Archive for the ‘Equity in the News’ Category

Last week, New Hampshire inaugurated Maggie Hassan (D) as its governor, but she’s hardly the only woman representing that state. This month, New Hampshire became the first state to send an all-female delegation to Congress, with Carol Shea-Porter (D) and Ann McLane Kuster (D) holding its two House seats and Jeanne Shaheen (D) and Kelly Ayotte (R) serving in the Senate. When Hassan took the oath of office, she was sworn in by New Hampshire Supreme Court Chief Justice Linda Dalianis, the first woman to hold the state court’s highest position.

New Hampshire has an established record of electing women to office. In 1999, it was the first state to concurrently have a woman governor, state Senate president, and state House speaker. In 2008, its 24-person state Senate became the first majority-female legislative body in the country, with 13 women and 11 men.

This is a fantastic achievement, but it’s not limited to New Hampshire. Women broke through barriers across the country in November. Every U.S. female senator who was up for re-election won, and a record 20 women are serving in the Senate.

AAUW and our partner Running Start, which trains women to run for elected office, are celebrating the record-breaking election. Every year, we collaborate to encourage and train college women to run for student government with Elect Her–Campus Women Win. As 2012 showed, when women run, they succeed.

How do you think we can encourage more women to run for elected office?

AAUW Public Policy Director Lisa Maatz and New Hampshire Representative Carol Shea-Porter

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Protestors of the New Delhi gang rape gather on December 30 in Bangalore, India.

Less than a week after the 16 Days of Activism against Gender Violence Campaign — which included hundreds of events demonstrating the solidarity of women around the world — ended, an all too frequent event happened in India — a rape. I’ve blogged about rape before, but this attack captured the attention and outrage of the world.

For more than two weeks, thousands of citizens in India and around the world have protested the brutal gang rape and torture of a 23-year-old Indian woman (called “braveheart” in many news stories) while she and her male companion were riding a bus in New Delhi after leaving a movie theater. She ultimately died from injuries suffered during the brutal assault.

We’ve all heard the tragic story but are unable to comprehend the horrific details. And we can’t avoid the ugly truth — violence against women is a horrendous, appalling, and pervasive reality that has placed an indelible stain on the world. The crime sparked national and international outrage, vigils, and demands to end the culture of rape. It empowered people to stand up and demand action and change from the Indian government and police.

And now, weeks after the horrific event, the men accused of the gang rape have been formally charged with rape, murder, and kidnapping.

Unfortunately, rape is a systemic problem throughout India. According to the National Crime Records Bureau, in India, a woman is raped every 20 minutes, and in 2010, more than 24,000 rapes were reported. And there are undoubtedly many rapes that go unreported — mothers, wives, daughters, sisters, aunts, or friends who become the targets of violence that can end in murder or suicide.

Who can grasp the inexplicable violence directed at women and girls worldwide and the state- and government-sanctioned evasion of protection, responsibility, and justice? India, like many nations, has vowed to take action to make women safer and provide better protection against violence — a daunting challenge in a culture and world that do not value women.

In the United States, nearly 1 in 5 women surveyed said they had been raped or had experienced an attempted rape at some point. And survivors of violence need support. This year, one of AAUW’s Community Action Grantees is Safe Connections, which provides counseling and support services to women and teens in the St. Louis metropolitan area who have experienced domestic violence, sexual assault, or childhood sexual abuse. Another grantee, the African Services Committee’s Project Aimée, serves low-income African immigrant survivors of domestic and gender-based violence in New York City with a combination of legal services, education, and advocacy.

The need for these kinds of programs has grown as violence against women becomes more visible throughout the world. But the shocking tragedy in India could be a turning point. In order to stop this ever-increasing trend of violence, women need action, not empty promises.

We all need to keep the pressure on governments to put into action promises made to eliminate violence against women. Do it for yourself. Do it for a mother, wife, daughter, sister, aunt, or friend. You can make your voice heard on Capitol Hill by urging your legislators to support the Violence Against Women Reauthorization Act. It’s long overdue. But laws can’t change hearts or minds. That must come from within. What can you do in your community to stop violence against women?

Going to a movie and riding a bus should not cost a woman her life — a woman known as “braveheart.” May her death not be in vain.

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Like many people across the country, AAUW and Running Start are celebrating the record number of women who are now getting settled in the 113th Congress. Every year, we collaborate to encourage and train college women to run for student government with Elect Her–Campus Women Win, and these congresswomen exemplify many of the lessons we teach during those trainings.

