Posts Tagged ‘advocacy’

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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For as long as Dahlia Eissa can remember, she has been a feminist. Growing up in Australia with Egyptian immigrant parents, she was never afraid to ruffle feathers. She began her activism leading Know Your Rights workshops for Muslim women with the Islamic Women’s Association of Queensland. Early on, Eissa knew she wanted to work with women in immigrant communities, and she saw law as the natural career choice for her passions. Following 9/11, she established the Arab American Justice Project, a network of pro bono attorneys who advocate for Arab Americans facing discrimination, harassment, and deportation.

Dahlia Eissa

After finishing her undergraduate degree in Australia, Eissa wanted to pursue postgraduate studies in Islamic law and women’s rights. Finding the right program was a challenge. She wanted to study law as a feminist first and as a lawyer second. Her AAUW International Fellowship was the kick-start that made it possible for her to attend Harvard Law School. Without the award, she says, she would not have been able to come to the United States.

Today, Eissa uses her knowledge of law, women’s rights, and Islam to encourage women to broaden their perspectives of what is possible in their lives and identities. She insists that women do not need to be restricted to the binary of Western or Muslim worlds, but rather that women can be true to their Muslim identities and principles while embracing and being embraced by American society.

Eissa has been inspired by the women of the Arab Spring and the women of Egypt in particular. Her academic research has primarily focused on Islamic law and women in Egypt. So when the revolution began last year, Eissa strongly felt that she had to somehow support Egyptian women. She asked herself, How will this new wave of activism play out for women?

When we spoke last week, the first draft of the new Egyptian constitution was being voted on by the country’s Constituent Assembly. Sadly, the new constitution completely leaves out any provisions that guarantee the rights of women and girls. Eissa described the draft as absurd but predictable. As the world watches the women of Egypt, Eissa is focusing on how she can support them from the United States. Working with women activists on the ground, her strategy lies in mobilizing other women to minimize the negative impact of the legislation. The rejection of protections for women and girls could open the door to other dangerous allowances in the law, such as lowering the marriageable age for girls or blocking the recent U.N. resolution that calls for the end of female genital mutilation practices.

Eissa is deeply passionate about women’s rights and gender equality. Even as a teenager, she recognized inequalities between men and women that were supposedly justified on the basis of “biology.” Eissa rejected socially constructed distinctions based on sex and spoke her mind, even when fearful of the backlash that she could face. Being an outsider, she says, is worth the risk in order to pursue what you believe in because, in the end, you’ll find that you aren’t that much of an outsider after all. In a culture that “banks on women being submissive,” Eissa wants women to “be fearless.” Let’s follow Eissa’s powerful example and go out there and ruffle a few feathers.

Eissa’s International Fellowship was sponsored by the Margaret Bigelow Miller International Fellowship, established in 1986, and the Helen B. Taussig International Fellowship, established in 1974.

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

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Barbara McClintockBarbara McClintock, whose work revolved around the study of maize, changed the world of genetics. This brilliant, self-effacing scientist — the first woman to win an unshared Nobel Prize in physiology or medicine — said in her official statement about the award, “It might seem unfair to reward a person for having so much pleasure over the years, asking the maize plant to solve specific problems and then watching its responses.” That the pronoun “I” is absent says much about McClintock.

While writing a biography about her, I learned that AAUW played a key role in supporting McClintock’s groundbreaking work. Born in 1903 as the third of four children, McClintock studied at Cornell University and earned her doctorate in 1927. When she was researching in the 1940s, funding was scarce, and 95 percent of awards from other large programs were going to men. In 1947, AAUW was one of the first national organizations to recognize McClintock’s research with a financial prize. The $2,500 AAUW Achievement Award cited work that “yielded epoch-making results … with brilliant promise of still further achievement.”

In her acceptance speech in Dallas, McClintock called for greater support of young people who are interested in science — especially women. “On these young scientists we must concentrate much of our effort if we wish to preserve this potential source of cultural wealth,” she said. As a lifelong member of AAUW, I related to this statement, which confirmed once again the value of our mission of advancing equity for women and girls through advocacy, education, philanthropy, and research.

