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Archive for the ‘Women and Work’ Category

face_of_pay_equity_150x225My first job in Washington, D.C., was at the Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism (RAC). The first piece of legislation I worked on as a RAC legislative assistant in 2010 was the Paycheck Fairness Act, a bill that would make much-needed improvements to the Equal Pay Act, which was originally passed in 1963 to prohibit wage discrimination based on sex. As we enter the 50th anniversary year of this landmark legislation, it is important to acknowledge how far we’ve come — and how far we still have to go.

Back in fall 2010, the Fair Pay Coalition, led by AAUW, was gearing up for a Senate vote on the Paycheck Fairness Act. The bill had passed the House in January 2009 with a bipartisan majority, and President Obama had pledged to sign it if it came to his desk. At the RAC, I worked with the National Council of Jewish Women to mobilize the faith community in support of the Paycheck Fairness Act. We tripled the number of faith organizations that signed an interfaith letter to the Senate and brought these organizations into the Fair Pay Coalition (some of the groups continue to be active in the broader coalition today).

Unfortunately, a procedural motion to consider the Paycheck Fairness Act fell two votes short of the 60-vote threshold in the Senate. It was my first big legislative fight — and my first defeat. Yet as I looked around the AAUW boardroom during the coalition debrief a few weeks after the vote, I saw colleagues who had been fighting this fight for years, some for their entire careers. I realized that this issue extended far beyond the two months I had worked on it. The truth is, it goes back to 50 years ago, when the Equal Pay Act was first passed.

Today I am proud to work at AAUW, particularly now that we have entered the 50th anniversary year of the Equal Pay Act. AAUW continues to lead the fight for pay equity because even though we have made considerable progress in narrowing the wage gap in the last 50 years, we still have a ways to go. For the last decade, women working full time have typically earned 77 cents for every dollar their male counterparts earned. An 18-cent pay gap exists even when comparing the salaries of male and female graduates one year out of college. Wage discrimination affects the economic security of families today and affects women’s retirement security down the road. Moreover, pay equity is not only a women’s issue; it is a family issue, as women are increasingly the primary breadwinners in their households.

The 50th anniversary of the Equal Pay Act is a somewhat bittersweet occasion. On the one hand, we have much to celebrate about this landmark law, which predates the Civil Rights Act of 1964, the law typically thought of as the most significant piece of civil rights legislation. On the other hand, even the best laws need to be updated over time, and 50 years is too long without an update to the Equal Pay Act.

I look forward to building on this important work that I began at the RAC and continue to pursue at AAUW. The official 50th anniversary of the Equal Pay Act is June 10, 2013, but let’s begin talking about pay equity now and keep it up for the rest of the year. Someday soon I hope to sit at the AAUW boardroom table again and see my colleagues with smiles on their faces because of a pay equity victory — and I better not have to wait another 50 years for that to happen.

AAUW will be celebrating the 50th anniversary of the Equal Pay Act at our 2013 National Convention in New Orleans. On the afternoon of June 10, join us for an anniversary panel featuring Lilly Ledbetter and AAUW’s own Lisa Maatz. Register today so you don’t miss out!

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capitol dome

The 112th Congress officially adjourned Wednesday, ending what’s been described as the least productive Congress ever. For some context, just 219 bills passed by the 112th Congress have been signed into law. The Congress before that passed 383 bills, and the one before that saw 460 bills signed into law. Clearly, a lot of important work was left unfinished and will have to be taken up by the 113th.

For one thing, the 112th didn’t pass the Paycheck Fairness Act (PFA), a much-needed update to the Equal Pay Act of 1963. AAUW is a strong supporter of this legislation and led efforts to bring it before both chambers for a vote. Unfortunately, the PFA didn’t get the required procedural votes, so it will have to be reintroduced in the 113th Congress.

Another item still on Congress’ to-do list is the passage of an inclusive Violence Against Women Act (VAWA) reauthorization. The Senate passed an AAUW-supported, bipartisan, comprehensive VAWA in April 2012, while the House of Representatives passed a different, damaging bill the following month. Due to resistance in the House, the two bills were not reconciled, and the reauthorization was not passed.

