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Posts Tagged ‘Linda Hallman’

One hundred powerful women in a room together — what a sight to behold! These women, all attendees of the inaugural U.S. News and World Report STEM Summit conference, were celebrating not only each other but also the progress that has been made for women in science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM).

The conference, put together by STEMConnector.org and many other sponsors and partners, was a gathering to discuss STEM on a national level that has not been seen before. The goal of the event was to bring together stakeholders from as many different aspects of the STEM arena as possible, and with 1,600 attendees, it was one of the largest such gatherings in the United States so far.

The conference as a whole was truly indicative of the country’s snowballing interest in STEM education, and attendees included celebrities like basketball legend Kareem Abdul-Jabbar; Laura Kaeppeler, the current Miss America; and STEM icons such as Dean Kamen, founder of FIRST Robotics.

The theme of gender and STEM ran throughout the conference, and with panels like The Changing Face of STEM and Cultural, Ethnic, and Demographic Strengths in Raising STEM Awareness, it was obvious that the business, higher education, and K–12 communities are aware of and actively working to bring more women and girls into the STEM pipeline.

The ultimate goal of STEMConnector.org is to help coordinate and encourage those communities by bringing together information about organizations, business, and education in one place online. The conference and the work of STEM Connector reflect a broader, national conversation about how to get and keep kids interested in STEM while also bringing real-world skills into school curricula. At the conference, teachers, principals, and faculty brought to light why it is critical that all levels of the educational system and professional arenas continue to focus on this issue. On the front lines, they continue to see girls internalize the idea that these careers are not for them or be deterred by social pressure to conform to outdated gender stereotypes.

STEM Connector also put together the impressive 100 Women Leaders in STEM publication, which honors women in three categories — nonprofit, for profit, and government — and includes AAUW Executive Director Linda Hallman. She is in good company — the publication features women with impressive accomplishments from start to finish.

The women who attended the reception honoring the 100 Women Leaders in STEM were truly a testament to the changes that have occurred thanks to Title IX and other advances in education and culture. The event was a rare opportunity to be in a room with so many talented women in STEM and to celebrate their accomplishments. I was proud to know that AAUW was included on the list and has played a critical role in breaking down the barriers that stopped women from succeeding in these fields for so long. And we will continue to do so in the years to come!

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When I was only 3 years old, my parents strapped my first set of ice hockey skates on me — a Minnesotan rite of passage. Before long, ice hockey became my passion. However, upon entering high school, I learned that there wasn’t a girls’ team. At that moment, I experienced a rude awakening: Gender inequality was the status quo in my community.

Armed with my strong convictions and leveraging Title IX’s mandate, I led my peers and community members to lobby the school board to create a girls’ ice hockey team. Testifying against sexist opposition just like the pioneers of Title IX once did, we successfully convinced the school board to establish a girls’ team, an experience that has forever shaped my perception of what one passionate and goal-oriented individual can accomplish.

This early experience not only led to higher education and athletic opportunities that I might not otherwise have had but also guided my personal and professional pursuits. I was fortunate to attend Amherst College, graduate with honors in psychology, and serve as a captain of the women’s ice hockey team. The skills I obtained and the confidence I built as an athlete and as a member of a team were invaluable, leading me to ultimately become an attorney and an advocate for equal opportunities for all people. Along the way, I have advanced important social causes, served in leadership roles traditionally held by men (including as editor-in-chief of the Rutgers Law Review), and empowered the next generation of women as a mentor and role model.

Recently, by winning a Good Maker challenge, I received funding from the National Women’s Hall of Fame to pursue a sports and leadership project for girls. The premise of the project is to host a sports and leadership clinic not only to inspire, motivate, and empower young girls but also to enable older female athletes to give back to their communities and help instill in the next generation the passion, drive, and commitment that is necessary to maintain and expand equal opportunities.

Ensuring the protection of these opportunities was unquestionably the key message of the National Women’s Hall of Fame 40th anniversary Title IX celebration in Washington, D.C., last week. I was fortunate to have been recognized as a new generation leader at this event alongside the true pioneers and leaders of the women’s rights movement (my role models). Many of the distinguished speakers and panelists voiced the concern that the next generation may fail to understand the significance of Title IX and simply take those opportunities for granted. There is much more work to be done, and that work is now in the hands of the next generation.