Women in 113 Congress

Some of the women of the 113th Congress

We always start out our Elect Her trainings with a discussion of why having women in office is a win-win for everyone. Women’s political representation comes with many benefits:

  • More women in government results in a more balanced and productive work environment. Just ask Sen. Susan Collins (R-ME), who believes more women at the table would have eased discussions of the fiscal cliff. “With all deference to our male colleagues, women’s styles tend to be more collaborative,” she said. Senator Barbara Boxer (D-CA) agrees: She says women “know how to compromise and how to set our egos aside. It’s more part of our DNA.”
  • Also, when women are at the table, government tends to be more ethical and less corrupt. This year we will watch as longtime consumer advocate and fighter of Wall Street corruption Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) takes her seat on the Senate Banking Committee.

If women bring so much to the table, why don’t more women run for office?

  • It’s no secret that women face much more media scrutiny than their male peers. Just this week, a profile of freshman Rep. Kyrsten Sinema (D-AZ) noted her love of designer clothing and accused her of — get this — talking too much.
  • The adage “you can’t be what you can’t see” holds true as well. Many women think government is not for them because they don’t see women in office. That is about to change, thanks to the most diverse Congress in history. We’re continuing to see that government is no longer just for white men — anyone can run for office and win. The demographics and stereotypes are dissolving. Among many other firsts, Rep. Tulsi Gabbard (D-HI) is the first practicing Hindu to be elected to Congress. She was even sworn in using the Bhagavad-Gita!

At every Elect Her training, we end with a few more words of encouragement and reasons why college women should run for office:

As the spring 2013 Elect Her trainings get underway next month, I am excited to continue talking about and learning from the women of the 113th!


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reshma_saujaniReshma Saujani was born in the United States to Ugandan refugee parents fleeing Idi Amin’s violent dictatorship. Her parents’ experiences in Uganda triggered a personal concern in Saujani for the welfare of Americans; she wanted to ensure that citizens had a political voice as well as economic opportunities. And that’s just what she did!

Saujani is a former deputy public advocate for New York City and the former executive director of the Fund for Public Advocacy. During her time in public office she promoted civic engagement and government accountability. By taking the lead on projects that aimed to increase citywide job and economic growth, engaging with immigrant communities, supporting small businesses, and improving education. Saujani made sure she could improve the quality of life for New Yorkers.

But Saujani also takes the time to empower girls through Girls Who Code, a nonprofit she founded with the mission to educate, inspire, and equip girls ages 13–18 with the skills and resources necessary to pursue careers in science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM). Her organization works to fill the gender gap within the STEM fields and give girls the courage and support to take on these areas where they are often discouraged.

Saujani is a woman who cannot be stopped: a public servant, a leader, a role model, and an inspiration. She has given back to her community and leads with a vision that is bigger than herself. Her investment in bettering the lives of girls by encouraging them that they can do whatever they set their minds to pushes me to do more too. Saujani’s actions demonstrate what a leader should be. She leads for others. She leads selflessly and with passion.

With her upcoming book, Women Who Don’t Wait in Line, she advocates for women to support each other and step outside of boundaries that society has deemed normal for women. I am extremely excited to meet her at this year’s National Conference for College Women Student Leaders (NCCWSL). I look forward to listening to her empowering words and learning about her journey. I look up to Saujani, and she encourages me to move forward without fear of failure and to embrace and support other women around me. She is indeed a motivator.

Meet Saujani, a 2013 Woman of Distinction, at NCCWSL 2013! What will you be eager to ask her?

Editors’ note: In an earlier version, we erroneously stated that Saujani was herself a refugee from Uganda. In fact, she is the daughter of political refugees and was born in the United States.

This post was written by AAUW Leadership Programs Intern Nzinga Shury.

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On January 7, the University of Notre Dame football team will compete to win a U.S. national title. And playing on the team, to the cheers of millions of people, will be two men who, in separate incidents, allegedly raped and sexually assaulted two college women.

Notre Dame vs Syracuse photo courtesy of ctaloi on Flickr Creative Commons

That makes me really mad.

I found out this week that one of the two women committed suicide 10 days after reporting the assault — and receiving a shocking lack of help from campus police and administrators. It wasn’t until the media drew attention to the assault that the campus finally held a disciplinary hearing for one of the accused players six months after the woman’s death. He was found “not responsible” and never sat out a single game. The second player was never charged because the woman he assaulted knew what had happened to the first woman and decided  not to report the crime.

Notre Dame is not the only campus with a sexual assault problem, but attacks don’t make national news every time they occur. Still, many campuses have made headlines for incidents of assault in the past few months, including Amherst College, the University of Montana, and Boston University.