In her early breakthroughs, McClintock embodied this potential. She identified the 10 maize chromosomes and proved the theory of “crossing over,” the phenomenon of genetic material switching places between chromosomes. When she proved that genes aren’t static on chromosomes but can move about and control other genes, the press dubbed the finding “jumping genes.” Because McClintock worked alone with no secretary or lab assistants and published very little of her research, it took decades for the world to recognize that her meticulous work applied not just to maize but to all living organisms.

McClintock, who died in 1992, has been called one of the most important figures in 20th century science. Her insights into genetics earned her worldwide recognition. But McClintock cared as much about the future of science and those who would become scientists as she did about her own work. “Young people have to be motivated to know what they’re doing,” she said. “We need to have people who know organisms can do fantastic things.” This, too, goes to the heart of what AAUW stands for.

We should all be proud of the important part AAUW played in encouraging this dedicated scientist long before the world recognized her remarkable, pioneering contributions to the field of genetics.

This post was written by AAUW Del Mar-Leucadia (CA) Branch member Edith Hope Fine. Her book, now in e-reader format, will be available for free for Kindle June 16–17.


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AAUW Thousand Oaks (CA) Branch member Colleen Briner-Schmidt donates to AAUW to protect her daughter’s and granddaughter’s futures. What about you?

Thanks to all of our generous donors, AAUW has had victories this year that make the future brighter for women and girls. But the fight isn’t over. Recent rulings against reproductive rights, attacks on Social Security and Medicare, and other threats to women’s security will bring tough challenges in 2012. Please help ensure that AAUW can continue to have your back, time and time again, by making a tax-deductible gift now.

Thanks for making 2011 a great year for women’s advocacy. We hope you’ll be a part of our work in 2012.

Happy holidays from AAUW!

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As the new school year begins, it’s a good time to brush up on Title IX and what it means for students. Signed in 1972, Title IX (officially known as the Education Amendments of 1972) is the federal statute prohibiting sex discrimination in education programs and activities that receive federal financial assistance. This short provision, which is only one sentence long, has had a dramatic effect on all areas of education, opening many opportunities for women and girls.

Title IX has been credited with remarkable increases in the number of women and girls pursuing athletics and professional careers. In 1971, the year before Title IX’s enactment, 8 percent of high school athletes were girls, but in the 2009–10 academic year, 41 percent of high school athletes — more than 3 million students — were women. In addition to school athletics, Title IX made it possible for women to pursue careers as lawyers, doctors, mechanics, scientists, and professional athletes. Title IX also protects students from sexual harassment and bullying. Over the past year, the Office for Civil Rights at the U.S. Department of Education, which enforces Title IX regulations, has told schools and colleges that receive federal funding that they are responsible for preventing and stopping student bullying and sexual harassment.

Despite these advances, many challenges remain. Women’s engagement in athletics and participation in science, technology, engineering, and math fields still lag behind men’s, and Title IX enforcement faces obstacles.

AAUW and the Department of Education have repeatedly urged schools to appoint Title IX coordinators to ensure their compliance with the law’s requirements, yet few schools fully empower these coordinators — most positions either go unfilled or lack sufficient resources. In the majority of cases, the burden of ensuring that schools comply with Title IX’s requirements falls squarely on students and parents.

One resource to help students and parents is the AAUW Legal Advocacy Fund. LAF has worked for decades to combat sex discrimination in higher education and the workplace. LAF’s initiatives include community and Campus Outreach Programs, a resource library and online advocacy tools, a Legal Resource Referral Network, and various research reports. LAF also offers the Title IX Compliance: Know the Score Program in a Box, which provides resources and detailed plans to help members investigate whether schools in their communities are in compliance with the law. In November, LAF will release a research report on sexual harassment in grades seven through 12 that explores schools’ obligations under Title IX and what administrators, teachers, parents, students, and community groups can do to prevent and stop sexual harassment.

As we move toward Title IX’s 40th birthday next year, AAUW will keep strongly supporting the law and fighting to protect women’s and girls’ right to equal treatment.

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Ah, summertime. Constituent meetings, public events, and congressional town halls provide excellent opportunities for AAUW issues advocacy! You can meet your congresswomen and men during the summer — but you need a plan, tenacity, and a little AAUW street cred.

