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Posts Tagged ‘gender equity’

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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This post was written by AAUW Fellowships and Grants Intern Bianca Zhang.

“AAUW promotes lifelong learning. I think that’s what’s happened to me. You start with one thing and want to find out more, which leads you to something else — all different experiences and all enriching. You hope, along the way, that you have made a difference.”

— Community Action Grantee Charlotte Crawford

Before engaging in a career as a self-proclaimed “professional volunteer,” Charlotte Crawford was a math teacher. She joined AAUW of Illinois after her daughters went off to school. Crawford began working on a Title IX compliance survey in her daughters’ school district, which led to a nine- year stint on the school board. It was then that she became very involved in community service and other AAUW issues and activities. Crawford received an AAUW Community Action Grant in 1997 to fund an AAUW of Illinois gender equity newsletter entitled What’s Working for Girls in Illinois. One AAUW project led to the next, and Crawford earned grants to create more newsletters, build middle and high school curricula, and co-found the AAUW Gender Equity Fund of Illinois.

Crawford then moved to Tennessee, where she joined the AAUW Maryville (TN) Branch and co-founded the Women’s Equity Foundation, where she worked on an array of projects, including writing and editing six books. If all of her volunteer work has taught her one thing, it is the importance of linking up with others. “Reach out to others in your community,” she says. “Don’t be afraid to try something when you have an idea. It all starts with someone saying ‘I think we ought to … ’”

Crawford (back row, second from left) with members of the AAUW Maryville (TN) Branch

Her most recent project exemplifies this creative and valiant attitude. Crawford and former AAUW of Tennessee President Ruth Johnson Smiley are collaborating on a book called the Tennessee Women Project, which recognizes Tennessee women and their contributions “from frontier days though the 20th century.” Created with the help of an advisory council and 20 authors, the book will profile 22 women. Crawford explains that the ultimate goal for the book, which is scheduled to be published next year, is not necessarily to generate profit but to acknowledge women who have had an impact, if even it’s just on a local level. All proceeds generated by the book will support its distribution and AAUW of Tennessee’s scholarship fund to send local college students to AAUW’s National Conference for College Women Student Leaders.

Crawford and the Tennessee Women Project are certainly paying it forward and furthering the mission of AAUW to break through barriers for women and girls! It seems to me that Crawford, through her continuous advocacy for gender equity in education and volunteer work with AAUW, has made a truly positive difference.

The Community Action Grant that Charlotte Crawford received was sponsored by two Illinois Research and Projects Grants – the Eugenia Chapman Research and Projects Grant established in 1981 and the Mildred Freburg Berry Research and Projects Grant established in 1982.

 

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This post is part of a new series on sexual harassment in school, launched in conjunction with the upcoming AAUW report Crossing the Line: Sexual Harassment at School. Follow @AAUWResearch on Twitter for more information. 

How is sexual harassment — the topic of the upcoming AAUW report Crossing the Line: Sexual Harassment at School — different from bullying? Since sexual harassment is frequently misclassified by schools and the media as bullying, especially when it occurs among youth, we’d like to discuss this distinction.

In the most basic terms, sexual harassment is defined as unwanted behavior that is sexual in nature. This can include making lewd comments, showing or sending someone sexually explicit photos, spreading sexual rumors, engaging in inappropriate touching, or using homophobic slurs. Bullying, on the other hand, involves a power dynamic in which perpetrators intend to harm their victim or victims for any number of reasons (or no reason at all). Intent is a required component for a behavior to be classified as bullying. For sexual harassment, the person does not have to intend to harm someone else; the behavior is defined by the effect it has on the harassed person.

If sexual harassment and bullying are both negative behaviors that harm students, why should we bother to highlight the difference? If they both fall into categories of things that no one should have to tolerate, then why not brand them both as abusive and simply tell kids to be nice to each other.

Sexual harassment revolves around sex and gender and affects girls and boys differently. It also has a disproportionate negative impact on students who are not heterosexual. Harassers and bullies often differ in motivations, and parents and educators need to understand these differences to create effective prevention and response programs. When we talk to young people about sexual harassment and not just bullying, we start a larger conversation about bodily rights, personal safety, and gender identity. In other words, we begin to teach students about consent, tolerance, and gender equity. And frankly, that’s the type of education that all young folks deserve.

