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Posts Tagged ‘New York City’

reshma_saujaniReshma Saujani was born in the United States to Ugandan refugee parents fleeing Idi Amin’s violent dictatorship. Her parents’ experiences in Uganda triggered a personal concern in Saujani for the welfare of Americans; she wanted to ensure that citizens had a political voice as well as economic opportunities. And that’s just what she did!

Saujani is a former deputy public advocate for New York City and the former executive director of the Fund for Public Advocacy. During her time in public office she promoted civic engagement and government accountability. By taking the lead on projects that aimed to increase citywide job and economic growth, engaging with immigrant communities, supporting small businesses, and improving education. Saujani made sure she could improve the quality of life for New Yorkers.

But Saujani also takes the time to empower girls through Girls Who Code, a nonprofit she founded with the mission to educate, inspire, and equip girls ages 13–18 with the skills and resources necessary to pursue careers in science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM). Her organization works to fill the gender gap within the STEM fields and give girls the courage and support to take on these areas where they are often discouraged.

Saujani is a woman who cannot be stopped: a public servant, a leader, a role model, and an inspiration. She has given back to her community and leads with a vision that is bigger than herself. Her investment in bettering the lives of girls by encouraging them that they can do whatever they set their minds to pushes me to do more too. Saujani’s actions demonstrate what a leader should be. She leads for others. She leads selflessly and with passion.

With her upcoming book, Women Who Don’t Wait in Line, she advocates for women to support each other and step outside of boundaries that society has deemed normal for women. I am extremely excited to meet her at this year’s National Conference for College Women Student Leaders (NCCWSL). I look forward to listening to her empowering words and learning about her journey. I look up to Saujani, and she encourages me to move forward without fear of failure and to embrace and support other women around me. She is indeed a motivator.

Meet Saujani, a 2013 Woman of Distinction, at NCCWSL 2013! What will you be eager to ask her?

Editors’ note: In an earlier version, we erroneously stated that Saujani was herself a refugee from Uganda. In fact, she is the daughter of political refugees and was born in the United States.

This post was written by AAUW Leadership Programs Intern Nzinga Shury.

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“I’m writing again, I’m living again,

I’m [inhale] breathing again.”

Mayda del Valle left her audience in awe after she performed “The Gift” on Russell Simmons Presents Def Poetry. As a spoken word performer, I too was left amazed. The feeling of getting on the stage and pouring out every feeling is always amazing — even better is having the audience connect with and feel what you’re talking about. It is something every artist looks forward to. Del Valle did just that — she used her words to captivate the audience, tell her story, and leave her mark. I must admit that I reached for my pen and started writing after I saw her performance.

Midway through her act, I came to realize how the beauty of words can inspire people, and del Valle has a way with her words. She grew up on the South Side of Chicago and began performing her work during her high school years. It wasn’t until she relocated to New York City in 2000 that she began performing competitively. A regular at the Nuyorican Poets Cafe, del Valle won four out of her first five slams. The rest is history! In 2009, she even performed at the White House for President Barack Obama and first lady Michelle Obama, and she continues to perform today.

The most inspiring part of del Valle’s story is that she has taken her passions for writing and performing and used them to encourage her community. She went on a spoken word tour with Norman Lear’s Declare Yourself, which encourages young people to register to vote. Thanks to her experiences as a woman growing up in a diverse neighborhood under the influence of hip-hop music, del Valle is able to relate to women from different backgrounds.

I am truly excited that del Valle will be a keynote speaker at this year’s National Conference for College Women Student Leaders. I am looking forward to her performance and anticipating the ways in which she will use her words to inspire everyone in the room. She is sure to leave the audience transformed and ready to lead.

Have you ever used your words to lead?

This post was written by AAUW Leadership Programs Intern Nzinga Shury.

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Anita Hill (right) on stage at Anita Hill 20 Years Later with Patricia J. Williams (left) of Columbia University

“Are you a scorned woman?”

Sen. Howell Heflin (D-AL) asked Anita Hill this question in October 1991. The moment was replayed in the documentary Sex and Justice. This was one of many outrageous questions he and other senators asked Hill during the Senate confirmation hearings of then-Supreme Court justice nominee Clarence Thomas to determine the possible motivation for her “telling falsehoods” about her experiences of sexual harassment at his hands.