This point resonated with me because of the similarities between the obstacles that the Title IX pioneers faced and those that modern-day female athletes still encounter. Bernice Sandler, known as the “godmother of Title IX” because of her role in the development and passage of the law, spoke about having to coordinate bake sales and other fundraisers to buy equipment. This story reminded me of some of the hand-me-down equipment that my college ice hockey team received from the men’s team. Did the Amherst women’s ice hockey team have to win a national championship to prove its worthiness and finally receive its own new jerseys and equipment?

I was also reminded of my own experience when Neena Chaudhry from the National Women’s Law Center explained the rationale behind the current challenges to Title IX — that girls are not as “interested” in sports as boys. That premise is precisely the one I encountered and believed I overcame in high school, more than 15 years ago. I’d say this attitude is clear evidence that we still have work to do!

Linda Hallman, executive director of AAUW, concluded the panel with a strong and passionate call to action: “Get out the vote!” I could not agree more. What a simple yet effective means to protect Title IX and to ensure its commitment to providing equal opportunities for all.

Each of the other panelists provided their own amazing tales and calls to action. Other speakers included Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton, Rep. Nancy Pelosi (D-CA), former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, and Sen. Barbara Mikulski (D-MD). Finally, I’d be remiss to conclude without mentioning the ever humble, eloquent, and passionate women’s rights advocate Sen. Birch Bayh (D-IN), the “father of Title IX.” What I appreciated the most about him was that despite his integral involvement in the creation and passage of Title IX, he was happy to take a backseat to demonstrate his admiration for all the amazing and accomplished women in the room.

From the Olympian sitting next to me to the executive sitting across from me, the women at this conference were awe-inspiring. I only hope that through my life’s work I can continue to advance their fight to provide equal opportunities for women and that I will find and create opportunities to share my passion with and instill the same ideals in the next generation of women!

This blog post was written by National Women’s Hall of Fame grantee Heidi S. Alexander, Esq.

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Grace and Grit by Lilly LedbetterEqual Pay Day is not our favorite holiday.

Next Tuesday, April 17, is the symbolic day when women’s wages catch up with what men made last year. We’d much prefer to mark the occasion on December 31, and we’re working hard to make that happen.

In the meantime, we’ll still mark Equal Pay Day every year. But at least there will be a silver lining on the unhappy occasion this year. We’re giving away a signed copy of Lilly Ledbetter’s new book, Grace and Grit, to the person who can best explain why fair pay is an important election issue.

Here’s how you can win:

  1. In the comments section, tell us why fair pay matters in the 2012 election. Need inspiration? Start with AAUW Executive Director Linda Hallman’s thoughts on last year’s Equal Pay Day events.
  2. Check back here on Equal Pay Day (Tuesday, April 17) to read the top answers and find out who the lucky winner is.
  3. Cross your fingers that you win!

It’s that easy! Now get to it.

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At a National Science Foundation event on Monday, the White House took a significant step toward advancing women’s and girls’ participation in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) programs. AAUW President Carolyn Garfein, Executive Director Linda Hallman, and Director of Public Policy and Government Relations Lisa Maatz attended the event, which featured a speech by first lady Michelle Obama. She spoke about the vital role that women play in advancing America’s economy and global status. “If we’re going to out-innovate and out-educate the rest of the world, we’ve got to open doors for everyone,” she said. “We need all hands on deck, and that means clearing hurdles for women and girls as they navigate careers in science, technology, engineering, and math.”

AAUW’s regional STEM programs were highlighted in the speeches, and we were lauded as one of the administration’s top partners in higher education policy development.

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The event followed an announcement the same morning of the Obama administration’s new NSF Career-Life Balance Initiative, which will boost recruitment and retention of women in STEM careers. The initiative is a 10-year plan to improve work-life flexibility for individuals receiving federal grants in STEM research fields and includes provisions such as the ability to delay or suspend federal grants for parental leave or to accommodate the birth or adoption of a child.

With this initiative, the NSF will make a huge dent in the environmental and social barriers that currently face women entering STEM careers. AAUW’s Why So Few? Women in Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics research report found that women academics and researchers in STEM fields are much more likely than men to end or change their careers due to the lack of career-life balance support provided by the typically male-dominated fields. As the leading source of federal grants for technology development in the United States, the NSF has extensive power to encourage women to enter the STEM arena and, once there, to provide them with the support they need to excel in both their careers and lives.