Additionally, sexual harassment and bullying are recognized as different issues under the law. Most states have anti-bullying laws of varying effectiveness, but there is no federal bullying law. Sexual harassment, on the other hand, is illegal under federal law — specifically Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972 — when it is pervasive or severe enough to impact a student’s education. All schools that receive federal funding are required by Title IX to respond to sexual harassment when it is brought to their attention. If they do not, they can lose public funds and are susceptible to lawsuits. It is important for schools to acknowledge and respond to sexual harassment and not brush it off as bullying, mistakenly thinking there is no responsibility on them to address the problem.

This post was written by AAUW Legal Advocacy Fund Intern Julie Smolinski.

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One of the most important questions facing those concerned with the gender gap in American politics is how we can get and keep more women in elected office.

According to the Inter-Parliamentary Union, the United States ranks 72nd for gender equality in politics. Who filled out the top five positions? In the number one spot is Rwanda, followed closely by Sweden, South Africa, Cuba, and Iceland.

What is the reason for this?

The top five countries have governments that have made gender equity and women’s development in politics a priority. All the counties in the top five established some form of gender quota to ensure that women are represented in government equally in proportion to their population within the country. Even though women hold almost 50 percent of the parliamentary seats in these five countries, they hold only 18 percent of parliamentary seats worldwide.

What difference has gender equity made in these governments? In Rwanda, the Forum of Women Parliamentarians pushed to revoke laws that prohibited women from inheriting land. In Pakistan, where they established a quota system in 2002 that granted 60 seats in the National Assembly and 17 in the Senate to women, Donya Aziz has said that seeing so many women in elected office has changed the social fabric of the country: “Since so many women and young girls saw us in politics, many other professions have opened up, such as journalism. Not just behind desks, but reporting, even from conflicts like Lebanon. You wouldn’t [have seen] that 10 years ago.”

On December 8, Johns Hopkins University hosted E.U. Commissioner for Justice, Fundamental Rights and Citizenship Viviane Reding to speak about gender quota legislation and gender equality in employment practices in the European Union. One of Reding’s points during her speech was that while the majority of university degrees are awarded to women, we are in the extreme minority when it comes to top spots in both politics and business. She cited the 40 percent quota system implemented in Norway as a model. The quota laws, which were established from 2002 to 2007, mandate that companies move to place women in 40 percent of boardroom positions.

In the United States, women earn 40 percent of all business degrees but only occupy 15.2 percent of directorships in Fortune 500 companies, and women of color account for one-fifth of women in these positions.

Even though some countries have had success with implementing quota-based systems in their governments, the question still remains, do quotas work? Would a quota system work in the United States?

This post was written by Leadership Programs Fellow Donnae Wahl.

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Summer Camp

Are you ready for the sunshine?

Are you ready for the birds and bees,

the apple trees,

and a whole lot of fooling around.

Can you recall the tune yet? The lyrics from the theme song from the 1979 summer movie classic Meatballs paint a picture of summer camp filled fresh air, swimming, hiking, and other outdoor adventures. While the song suggests wholesome goodness, the antics at fictional Camp North Star would be a nightmare for parents of any generation.

As I send my 6-year-old son to camp for the first time this summer, I realize that some camping traditions have changed. It seems that gone are the days of playing games in big open fields, getting eaten alive by bugs, and being spotted from head to toe with pink calamine lotion. Today, some lucky little girls

whose dreams are wild and daring enough to be an “aspiring princess” get to go up to the school, sit in the gym, make capes and craft tiaras for themselves and their favorite doll, learn a princess dance, wear a princess dress, and attend a tea party and something of a debutante ball.

Blogger Pigtail Pals wrote those words in reaction to a flyer she received in the mail from her mother about local camps for girls and boys. She points out that while the girls play like nice ladies, the boys get to

explore Ravine Park, go fishing, sports day, Olympics day, they will venture away from the school gym and embark on safe adventures all around the village.

Gender Stereotypes at Summer CampIf, like me, you’re envisioning a Toddlers and Tiaras-esque boot camp, you have entered my nightmare — princess camp!

I convinced myself that this wasn’t the norm and Googled “princess camp.” Thousands of results were generated for religious camps, dance and theater camps, training in manners and etiquette, and a number of Disney princess-themed events with the end result always the same — little girls preparing for their prince to come. What about camps and learning programs for aspiring engineers, mathematicians, scientists, computer scientists, technologists, and leaders?