The film was shown at the start of the conference Sex, Power, and Speaking Truth: Anita Hill 20 Years Later, which I attended on Saturday at Hunter College in New York City. The film set the context for the rest of the day, and it made me better appreciate just how brave Hill was to speak her truth in the face of blatant hostility and disbelief from some of the most powerful people in the country.

Following the film, the 2,000 attendees — feminists, womanists, and Hill supporters — heard what happened 20 years ago from key players, including Hill’s lead counsel Charles Ogletree and Lani Guinier, one of her advisors.

Throughout the day, we heard from scholars like Kimberlé Crenshaw, Patricia J. Williams, and Catharine MacKinnon, who placed the hearings in context and discussed how it brought attention to the intersectionality of race and gender. Activists like Ai-jen Poo of the National Domestic Workers Alliance, Rha Goddess of Move the Crowd, and Jamia Wilson of the Women’s Media Center spoke about the legacy Hill’s testimony has on their work.

During the lunch break, on behalf of AAUW I co-hosted a discussion with Girls for Gender Equity on the topic of sexual harassment in schools and on the streets. Several AAUW of New York members were among the 35 attendees. Despite being in a noisy cafeteria, we had interesting conversations about the motivation for harassment and victim-blaming, and we came up with suggestions for action.

Hill spoke after lunch, and she received a standing ovation as she took the stage. She graciously thanked friends, family, and supporters and said she never would have made it through without their help. I was saddened to learn that after the hearing, people sent death threats, petitions for her to lose her job as a professor at the University of Oklahoma, and excrement through the mail.

Two New York State AAUW members who attended the conference.

In many ways, the hearing was a turning point in her life, but it did not monopolize her interests. She just authored a book called Reimagining Equality: Stories of Gender, Race, and Finding Home and spoke to us about the housing crisis, especially its impact on women of color.

After a full day of feminist history, high emotions, and inspiration, I was honored to briefly meet Hill at an evening reception. Despite the long and surely tiring day, she was gracious, kind, and thoughtful in her interactions with all of her admirers.

Before I left, I purchased an I Believe Anita Hill T-shirt, a nod to the phrase on buttons that her supporters wore 20 years ago. Unlike Heflin, I do believe she told the truth, just as I believe other survivors of sexual harassment and sexual assault who speak out.

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Twenty years ago this week, Professor Anita Hill testified about sexual harassment before the Senate Judiciary Committee during the confirmation hearings for then-Supreme Court justice nominee Clarence Thomas. Hill used to work for Thomas and felt it was her duty to share her experiences of sexual harassment in her workplace. In the end, Thomas was still appointed as a justice, and he continues to be one today.

Two decades later, it is clear that the hearings were a pivotal moment in our nation’s history.

Working women across the nation identified with what Hill said, and her testimony opened up the floodgates. In record numbers, women shared their sexual harassment stories, and in just a few years, the number of sexual harassment complaints filed with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission doubled.

Hill’s testimony ultimately changed how we think about sexual harassment. Before, it was seen as a personal problem and something women should handle with a sense of humor or thick skin. Hill’s testimony helped people understand that sexual harassment is discrimination and a tactic that both men and women use to oust others from a workplace.

The disbelieving, hostile way the all-male Senate Judiciary Committee treated Hill and the subsequent confirmation of Thomas to the Supreme Court led to several women being elected to the Senate the following election year in what was dubbed the “Year of the Woman.”

Tomorrow, Saturday, October 15, Hunter College in New York City is hosting a daylong summit on workplace sexual harassment, and Hill is the keynote speaker. Panelists will host sessions such as What Happened, What Does Anita Hill Mean to You, and What Have We Learned in 20 Years and What Comes Next?

AAUW is one of the many conference co-sponsors, and we will host one of the lunchtime discussions. Ours will focus on the sexual harassment of teenagers in schools and on the streets.

For the majority of you who cannot be there, you can watch via live streaming on the conference website. If you’re on Twitter, follow @anitahill20 and view live updates by following the hashtag #AnitaHill. AAUW will cover the event on our blog early next week.

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A rendering of the 9/11 Memorial featuring the southern tower waterfall and reflecting pool (courtesy of the National September 11 Memorial and Museum)

It’s been 10 years since the day our nation was stunned by sacrifice and tragedy. We’ve been flooded these past few days with articles and remembrances of the moment that is seared into the heart and history of our country, and rightfully so. It is important to remember.

 

By some accounts, 9/11 is a closed book we can page through to survey the damage done. For me, three numbers stand out. First, more than 1,600 people lost a husband, wife, or partner in the four attacks. Second, more than 3,000 children lost a parent. Finally, a painful, personal number that continues to increase each day: more than 6,000 soldiers have died in Afghanistan and Iraq.