AAUW is proud to partner with the Obama administration and the NSF in implementing such a significant program, and we encourage other organizations, universities, and businesses to develop work-life balance initiatives that will boost women’s critical participation in STEM programs across the United States.

This post was written by AAUW Public Policy Fellow Katie Donlevie.

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AAUW is deeply critical of today’s U.S. Supreme Court’s sharply divided decision in Wal-Mart v. Dukes. Although the high court did not rule on the merits of the case, this misguided decision prevents the women of Wal-Mart from taking on America’s largest private employer as a nationwide class-action group, leaving each woman to file her claim individually or perhaps in smaller, reformulated class-action groups.

Named plaintiff Betty Dukes said in a conference call just hours after the decision, “I am disappointed that we were not able to proceed forward as a class action collectively. … We will fight one on one [and] we will persevere, even though we did not get the ruling we hoped for. We are still determined to move forward. … I believe the truth will come out on the merits of the case, and then we can go forward.”

Another named plaintiff, Christine Kwapnoski, asserted in the same conference call, “I will still be heard, I will just be saying it differently. …I’ll be saying it individually. …We’re not done with Wal-Mart yet.”

In the ruling, the Supreme Court chose to ignore more than 40 years of established jurisprudence and severely restricted the ability of workers to fight discrimination together in a class action. Essentially, the court’s extremely conservative decision gave great weight to the mere presence of a corporate anti-discrimination policy, even though it seems that the policy was routinely not followed. This decision appears to give a red light for future employee class-action cases and a green light for employers to continue to use highly subjective pay and sex discrimination practices.

“The Supreme Court says the Wal-Mart case is ‘simply too large.’ Maybe that’s because — from the corner office to the corner store — gender discrimination is widespread,” said AAUW Executive Director Linda D. Hallman, CAE. “The court ignored most of the evidence, a disturbing development for other fair pay and discrimination cases. What a missed opportunity to warm up the chilly climate many women still experience in the workplace.”

This disappointing decision comes just two days after Edith Arana, a named plaintiff in the case, and her attorney Arcelia Hurtado, executive director of Equal Rights Advocates, spoke at the AAUW National Convention. The women spoke as part of A Conversation on Justice, a session on workplace gender discrimination that took place on Saturday, June 18, at the Renaissance, Washington, D.C. Hotel. CSPAN filmed the session, which aired this morning.

While the ruling does not determine whether Wal-Mart is guilty of gender discrimination, it will have far-reaching effects on class certification in workplace discrimination lawsuits.

AAUW strongly believes in protecting the rights of Americans to bring appropriate class-action suits against discriminatory employers. Such cases ensure that all affected workers can right the wrongs against them and stand together in the face of corporate misconduct. Sometimes, class actions are the only way to force a company to change its unfair practices. Class actions also serve as powerful deterrents to keep other employers from engaging in the same practices.

“Wal-Mart is not off the hook. Nothing in this opinion changes the legitimate and timely claims of women workers at Wal-Mart,” said AAUW Director of Public Policy and Government Relations Lisa Maatz. “The Supreme Court has been wrong before — just ask Lilly Ledbetter. AAUW will be looking at all the angles in this case, and we still have a range of options available to right yet another Supreme Court wrong. This case is not over any more than the fight for pay equity is over.”

Any Wal-Mart and Sam’s Club workers who feel they have faced sex discrimination should contact walmartclass.com or Equal Rights Advocates. As Dukes stated in today’s conference call, “I am Betty Dukes, and my voice has been heard, but I am not the only Betty Dukes in this country. There are many, many more, and they need to contact us and let their voices be heard.”

“AAUW’s resolve will not be shaken by this decision, and this case is not over,” said Hallman. “We will continue to stand 100 percent behind the women of Wal-Mart as they pursue what’s only simple fairness.”

Take Action:

If you’re like me and are upset about this ruling, you can take immediate action by attending one of the many rallies that are planned for tomorrow around the nation. I’ll be participating in one outside the Supreme Court in Washington, D.C., from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m.