In addition to PFA and VAWA, the 113th Congress will face many other items on its agenda:

  • The Elementary and Secondary Education Act, which sets parameters for K–12 education and funding, is due for reauthorization. AAUW will be paying attention to many issues during this process, including
    • upholding Title IX protections,
    • opposing private school vouchers,
    • ensuring that charter schools are held to the same standards as other schools,
    • requiring that schools be held accountable for demonstrating that they are meeting educational goals for all students,
    • opposing single-sex education programs that don’t pay proper attention to civil rights protections, and
    • supporting requirements that schools collect comprehensive data on student achievement and graduation.
  • The Higher Education Act, which is the most significant federal law for American colleges and universities, is up for reauthorization. AAUW supports increasing access to higher education for traditional and nontraditional students.

We’re also keeping pressure on the Obama administration. AAUW believes President Obama should pay attention to women’s priorities, especially since women’s votes decided the 2012 election. See AAUW’s list of what Obama should do on day one of his new term.

These are some of our top priorities for the 113th Congress. What are yours?

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Piggy Bank with back to school messageIn this installment of our ongoing Budget 101 blog series, we’re exploring what was in the “fiscal cliff” package passed by Congress over the New Year’s holiday. Late last night, the House of Representatives passed the Senate bill to pull us back from the fiscal cliff — the combination of tax and spending changes that were set to go into effect today and could have sent the U.S. economy back into a recession. But the deal, which President Obama is expected to sign, dealt only with the tax changes and merely delayed the spending cuts known as sequestration.

AAUW commends lawmakers from both parties for coming together to reach a true compromise (look up how your senators and representative voted). Like any compromise, the deal is far from perfect, but it includes several AAUW-supported provisions that will help women and their families, such as

  • Returning to the Clinton-era tax rates for high-income earners while continuing the current rates for individuals earning less than $400,000 and families earning less than $450,000
  • Extending the American Opportunity Tax Credit, an AAUW-supported $2,500 tax credit to help college students and their families pay for tuition and related expenses
  • Ending the payroll tax holiday and returning to the previous rate of withholding, therefore protecting Social Security’s long-term solvency
  • Extending federal unemployment insurance for another year, benefiting those unemployed for longer than 26 weeks
  • Delaying the automatic, across-the-board spending cuts for two months, giving Congress more time to find a way to protect key programs like K–12 funding, Pell Grants, and family planning from sequestration

Although the automatic spending cuts have been delayed, they are still dangerous. In the next two months, Congress will need to find a solution to avoid deep cuts to important investments such as education, funding for civil rights enforcement, women’s health programs, and workforce training programs.

obama fiscal cliffThe 113th Congress, which begins on January 3, is in for a bumpy next few months. The sequestration delay is projected to end at roughly the same time the United States hits its newly set debt limit (early March), setting the scene for a pitched political fight. This will likely be followed by another battle when the current appropriations bill that is funding the government expires in late March.

AAUW is a nonpartisan organization, but we’re also multi-partisan, representing a variety of political affiliations and viewpoints. Despite our differences, AAUW members come together to get things done and serve our communities. Congress should do the same. AAUW members will continue to press Congress to support budget policies that further the principles of fairness and fiscal responsibility and protect women and their families.

Make your voice heard! Sign up for AAUW’s Action Network and speak up for women and families.

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Image courtesy of Kristina HalonaKristina Halona was one of those kids who were obsessed with anything that flew. She remembers the exact moment when she looked up at a low-flying jet traveling over the isolated Navajo reservation in Arizona where she grew up. The awesome power of the machine, the stark contrast between its technology and her life without running water or electricity, changed her. From that moment, Halona was always outspoken about her love of engineering. In high school, a combination of talent and supportive teachers helped Halona find opportunities and mentors in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM).

