Catt Center staff members publish research

CATEGORIES: September 2023, Voices

Two Catt Center staff members have recently published and been interviewed about their research, with another publication due out this fall.

Whisper networks, informal networks people use to share and receive information about sexual harassment, hostile sexism, and other workplace abuse, are essential in organizations where significant power differentials can be taken advantage of. Recent articles and podcast interviews by Dr. Carrie Ann Johnson, the interim research and outreach coordinator at the Catt Center, have addressed these networks, revealing how they serve as protective mechanisms because of slow and often ineffective formal reporting processes. Findings based on comprehensive interviews with people who have participated in whisper networks offer insights into the motivations behind these networks and the challenges people face when navigating workplace harassment. As more than a third of U.S. women encounter sexual harassment in the workplace, Johnson’s research sheds light on a critical aspect of modern workplace dynamics and underscores the urgency of addressing both formal reporting deficiencies and the rise of whisper networks as a grassroots solution.

Johnson’s dissertation is available through the Iowa State University Library. Johnson has published discussions of her research in The Conversation in January (“‘Whisper networks’ thrive when women lose faith in formal systems of reporting sexual harassment”) and Frontiers in Communication in May (“The purpose of whisper networks: a new lens for studying informal communication channels in organizations”), and she was interviewed about whisper networks on the podcast Academic Life (New Books Network). For more information about Johnson’s research, visit her at

The University of Michigan Press just released “Walking the Gendered Tightrope: Theresa May and Nancy Pelosi as Legislative Leaders” by Melissa Haussman, professor of political science at Carleton University in Ottawa, CA; and Catt Center director Karen Kedrowski. The book is inspired by the spectacle of the intra-party leadership challenges each leader faced in December 2018 after May and Pelosi successfully achieved the near-impossible tasks of negotiating Brexit (which was then pushed through by May’s successor) and winning the majority in the House of Representatives, respectively. In analyzing both women’s legislative careers, Haussman and Kedrowski conclude that May’s and Pelosi’s successes were due to their ability to walk a tightrope between gendered expectations and the ability to fully exercise their powers of office. The book is available from the University of Michigan Press.

Earlier this year, Kedrowski also published “Political Events: The 2020 Iowa Caucus”in the Journal of Hospitality and Tourism Cases (volume 10, no. 3), coauthored with Eric D. Olson, formerly of Iowa State University. This short article provides a “how to” for teacher-scholars who wish to create a simulation of the Iowa Caucus in their courses.

In 2022, Kedrowski also researched the Equal Rights Amendment at the federal level and in Iowa to create a free high school curriculum covering the history and debates surrounding the ERA from the 1920s to the present. Her research into the history and issues of the ERA in Iowa will be published in the fall issue of The Annals of Iowa.