Gender stereotypes for boys and girls abound in advertising, entertainment, and toy marketing. The fun and freedom of summer should not be limited by a chromosome. As for my son, he is enrolled in culinary camp to learn kitchen safety and to explore international cuisines. You see, this mom aspires to receive breakfast in bed sometime soon.

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Interested in an Opportunity for FREE AAUW Membership for Undergraduate Students?

AAUW is hosting two College/University Partnership Webinars on January 25, 2010: one at 1 p.m. EST for college/university representatives and one at 6 p.m. EST for AAUW member leaders. The webinars will provide an overview of AAUW’s college/university partner member program and will highlight the extensive benefits that AAUW offers to students. The webinar for AAUW member leaders will also cover specific strategies for recruiting and retaining c/u partner members.

Students who attend institutions that are AAUW college/university partner members get priority on a number of opportunities for leadership development, education, and project funding. Additionally, they gain access to cutting-edge gender equity research and policy initiatives and receive exclusive member discounts on numerous products, including books from Barnes and Noble, test-preparation materials from The Princeton Review, and so much more! Plus, all undergraduate students at AAUW college/university partner members are immediately eligible to be FREE AAUW e-student affiliates and to receive a FREE, full-year membership after they graduate!

As a graduate student in higher education administration, I understand the importance of resources and services that benefit the college students I interact with on a daily basis. As a future student affairs professional, I can assure you that involvement with AAUW and the college/university partner member program will be the best decision you can make for your institution or an institution in your community.

Throughout the webinar you will hear about student experiences with AAUW programs and learn about key benefits associated with college/university partner membership and, most importantly, you’ll be able to tell us what types of resources would benefit your institutions. You’ll also learn how AAUW is already helping colleges and universities.

Please share the information about this webinar with your colleagues and e-mail khorakiwalaz@aauw.org to RSVP for the webinar. After you RSVP, you will receive specific instructions on how to participate closer to the January 25, 2010, event.

Are there specific resources or benefits that your college/university or one in your community is seeking from AAUW? We would love to hear your feedback!

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Despite taking place in the weeks following the 37th anniversary of Title IX, Serena Williams’ 11th Grand Slam victory at Wimbledon this past Saturday over her sister Venus was overshadowed by the men’s final, which saw Roger Federer go 30 games into the fifth set to earn his record-breaking 15th major. This is a shame considering the enormous impact Serena and Venus have had on women’s tennis and women’s athletics (See the television ratings of the most recent women’s final without a Williams sister as one example. Another is the impressive work Venus did to equalize the payouts at majors between men and women tennis players.), and the challenges they have overcome to achieve their extraordinary success on the court.

Saturday’s women’s final marked the eighth time in the past decade that a Williams sister has won Wimbledon and was the third time that the two have faced each other in Wimbledon’s finals. Serena thwarted her older sister’s goal of being the first female tennis player to win Wimbledon three years in a row since Steffi Graf (1991–93), and she now has 11 grand slam titles, one behind women’s tennis legend Billy Jean King.

Even more impressive is keeping these historic achievements in perspective. The Williams sisters grew up in Compton, California, and began their tennis careers by honing their game where “a lot of dope is sold. We play on two courts — that’s all there is — and they look like trash, they’re so slippery,” according to their father and longtime coach, Richard Williams.

But even after their well-documented entrance into professional tennis, escaping their childhood roots in Compton proved challenging. Yetunde Price, the half-sister of Venus and Serena and their personal assistant, was tragically shot and killed while driving through the notorious neighborhood in the fall of 2003.

The Williams sisters, like many professional tennis players, opted to be privately trained at a sporting institute during their latter childhood years instead of attending public middle and high schools. Still, their ability to overcome these difficulties and achieve monumental gains in women’s tennis remind us of the power of athletics as a path out of a disadvantaged background and the importance of offering equitable athletic opportunities to all. Unfortunately, despite the recent 37th anniversary of Title IX, many high schools still do not offer equal athletic opportunities to women, a problem that is especially acute in low-income and minority schools. Venus and Serena provide yet another example as to why addressing this problem is so necessary.

Written by Tom Rosen, 2009 AAUW Legal Advocacy Fund/Leadership Programs summer fellow.

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