A school counselor told Halona about an intensive multi-year STEM summer camp at Phillips Academy in Andover, Massachusetts. Teachers and counselors also encouraged her to join an after-school STEM club and travel to local universities to meet professors and students. Through these experiences she was able to develop her skills, talk with engineering professionals, and begin to see herself as an aerospace engineer. Even though there are few women — especially Native American women — in the STEM fields, Halona never doubted her path. When Halona first attended the Phillips Academy camp as part of the Massachusetts Science for Minority Students program, she had to work hard to catch up to the students who came from privileged backgrounds. That summer marked her first trip outside of Arizona and her first time on an airplane, but despite being out of her element, Halona held her own and successfully completed all three summers of rigorous courses

With all her hard work and success, Halona is still very aware of what her life could have been like — Native American teen dropout rates are double the national average. Even more seriously, she notes that youth suicide rates on tribal reservations are up to 10 times higher than among the national population.

Halona in action

Halona in action

While at Arizona State University, Halona was elected to be the student representative to the board of directors of the American Indian Science and Engineering Society (AISES), of which she had been a member and chapter president for years. Through that position she met her mentor John Herrington, the first Native American astronaut to fly in space, who was also on the AISES board. Meeting Herrington and learning from his mentorship was a meaningful opportunity to Halona since there are not many Native Americans in STEM fields. In 2002, Halona was invited to join Herrington’s family to watch his shuttle launch at the Kennedy Space Center. Today Halona is a flight test engineer at Raytheon Company in New Mexico.

Halona received her AAUW Selected Professions Fellowship in 2008 while getting her master’s degree in engineering at George Washington University. When she attended AAUW events, she felt in awe of all the members and her fellow grantees. But Halona says that being among them opened her eyes and inspired her to keep going.

A spark ignited in Halona the day she saw that jet flying over her, and it never went out. Halona has lived by her own advice: “No matter your background or where you come from, never give up.”

Halona’s Selected Professions Fellowship was sponsored by the Leona Buckley Miller American Fellowship, established in 1999, and the Flora Rawls American Fellowship, established in 1981.

This post was written by AAUW Fellowships and Grants Intern Emily McGranachan.

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face_of_pay_equity_150x225The new year may be right around the corner, but it will take an extra four months for women’s earnings to catch up to men’s earnings from the year before. The symbolic day when women’s earnings finally make up the 23 percent difference is known as Equal Pay Day. As usual, AAUW will host special events and distribute resources to help celebrate the work that has been done and that still needs to be done to ensure women receive equal pay for equal work.

It is never too early to start preparing for Equal Pay Day — April 9, 2013. This year will be especially important, as 2013 marks the 50th anniversary of the Equal Pay Act.

What will your state or branch do to observe Equal Pay Day? AAUW has updated our Pay Equity Resource Kit with suggested ideas for action, facts and figures about pay equity, the latest AAUW research, and step-by-step instructions for planning activities. Here is just a sampling of what the resource kit can help you accomplish:

  • Organize reading and discussion sessions. Lilly Ledbetter’s book, Grace and Grit, would make a great selection!
  • Issue a press release for Equal Pay Day. A sample press release is included in the resource kit.
  • Hold in-district meetings with your members of Congress. The resource kit walks you through the process of requesting a meeting, preparing for that meeting, and following up with members of Congress and their staff afterward.
  • Complete a workplace pay audit for your office, and encourage branch and state members to do the same.
  • Organize a petition to show that there is a high level of popular support for pay equity legislation.
  • Conduct a public information campaign. You can raise awareness about the need for legislation to end discrimination against women in the labor market.
  • Ask your members of Congress and state legislators to sign a fair pay pledge. The resource kit includes sample pledges.

Download the complete AAUW Pay Equity Resource Kit today to get started! You can also request pay equity stickers and other materials by e-mailing advocacy@aauw.org.

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If you’re a young woman majoring in science, technology, engineering, or mathematics (STEM), it can be hard to get away from the widespread bias against women in the STEM fields. That’s why more and more colleges and universities each year are helping women students build communities by creating STEM sororities on their campuses.