These stories underscore alarming statistics; for instance, 19 percent of college women experience completed or attempted sexual assault or rape. Most perpetrators on campus get away with their crimes, in part because reporting is so low. So many of the few people who do speak out face a lack of response, victim-blaming, or retaliation.

Before they even reported the attacks by Notre Dame football players, the young women allegedly faced threats of retaliation from the friends and teammates of the two men.

As an advocate working to end campus sexual assault, I am disheartened to hear these stories, not only because I know that yet another person has been needlessly traumatized but also because cases like these show how the “right” answer — telling someone to report the crime — may not always be the safest option for the victim or the best way to ensure justice is served.

This is one reason why I feel so strongly about the passage of the Campus Sexual Violence Elimination (SaVE) Act.

The SaVE Act is a provision included in the Senate version of the Violence Against Women Act,  which Congress has yet to reauthorize. The SaVE Act would require schools to do more about sexual violence, including creating plans to prevent this violence and educating victims about their rights and resources.

This act is essential since most campuses need to do much more to prevent sexual assault; they need to penalize perpetrators, and they need to do more to help survivors.

If you’re mad like I am, here are three ways to channel your anger:

  1. Urge your representatives to reauthorize VAWA including campus safety provisions from the Campus SaVE Act.
  2. If you know someone on a college or university campus or are on a campus yourself, download and share AAUW’s Campus Sexual Assault Program in a Box. It’s full of useful information about resources like prevention programs and awareness campaigns for campuses.
  3. Share and download a free iPhone and Android app called Circle of 6, which allows friends to help each other out of potentially unsafe situations before they escalate into violence.

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“In Tucson, we like our glass ceilings broken.”
— Tucson, Arizona, Mayor Jonathan Rothschild, as quoted in the Daily Wildcat

The University of Arizona made history last Friday. For the first time since it was established 127 years ago, the university inaugurated a woman president, Ann Weaver Hart. This isn’t the first time that Hart has made history. In 2006, she became the first woman president at Temple University and was one of the first women presidents at the University of New Hampshire before that. It’s no secret that women have been traditionally underrepresented in senior administrator roles in higher education. However, women like Hart are certainly breaking barriers for future women leaders.

Ann Weaver Hart

Ann Weaver Hart (photo: Robert Alcaraz/Arizona Daily Wildcat)

In one of her first actions at Temple, Hart initiated a fund through the Office of International Programs to help students pay for the cost of their first passports. For students who find that studying abroad is too expensive, the Ann and Randy Hart Passport Scholarship helps alleviate their financial worries, at least a little. Hart’s unique vision continued to raise the profile of Temple University during her tenure as she led the way for campus renovations, infrastructure expansions, and a new Office of Sustainability. Her legacy at Temple University seems to be a lasting one, and she has already begun to lay out her vision for U of A.

I am thrilled to see that Hart, an AAUW member, is leading one of our AAUW college/university partner member campuses, and I can’t wait to see her vision in action.

This post was written by AAUW College/University Relationships Manager Christine Hernandez.

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Since 1987, Iowa has required that all state boards and commissions be gender-balanced: There must be an equal number of women and men on each board. In 2009, the state passed a new law requiring gender balance on all county and city boards and commissions established by the state’s Iowa Code. Boards were given until January 1, 2012, to begin implementation of the law. AAUW members in Iowa have been a part of this fight for women’s representation from the start. One branch in particular is taking exemplary steps to make it happen.

Photo credit Flickr Creative Commons

United States and Iowa State flags

The AAUW Clarion (IA) Branch recently formed the Wright County Women’s Coalition, led by Florine Swanson and Diane Edwards. The group was designed to encourage boards and activists in the community to work together for gender equity. The coalition, which includes a representative from every town in the county, works to raise awareness about the new law among women in the community and current board members. Last summer, the coalition joined with the Friends of the Iowa Commission on the Status of Women and the Carrie Chapman Catt Center for Women and Politicsat Iowa State University to look into the actual enforcement of the law. The coalition funded an intern to research the status of the law at the county and state levels to see which areas were meeting the standards and which were not.

The coalition’s findings show that progress is being made, but there is still work to be done. Every county in Iowa has at least one board that’s balanced, and two counties are already 100 percent balanced. While the majority of boards continue to be dominated by men, some boards tend to be the opposite: Library boards, for example, are mostly made up of women.

