the same time, inspired by the pregnancy of one of her colleagues, Lips began to take interest in pregnancy as a research area. At this point, she began to realize that "there were so many ways in which people's opinions were being shaped about this person by the fact that she is pregnant..." Lips began searching for patterns and making comparisons of women's pregnancy experiences. However, she came to see that there was really nothing systematic about this experience. In March, 1979, Lips presented her paper, "Pregnancy: How Unique is it as a Psychological Experience?" at the Association for Women in Psychology conference.

For 1980 to 1987 Lips was an associate professor at the University of Winnipeg. Moreover, in 1982 she joined the Canadian Research Institute for the Advancement of Women (CRIAW) and acted first as a member of the board of directors , then as treasurer, and lastly as a co-chair on their conference planning committee until 1987. The CRIAW was very interdisciplinary, but with few psychologists. The aim of Lips's work there was to lobby for government support for various projects to advance women.

In 1987 Lips was promoted to professor in the Department of Psychology at Winnipeg. By becoming part of a group of women who were interested in feminism, Lips and her collaborators came to form their own unofficial organization called "The Professional Action Committee on Education." They started out by displaying a quiz on famous women at the university open house in order to get people to understand how little they knew about women. "Eventually [they] as a group helped to lay the groundwork and get the women's studies program started." Thus, Lips became the acting coordinator of the women's studies program at the University of Winnipeg in 1988. Lips left the University of Winnipeg in 1989 for a position at Radford University as full professor of psychology.

During the mid-1980s, Lips began publishing cross-culturally and in the early 1990s she began to travel for her research. She was a visiting scholar at the University of Costa Rica's Interdisciplinary Program for Research on Gender from January to April, 1994. Lips attended a feminist conference at the University of Costa Rica where non-academic women were invited to speak and participate: "They were women who were having a really hard time, they were poor, their husbands basically told them what to do and they had to do it...what was so interesting to to me, as a psychologist, [was] that these women, these poor oppressed up [to speak] and ...they were not quite, they were not submissive in their speech....they were very assertive and powerful." Lips was also a visiting scholar at the Chinese Academy of Science, Institute of Psychology, in Beijing in May, 1994. Thus followed numerous publications by Lips on gender, power, and culture.

From 1999 to 2002, Lips was the director of the Women's Studies Program at Radford University. Currently Lips is a professor and the chair of the Psychology Department at Radford. Moreover, Lips worked to found and develop the Center for Gender Studies. Since the Center opened it has became the nucleus for both student and faculty research on gender, has supported visits from distinguished researchers, and has attracted a Fullbright Scholar-in-Residence and a Ford Foundation postdoctoral fellow. Furthermore, the Center runs a yearly student research conference on gender. Lips has also been working on developing the Psy.D. in Counseling Psychology program; Radford University's first doctoral program. Lips currently focuses on pay equity and her article "Rewarding women's work: Equal pay legislation and the struggle to close the gender pay gap" is an example of this work. Lips believes that "pay equity a ...concrete measure of how things are...[one] cannot argue with the fact that women are still earning a whole lot less than men. That might seem like a crass and mundane thing to focus on [however] it is a good indicator of where we stand...when [one studies] that, [one] starts to see all these issues that are as yet to be solved...still the things that women do, whether [it is] the jobs that they mostly hold, or the domestic work that they mostly do, are just not valued by society to the same extent as what men do...We have made a huge amount of progress but the idea that we are there is absolutely wrong...there is a whole lot of work left to be done."

by Anastasia Korostoliev (2010)

To cite this article, see Credits

Selected Works

Lips, H. M. (in press). Rewarding women's work: Equal pay legislation and the struggle to close the gender pay gap. In K. Tilman (Ed.), Challenging cultural assumptions about women's work. Newcastle upon Tyne, UK: Cambridge Scholars Press.

Lips, H. M. (2006). A new psychology of women: Gender, culture and ethnicity. Third Edition. Boston: McGraw-Hill. (Second Edition, 2003; First edition, 1999, Mayfield). Third edition reissued by Waveland Press, 2010.

Lips, H. M. (1991). Women, men and power. Mountain View, CA: Mayfield.

Lips, H. M. (1979). Women and power: Psychology's search for new directions. Atlantis, 5(1), 1-13.

Lips, H. M. & Colwill, N. L. (1978). The psychology of sex differences. Englewood Cliff, NJ: Prentice-Hall.

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