STEM sorority sisters encourage each other to succeed in their fields and to stick with a STEM major. Even when the going gets tough, these women know they’re not alone because they’re surrounded by other young women encountering the same obstacles. In the male-dominated STEM fields, it’s important for women to have female role models and peers who understand their experiences and challenge the stereotypical image of the male STEM professional.

Here’s how three STEM sororities are breaking barriers — and having fun while they’re at it:

Alpha Omega Epsilon (ΑΩΕ) is a sorority for women engineers. Under the Microscope recently interviewed sisters of the new ΑΩΕ chapter at the University of Pennsylvania. The engineering sisterhood has given them a way to connect with mentors and friends who can offer support and help plan a future career path. When Penn’s rigorous exams are over, the sisters celebrate like true engineers, building structurally sound gingerbread houses for the holidays.

Alpha Sigma Kappa (ΑΣΚ) — Women in Technical Studies began when students at the University of Minnesota wanted to change the trend of male-dominated representation in STEM fields: Only 17 percent of students in technical majors at UMN were women when the sorority was founded in 1989. Since then, ΑΣΚ sisters have been challenging the stereotypes of women in tech. Says one sister on her Tumblr, “Sometimes when people hear the ‘technical’ in Alpha Sigma Kappa — Women in Technical Studies, they think ‘academic’ and equate that with dull or boring when really it means that before the ladies of ASK go out and play, we make sure we’ve got an A.”

The sisters of Phi Sigma Rho (ΦΣΡ) — a sorority for women engineering and engineering technology majors, complete with its own mascot, Sigmand the Penguin — recognize the importance of mentorship. Twice a year, members connect with alumnae for “Résumania,” where students get the chance to have their résumés critiqued by professional women engineers. Later in the year, ΦΣΡ sisters offer their own advice by writing letters of encouragement to young girls to let them know that they too can succeed in STEM.

Are you a member or an alumna of a science or technology sorority? Share your experience in the comments!

This post was written by AAUW STEM Programs Intern Alexa Silverman

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On October 24, AAUW will release a new report, Graduating to a Pay Gap. The following is the third installment of Gap and Gown, a new blog series inspired by the forthcoming research.

AAUW has been at the forefront of advocacy for fair pay for women for more than 100 years.

In 1894, the Association of Collegiate Alumnae, the precursor to AAUW, partnered with the Massachusetts Bureau of Statistics of Labor to examine the pay of college-educated women by collecting employment and salary information from ACA members. The bureau analyzed the data, and ACA published the results in the 1896 report Compensation in Certain Occupations of Women Who Have Received College or Other Special Training.

The report is fascinating. It is the testimony of the women themselves that proves most interesting. These rare, first-person accounts of women’s work experiences at that time are not often found in archival collections — or anywhere, for that matter.

Here are a few quotes from the report. As you read them, remember that they were written in 1894!

The woman in industry who finds herself employed in the occupations which are open to men and who frequently performs identical work for a salary or for wages much below those paid her co-workers of the opposite sex is naturally apt to inquire what reason, economic or other, justifies this inequality.

Men oftener than women have to support others. In spite of this, I cannot see why a man should be paid $200 more than I am paid to do the same work when he does it no better.

I know that my work here is appreciated and is paid because of its worth. I think many women are helping to keep down the rate of women’s wages by consenting to work for less compensation than would be given to a man for the same grade.

When I was doing office work, I received $6 a week and kept the books and was a typewriter, too. If a man had been employed for this work, his pay would have been $15 a week, and he would not have been required to perform the general office work. He would have been a professional bookkeeper, however, which I was not.

Women are fearful of asserting their inherent rights, standing as they now do on the verge of freedom. The time, however, is not far off when women will have a voice in making just laws for themselves and others, and this will no doubt have an effect in securing equal remuneration for equal services to both sexes.

Today we call “equal remuneration for equal service” by its simpler title: equal pay for equal work. On October 24, AAUW will release its latest equal pay report, Graduating to a Pay Gap, which builds on the shoulders of these women who worked on the issue more than a century ago.

This post was written by AAUW Archivist and Records Manager Suzanne Gould.

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