So here are my top 10 tips for summer lobbying:

1)      Know your representative. Call and ask for details about the next town hall — date, time, location, format for questions, and whether your representative will pose for photos. Phone numbers are on the representative’s website. Ask to be added to the e-mail list — many town halls happen with little notice other than an e-mail. Research your representative’s position on your issues with AAUW’s most recent Congressional Voting Record.

2)      Develop your town hall question using facts from AAUW’s Two-Minute Activist or AAUW public policy materials. E-mail your question to the district director before the meeting. Practice your question ahead of time and limit it to one minute. Arrive early and ask staff how to get your question asked.

3)      Ask for an office meeting with your representative. Follow AAUW’s guide to getting a district office meeting, which is posted on our website. If you are offered a meeting with staff, take it! Often staffers are the key to meaningful work on important issues.

4)      There is strength in numbers. If you are attending a town hall or office meeting, make sure your representative knows that your views represent AAUW. Remind staff members that AAUW has 1,000 branches.

5)      Just drop in to your congressional district office! Most district offices are open during regular office hours to receive constituents. You might get lucky and meet the representative, but if not, bring AAUW materials to leave for your representative with a note requesting a future meeting.

6)      Ask for a picture. Ask if your group can meet with your representative before or after the meeting for a picture. Use your two-minute “grip and grin” to pitch your question or issue! Follow up by e-mailing a digital copy of the picture to your representative’s press secretary or chief of staff. Consider sending the picture with a brief article to local papers for publication.

7)      Just do it. You need to show up for democracy to happen!

8)      Commit to virtual lobbying from the comfort of your air-conditioned home. Sign up for AAUW’s Action Network.

9)      Questions? E-mail Anne Hedgepeth or call her at 202/785-7724, and she’ll put you in touch with our experts from the AAUW Action Fund Capitol Hill Lobby Corps!

10)  Remember to let AAUW know about your summer lobbying! Send your stories and pictures to AAUW Dialog and inspire other AAUW members to make a difference this summer.

And remember to have a blast!

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At the Freedom Trash Can, 1968 (Duke University, special collections)

Before my involvement in AAUW really took off, I was quite hesitant to be identified as a feminist or even as an advocate. Born, raised, and educated in rural America, I did not want to be classified as a wild, bra-burning lady with man-hating tendencies. Moreover, in my home state and surrounding areas, it seems difficult to find strong, local, and female role models.

Once I entered college, I began to find some peers, faculty, and staff who encouraged women and were activists in their own rights. But some women’s rights organizations I’ve seen locally are disorganized and full of women who fit the traditional feminist stereotype but rarely take feminist action.

However, I found myself caring about women’s issues in politics, education, and in my day-to-day life. Upon attending the 25th annual National Conference for College Women Student Leaders last summer, I was intensely intrigued by the individuals affiliated with AAUW. These men and women were smart, classy, independent, organized, and articulate. They were advocates for women and girls in issue areas that I had long been passionate about but had little confidence and support in acting on.

I continued to grow inspired while in Washington, D.C., for the AAUW National Student Advisory Council retreat, and I realized that the key to altering perceptions in my community was through personal outreach and communication as well as more sophisticated education on what it really means to be a women’s advocate. Being an advocate doesn’t mean eternally swearing off razors and men, it means standing for equity between women and men.

Bringing back this knowledge to my community has been an enlightening experience as far as seeing how widespread the misconceptions are regarding feminism in my rural surroundings. Daily, I use my AAUW tote with pride and when people ask me what it means to be an advocate, I educate them about AAUW and the services available.

In February, our campus will be hosting an Elect Her – Campus Women Win training in partnership with AAUW to educate and empower collegiate women in running for student government and public office. I’m excited to provide my peers, both men and women, with the opportunity to experience a more realistic sense of advocacy for women and girls; to meet and interact with national and local female role models; and to hopefully empower them to make a difference, run for political office, or to begin advocating for the rights and progress of women and girls.

This post was written by National Student Advisory Council member Liz Brown.

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By D. Sharon Pruitt from Hill Air Force Base, Utah, USA [CC-BY-2.0 (www.creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0)], via Wikimedia Commons

Ah, New Year’s. The holiday of ugly party hats and gym renewals.