You can also take action by donating to the Legal Advocacy Fund and designating your donation to case support.

Already, AAUW’s Legal Advocacy Fund provided case support and signed an amicus brief for the plaintiffs in the case. Thanks to AAUW funds, lead plaintiff Betty Dukes and the other named plaintiffs, including Edith Arana, were able to come to Washington, D.C., to attend oral arguments at the Supreme Court in March.

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Dawn Aldrich with Shelby Knox

Shelby Knox, one of the keynote speakers at this year’s National Conference for College Women Student Leaders (NCCWSL), inspired a room of more than 500 women last Friday morning when she spoke about her experiences with sex education and activism.

After a hilarious performance by feminist comedian Lucé Tomlin-Brenner, AAUW’s Executive Director Linda Hallman introduced Knox and set the tone for the morning with an important piece of advice. “Never box yourself in to anything,” she told us.

Upon taking the stage, Knox joked about being such an “angry, humorless feminist” that a comedian needed to open for her. But by the end of her address, it became quite clear that she is definitely not angry or humorless.

As Knox told us her story about how she’s gotten where she is today at age 24, we laughed with her. We empathized. We recalled our own privileges, our own biases, our own stories. She discussed the problems that many women have with identifying as a feminist. There is such a history of privilege and discrimination that many choose to reject such a loaded label.

Then Knox shared her definition of feminism: hearing your pain, struggle, and experience in another woman’s voice and realizing that there’s nothing wrong with you or with her.

Despite the throngs of young women who do self-identify as feminists, we are frequently accused of being apathetic and asked why we aren’t taking to the streets like activists did during the women’s liberation movement. Speaking to a crowd of mostly young women, Knox reminded us that everyone’s individual idea of a young feminist agenda is different but still valid. She described the immense power of social media and online activism in accomplishing real-world results.

The activism of our generation may look different than the activism of our parents and grandparents, but it is our way of sharing our thoughts and advocating for what we believe. We are activists; we are not apathetic. We’re not willing to box ourselves in.

Before receiving a standing ovation, Knox ended with a powerfully motivating statement for anyone, regardless of age or gender, who believes in equality: “We are not the future of the feminist movement. We are the now.”

Are you up for the challenge?


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Today is an important day for pay equity and workers’ rights as the U.S. Supreme Court hears oral arguments in the Wal-Mart v. Dukes case. AAUW supported the lead plaintiffs financially through the AAUW Legal Advocacy Fund and by signing an amicus brief earlier this month. The generous support of AAUW members ensured that the plaintiffs could attend the oral arguments.

The Supreme Court will determine whether the case can be filed as a class-action suit. Lead plaintiff Betty Dukes, a current Wal-Mart employee, has alleged gender discrimination in pay and promotion policies and practices in Wal-Mart stores. If she and the other plaintiffs prevail, their case will become the largest class-action civil rights suit in the nation’s history, representing approximately 1.6 million Wal-Mart and Sam’s Club employees. A lower court will hear the discrimination allegations after the Supreme Court’s ruling.

AAUW supports class certification because it allows workers to band together to fight discrimination. Such cases can also send a strong message to employers to follow the law in the first place.

Co-plaintiff Edith Arana

“AAUW isn’t just proud to support these women; we believe it’s absolutely necessary. Alone, Betty and her co-workers stand before a corporate Goliath, each woman burdened with enormous legal fees and without the moral support that a class action provides,” said AAUW Executive Director Linda D. Hallman.

“This case illuminates the dirty little secret that women know all too well — that pay discrimination is alive and well and undermining the economic security of American families,” said AAUW Director of Public Policy and Government Relations Lisa Maatz. “Betty Dukes and the other plaintiffs are proof positive of the systemic problem in American workplaces that sometimes people are paid differently simply because of their gender.”

The alleged gender discrimination in pay and promotions in this case contributed to AAUW’s decision to support the lead plaintiffs. The Legal Advocacy Fund offers financial and organizational support for workplace- and academia-based cases that have the potential to set a significant precedent for all women. Since 1981, LAF has disbursed nearly $2 million to more than 100 sex discrimination cases to help offset legal fees. This support has been instrumental to the success of many cases.

Check back later this week for LAF Program Manager Holly Kearl’s interview with the women who are suing Wal-Mart.

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