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AAUW Director of Public Policy and Government Relations Lisa Maatz will report from the Democratic National Convention this week and reported from the Republican National Convention last week. Follow her updates at AAUW Dialog, on Facebook, and @LisaMaatz on Twitter.

AAUW members at the Republican National Convention in Tampa, Florida

It’s day one of the Democratic National Convention, and it’s a swamp-like 90 degrees in cloudy Charlotte, North Carolina. I’ll be representing AAUW at a variety of convention-related events this week, including a Political Parity event (I also attended one at the Republican National Convention) as well as parties hosted by Lifetime, EMILY’s List, and Planned Parenthood. The Women’s Caucus events are fab. I tweeted a bit from the caucus this morning, and there will be another meeting Thursday. I’ll also be blogging about the action and live-tweeting some of the major speeches, which begin tonight with first lady Michelle Obama and AAUW friend Lilly Ledbetter.

AAUW is a credentialed participant at the Democratic convention, just as we were at the Republican event in Tampa, in keeping with our nonpartisan policies. I had a great time meeting with AAUW members in Tampa and am looking forward to meeting more members at an event this Friday in Charlotte.

The differences between the two conventions have already started to make themselves known, at least logistically. Probably most frustrating for the convention-goer is the credentials situation. At the DNC you have to pick up credentials every single day, and you must check in before you can even get in line for your credentials. With the GOP, it was a one-stop deal for the whole week.

I can also tell I’m going to have to be in the arena early if I want a seat. At the GOP we were assigned seating sections, so it wasn’t too chaotic. Not so at the DNC, which means chaos and lots of folks sitting in the aisles, despite the fire marshal’s warning!

The differences in politics are stark, but so are the organizational differences. On a simplistic level, you get a good sense of which party the business majors flock to and where the social science folks congregate. These differences — some political, some not — always result in vastly different conventions.

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AAUW Director of Public Policy and Government Relations Lisa Maatz will report from the Republican National Convention this week and from the Democratic National Convention next week. Follow her updates at AAUW Dialog, on Facebook, and @LisaMaatz on Twitter.

The circus has come to Florida, and it’s called the campaign press corps. Of course, the media is all over the story of Hurricane Isaac, as they should be. But they’re all over Tampa, too. I met some people for drinks last night just outside the MSNBC stage — a gorgeous outdoor studio setting that, in hindsight, may not have been the best choice. Rachel Maddow, Chris Matthews, Brian Williams, and other pundits and news people can be seen bustling in and out, and so can the politicians they’re grilling.

Speaking of grills, just as in past conventions, the CNN Grill is a favorite hotspot. Want to see and be seen at the 2012 Republican National Convention? Hang out here, and you’ll have a ringside seat to The Situation Room, where a string of politicians and reporters peddle their opinions on the airwaves. Yes, it’s really a restaurant, but it also has a small set where Wolf Blitzer, Candy Crowley, and company pontificate when they aren’t inside the convention hall — the Tampa Bay Times Forum. If the convention gods are with me, I’ll be eating lunch at the CNN Grill sometime today.

All the major news networks have studios inside the forum, along with roving reporters who prowl the delegate floor looking for notables to interview. Republican members of Congress and governors are automatically members of their states’ delegations, and reporters love to pigeonhole them on the floor. The reporters also tend to showcase the wackiest convention delegates. You know who I mean — the people who are outrageous both in word and deed and likely are dressed in some fantastic red, white, and blue costumes. Yes, the delegates like to have fun. They all stay together, state by state, in the various convention hotels. If you’re lucky, you’ll score tickets to one of the many state parties. Texas is always the big one at the GOP convention, while California is the hot ticket for the Democrats.

But delegates also have some serious work to do. They must finalize the party’s platform, a statement of the party’s policies that has received an unusual amount of attention and dissent after Missouri Rep. Todd Akin’s comments regarding “legitimate rape” and reproductive rights. AAUW submitted comments to the Republican National Convention platform committee for their consideration as they put together their platform. Based on our own AAUW member-adopted Public Policy Program, these comments ensure that AAUW is part of the process in a meaningful way.