AAUW isn’t too concerned with waistlines. We would, however, like to take the opportunity of the day to pause, reflect, and resolve.

We’ve already reflected on the wonderful victories for women in 2010. So now it’s time for some solid resolutions, made with a little help from some quotable friends.


“New year, same goal.”—Joe King


The date on the calendar may have changed, but our aim hasn’t. In the courtroom, on the Hill and in the White House, and in the classroom and on campus, AAUW resolves to be a leading community that breaks through barriers for women and girls. Here’s some of what you can expect from us in 2011:

  • We will continue to raise a powerful voice in the halls of our national and local governments, advocating for education, women’s paychecks, and a slew of other critical issues.
  • Following the success of our 2010 report, Why So Few? Women in Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics, AAUW’s leading research team is back at it again, tackling the current status of the pay gap and the critical role community colleges have in education. Stay tuned for more on these projects throughout the year.
  • For the past 130 years, AAUW has supported the education of women and girls. This year we will continue to fund women pursuing education all over the world and will also provide programs and strategy that advance women and girls in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics.


“Cheers to a new year and another chance
for us to get it right.”—Oprah Winfrey


This past year, AAUW and our coalition encountered some setbacks in advocating for pay equity, thanks to the Senate’s derailment of the Paycheck Fairness Act. We have to remember that change is slow but sure. Another year means another chance for us to educate on and advocate for fair pay for women. You can bet we won’t be giving up any time soon, on this issue or any of AAUW’s top priorities.


“For last year’s words belong to last year’s language
And next year’s words await another voice.
And to make an end is to make a beginning.”—T. S. Eliot


The symbolism of a new beginning reminds us of why we’re here and the barriers that still exist. Through advocacy, education, philanthropy, and research, AAUW will continue to work hard for progress this year and beyond.

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What powerful images the words “I have a dream” bring to mind as the nation honors the legacy of the Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr., on the 40th anniversary of his assassination. I found my emotions immediately surfacing as I listened to his speech. How far we have come since then, how far we still need to go. Read 40 Years Later: The Unrealized American Dream, a new report on the inequalities that African Americans still face, for a compelling perspective on the work that remains to be done.

Each of us has our own dreams, our own sense of injustices that need to be overcome. I unfortunately had the opportunity of listening to someone on the Metro the other day making it very clear they would never vote for a “broad,” let alone one of “them.” I turned my head and saw only a sea of professional commuters and a handful of tourists, all suddenly hushed. The good news: A chorus of voices immediately rose, talking of how terrible bigotry is and of the responsibility of freedom.

Women have also achieved success in overcoming equity obstacles; AAUW’s own history reflects this. Our paths crossed with another King in 1969, when the AAUW Educational Foundation launched the Coretta Scott King Fund, providing opportunities for black women to study African American history and culture, social change, and peace.

Our dream of equality has yet to be fully realized either. Civil Rights, Economic Security, Education – all issues AAUW focuses their advocacy efforts around. The great thing about dreams is their potential to motivate. Our community has a great dream and a collective voice. Have you raised yours lately?

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This past weekend, AAUW of Colorado held their annual Public Policy Day, an event that is 30+ years strong. Titled “AAUW + Public Policy Issues = Advocacy & Action,” the event featured David Skaggs, executive director of the Colorado Department of Higher Education and a former member of Congress. I presented a workshop on running a voter education campaign.

AAUW Public Policy Day in Colorado February 2008

AAUW of Colorado President Betty Flaten, Colorado Department of Higher Education Executive Director David Skaggs, and former state senator and current AAUW Ft. Collins (CO) Branch President Peggy Reeves.

The director of the Denver Women’s Coalition spoke about important state legislation and ballot initiatives, including an anti-affirmative action initiative (see AAUW’s affirmative action toolkit for more information on similar initiatives pending in several states). We rounded out the day with an interactive exercise in which participants created branch action plans on several different issues. More than 75 AAUW members from around the state attended the successful event, which was a great example of turning advocacy into action. For more information, see the AAUW of Colorado website.

How does your branch or state turn issues into action? What has worked for you in the past? What challenges have you encountered? What would encourage members of your community to take a more active role in advocacy work in your community?

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