Statewide, government-level gender balance might seem like a big endeavor to take on, but the amazing AAUW members in Iowa have some wisdom to share on their growing successes. Swanson recommends getting to know your boards and commissions. Building good relationships is invaluable — that way boards can be partners, not adversaries. It’s also helpful to put gender equity in perspective for them: If members think about how talented their own wives, daughters, and sisters are, promoting more women on boards seems natural. At the city level, the city manager is your best connection because she or he can make recommendations to the councils and keep you informed about what appointments are coming up. You can find more advice about working with local boards here.

The Wright County Women’s Coalition has worked to advocate for and implement the new law, with visible results. Last April, Des Moines City Councilman Skip Moore was inspired by AAUW’s efforts and proposed that all city boards and commissions be gender-balanced — even ones that aren’t required by the Iowa Code to be balanced.

AAUW members fight for these and other equity issues every day. Let us know in the comments what work your branch has been doing. Or e-mail us your story at advocacy@aauw.org.

This post was written by AAUW Public Policy Intern Dani Nispel.

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In July 2009, President Obama announced the American Graduation Initiative, a higher education plan that focuses on community colleges. With an increase in federal support, including a recent $500 million grant from the U.S. Department of Labor, community colleges are playing a key role in higher education dialogue, and enrollment has risen in the last decade. Community colleges provide affordable education that can help students earn an associate degree, transfer to a four-year institution, or gain valuable job skills. But behind this work are leaders —community college presidents.

Merrimack College in North Andover, MA on September 23, 2010.The American Association of Community Colleges recently released a report that found that in 2012, female leaders of community colleges had a higher median base salary than male leaders had. However, when benefits were taken into account, male presidents made slightly more than women. The report also found that about 75 percent of surveyed community college CEOs plan to retire in the next 10 years. With an increase in the number of women community college presidents since 1991, this may be a prime opportunity for women to fill vacancies at the CEO level.

While academia has been the traditional pipeline to college presidency, this burgeoning era of new community college leadership calls for transformational leaders who have a mix of skills, behaviors, and experiences. AAUW has empowered women to lead for more than 130 years. For academic leaders, this advancement has come from opportunities like our fellowships and grants and networking with other AAUW members and supporters. It’s important for women leaders to mentor and champion the next generation of college women administrators. In fact, research shows that it’s critical for women to identify and build relationships with mentors in order for them to become university presidents.

Do you have words of wisdom for aspiring college administrators?

This post was written by AAUW College/University Relationships Manager Christine Hernandez.

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AAUW is proud to support National Coming Out Day and environments in which everyone is free from discrimination.  Read more about our commitment to the civil rights of lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and queer (LGBTQ) folks.

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In August, AAUW signed on to an amicus brief to the U.S. Supreme Court urging it to uphold affirmative action in college admissions. The case, Fisher v. University of Texas, will be argued before the court on Wednesday.

One of AAUW’s key issues is increased access to higher education, and in accordance with our member-adopted Public Policy Program, we support affirmative action programs that establish equal opportunity for women and minorities and that improve gender, racial, and ethnic diversity in educational institutions.

via Flickr user Kaplan International CollegesIn 2008, Abigail Fisher applied for undergraduate admission to the University of Texas, Austin. UT’s undergraduate admissions policy automatically admits Texas high school seniors who graduate in the top 10 percent without any consideration of race or other factors. For applicants who are not in the top 10 percent, UT looks at several factors to make admissions decisions, including race, “personal achievement,” and “special circumstances.” Fisher was not in the top 10 percent of her high school class and was not admitted to UT. She went on to attend and graduate from another school.

However, Fisher filed a lawsuit against UT, arguing that since the university had already implemented a race-neutral policy to increase minority admissions, it should not have an additional race-conscious policy and that the policy should be abolished. No court has sided with Fisher’s argument, but in a break from its usual practice, the Supreme Court agreed to hear the case.

The court’s decision to hear the case raises concerns that the court is looking to overturn the 2003 Grutter v. Bollinger decision, which allowed public colleges and universities to consider race in admissions decisions. The Supreme Court ruled that while these schools could not use a point system to increase minority enrollment, they could take race into account in vaguer ways to ensure academic diversity. AAUW signed on to an amicus brief in Grutter that supported affirmative action in higher education.

Many legal experts believe the court’s current composition could lead it to reverse Grutter and rule against UT’s race-conscious admissions policy. AAUW would be disappointed with that decision, which is why we signed on to an amicus brief in support of UT’s position. We were not alone — 73 amicusbriefs have been filed in support of UT’s policy.

AAUW believes that efforts to constrain or end affirmative action programs threaten the gains of women and minorities. We will continue to monitor the Supreme Court’s arguments and decision and to work to promote education for all.

Read more about AAUW’s position on affirmative action.

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