Today, the delegates must do the official roll call that formally nominates Gov. Mitt Romney and Rep. Paul Ryan for the Republican ticket. This traditional ritual has rules of its own, so watch for the media to key in on Michigan, Massachusetts, and Utah. These states will have pride of place in the proceedings because they have special meaning for Romney. And Wisconsin will get its chance to brag about native Ryan too. Speaking of delegates, today I’ll be searching out some of the AAUW members who are part of the convention’s delegate body. I know for sure there’s AAUW representation in the Ohio delegation — I’m not at all surprised that my home state had the good taste to elect an AAUW member to their ranks! For all of us, today the Republican National Convention really gets down to business — and the media will be there to dissect it in all its glorious detail.

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Along with our exciting Fall issue, Outlook is rolling out a brand-new digital edition of the magazine. It’s sleek, it’s modern, and it’s easy to use. And now, for the first time, AAUW members have the option to get the digital edition of Outlook magazine delivered to their inboxes.

We know that many of you are interested in going green, and most of you are doing more of your reading online. So we hope you’ll consider helping us save some trees and stamps by opting in to a digital-only subscription. All it takes is an AAUW membership, an e-mail address, and an Internet connection. You don’t have to be tech savvy to enjoy this new benefit, and you can switch your subscription back to print-only anytime.

You can check out the digital edition by reading the new Fall Outlook online now. This issue is dedicated to It’s My Vote: I Will Be Heard, our ambitious voter turnout and education effort. Everyone can read the free preview feature about what AAUW volunteers around the country are doing to get out the women’s vote. And AAUW members can read on to find out about the insidious voter-identification laws that are threatening enfranchisement for older women and other groups, how women candidates could make significant gains in congressional seats in the upcoming election, and why AAUW is focusing on turning out the young women’s vote.

You’ll find plenty of inspiration and resources to get involved yourself. Election Day is fast approaching, but it’s not too late to hold a voter registration drive or reach out online! Read this issue of Outlook (look out for it in your mailbox soon!) and get motivated to make women’s voices heard this election.

Not a subscriber? Change that today!

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Some people say that no one outside the Beltway cares about elections until October.

These folks may have a point. Right now, the election is all about horse-race polling, lukewarm endorsements, and a politicos-only audience.

But beneath it all, real issues are at stake. Young women across the country have seen the effect that policies and the leaders who put them in place have on our everyday lives — which is why it’s heartening to see our issues at the top of the discussion list. That’s where they should be.

We’re going to need all women to feel comfortable telling our own stories of how policies have changed our lives, for better and for worse, so that our leaders understand where we’re coming from. It’s with this in mind that I made a video about my student debt and how working two jobs — 60 hours a week — to pay it off has affected me. We posted the video online as part of the AAUW Action Fund’s It’s My Vote: I Will Be Heard campaign, which aims to inspire young women to vote. And I’m not the only one sharing my story. Another AAUW staff member demands action and support for victims of sexual assault in her own video about why she’s voting.

Leading up to the election, we’ll continue to post videos by and for women about the importance of voting. The ultimate goal is to create a space where women can share their stories and celebrate their potential to create change at the polls this November. By voting, we demand attention for the issues we care about.

For me, that issue is student debt. And while I can’t change my own, I can vote for leaders who understand that access to college is more than just part of the American Dream — it’s crucial to our nation’s future, and it’s crucial for the rest of my generation, which faces the double-edged sword of high unemployment and a large debt burden.

For others, it’s finding a job, having access to health care, or being paid fairly. We need to be talking about what we care about. Because no matter where we live — inside the Beltway or out — these issues will shape our lives. Get involved in the conversation today. Check out our Tumblr, and follow the My Vote campaign (@ItsMyVote) on Twitter.

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Today, we are raising awareness about the need for fair pay and hoping for a future when Equal Pay Day happens on December 31 instead of April 17.

But our hope must be built on action. As we get closer to November, it’s important to consider how we can use the 2012 election to close the wage gap.

It was with this in mind that we asked you why fair pay matters in the upcoming election. To help inspire you, we promised a signed copy of Lilly Ledbetter’s new book to the person with the best response. Without further ado, here are our favorites!

Five: One word, “Wisconsin” — Renee Kelling Barr, via Facebook

Four: Equal pay is an important election issue for multiple reasons. One, it raises tax revenue. Two, if you want to improve graduation rates for Americans, fair pay is a great incentive. Three, equal pay is necessary for healthy families that have women as the bread winners. — Heather Mattioli, via Facebook

Three: Because the next generation of voters already thinks we’ve achieved equal pay, and awakening to the reality of equal rights in the job market is a terrible, disheartening, demoralizing process — one that I’d rather spare our future generation of women. If “the 99 percent” is 52 percent women, 77 percent of the pay leaves all of us — men and women — struggling even more to support ourselves and our families. — Brandini Brandle Brandretti, via Facebook

Two: There seem to be more negative side issues being exploited in this election cycle, which clouds fair pay. Pay equity should be one issue that could be the common ground for all sides. The nation needs to create a culture of respect, and pay equity would smooth the road for the creative minds of both genders to work on other issues that confront the world. — Connie Dunkelberger, via AAUW Dialog

Winner: Because women hold up half the sky. If women do not have parity in compensation for our skills, half of the United States’ opportunity for economic growth is lost, generation after generation. Marti J. Sladek, via Facebook

Congratulations to Marti, and thanks to everyone who participated for your great answers. From all of us at AAUW Dialog and from Ledbetter herself — who recorded the message below especially for our blog readers — have a hopeful Equal Pay Day.

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Last week, AAUW joined the Newseum to celebrate a brand new exhibit that explores the “story behind the story” of presidential elections past.

The exhibit, “Every Four Years: Presidential Campaigns and the Press,” is an American history book come to life. From the Sarah Palin costume that Tina Fey wore on Saturday Night Live in 2008 to John F. Kennedy’s handwritten notes taken during a presidential debate, the exhibit uses artifacts and insider details to recreate memorable moments of American democracy.

As the lead sponsor of the exhibit, AAUW is excited to add to our current efforts to educate and mobilize young women for the 2012 election by partnering with the Newseum to encourage Americans to learn about elections and to vote.

Call us biased, but our favorite part of the exhibit is the mock voting booth bearing our name. It’s our hope that the visitors who “vote” in our booth will take home that excitement and vote in the presidential election in November. Stay tuned for updates on who’s “winning” in our Newseum election.

Check out the photos from the exhibit’s grand opening, or see it all for yourself and start planning your own trip to visit the Newseum. “Every Four Years” will be open through Inauguration Day 2013. Already seen the exhibit? Tell us your favorite part in the comments!

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We’ve all been there. You’re watching television or scanning through the most-read stories online and the commentary about a female politician is about her dowdy outfit or temperamental response to a reporter’s question. You notice that male politicians are almost never judged on this irrelevant criteria.

Name It. Change It.To combat this often seen, seldom acknowledged double standard, the Women’s Campaign Forum, Women’s Media Center, and Political Parity have launched Name It. Change It. Through this initiative, the organizations hope to call out political sexism in the media and ensure that each of us does our part. You can sign up for action alerts, report sexist incidents in the media, and take a pledge to “create an overall media culture in which sexism and misogyny have no place.”

Women often cite fear of media scrutiny as one of the top reasons they don’t run for office. More women seem to be running—this year’s midterm elections include many high-profile female candidates, and the Republican Party is calling 2010 the “year of the woman.” But the losses these women candidates have experienced in the primaries might be a dark omen.

If this losing trend continues, this year could be the first election since 1978 where the number of women in Congress actually declines. Just last week, with Sen. Lisa Murkowski’s (R-AK) loss in her primary, questions were raised about who could fill her leadership posts in the Senate since, without Murkowski, only three women GOP senators remain in office.

One simple thing each of us can do to change the political culture for women candidates is join Name It. Change It. Another way to promote women politicians is to get involved with AAUW’s Elect Her initiative. Through this initiative, you can encourage more young women to run for campus office, since studies have shown that women who participate in student government are more likely to run for political office later in life. Apply by September 15 for an Elect Her—Campus Women Win training and make sure to nominate women you know of all ages (including yourself) to run for any level of office through the Women’s Campaign Forum She Should Run program.

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