Behind each of these statistics is a family, a community that has not and will not forget. But what about America as a nation?

 

It’s easy to say we will never forget. After all, September 11, 2001, was the beginning of a new world, one in which brave women and men stood together. (This Washington Post story tells of one particularly courageous woman who prepared to take down Flight 93 before it crashed.) But a decade later, distracted by high unemployment, natural disasters, and the 2012 election season, we’d rather ignore the fact that 9/11 is anything but a closed book.

 

We don’t want to think about Iraq, where so many lives have been lost, or Afghanistan, where the war wages on, muted on our TV screens.

 

We don’t want to think about the quiet halls of veterans’ hospitals, where wounded warriors struggle to survive.

 

We don’t want to think about our absent friends and neighbors, the many mothers, fathers, daughters, sons, sisters, and brothers who are far away and in harm’s way.

 

To remember, it seems, is to walk with heavy boots. But that was not the reaction of our country immediately after the attacks. Instead, the emotions and ideas of a strong, unified community spread like wildfire. We were one nation, under God, indivisible. We were a nation that would endure.

 

It’s hard to remember what exactly that looked like. You have to check You-Tube for the image of our government leaders gathered together, singing “God Bless America,” a beautiful moment that seems downright incredible in today’s political environment.

 

Somewhere in the past 10 years, we’ve lost that solidarity, along with our can-do spirit. Blame it on the economy, the politicians, the media — there’s plenty of blame to go around in these hard times.

 

But just as we can remember and care for our military, we can also reunite our nation. Let’s start today.

 

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Twenty years ago, Anita Hill courageously testified about workplace sexual harassment during the confirmation hearing of U.S. Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas. Her testimony sent shock waves through the country and altered the way we view and deal with sexual harassment. Workplaces and schools now have sexual harassment policies, and while sexual harassment sadly still occurs, it is no longer acceptable, expected, and just “the way things are.”

 

Hill’s testimony opened the door for some of AAUW’s work. Since 1991, AAUW has financially supported plaintiffs in several workplace sexual harassment cases, produced research reports on sexual harassment in schools, and given grants to community activists who combat sexual harassment that occurs in the streets.

 

Now, 20 years later, AAUW will honor Hill by co-sponsoring a daylong summit on workplace sexual harassment at Hunter College in New York City on October 15 from 10 a.m. to 9 p.m. Anyone can attend the summit, but advanced registration is required. The event is free for students and a mere $20 for the general public.

 

The day will conclude with a series of performances in the evening by seven outstanding women artists. The closing events will be moderated by world-renowned activist, playwright, and V-Day founder Eve Ensler.

I am grateful to Hill and to all the unsung women and men whose courageous and decent actions and decisions made the world I’ve grown up in a safer one and one where sexual harassment is not OK. I am excited to attend the summit and hear from so many influential women in the feminist movement, including Hill herself. View the online schedule to find out who will speak on three panels covering what happened, where we are today, and what comes next (one speaker is Gloria Steinem!).

 

If you’re in the New York area, I hope you can attend.

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If you think it’s hard for a woman to run for president today, consider how hard it must have been in 1872. That was when Victoria Woodhull became the first woman to be officially nominated for president of the United States.

Victoria Claflin WoodhullWoodhull was born Victoria Claflin in 1838 in Homer, Ohio, the fifth of seven children. When Woodhull was 15 years old, she married an alcoholic, womanizing doctor named Canning Woodhull. They were married for 11 years and had two children. Two years after their divorce, Woodhull married her second husband, Col. James Harvey Blood, a kind man who introduced Woodhull to the concept of free love. Woodhull soon became active in the free love movement.

Woodhull and her family moved to New York City in 1866, opened up a salon, and started the first woman-run stock brokerage company. In 1870, Woodhull and her sister started publishing the 20,000-circulation Woodhull & Claflin’s Weekly, a journal discussing women’s suffrage, labor relations, personal freedoms, and other hot topics.

When Woodhull announced her presidential candidacy in 1870, women were still 50 years away from the right to vote. However, there was no law prohibiting them from running for office. She ran as the nominee for the Equal Rights Party and was supported by suffragists Susan B. Anthony and Elizabeth Cady Stanton among others. On January 11, 1871, Woodhull became the first woman to deliver a speech to Congress, speaking on the necessity of a woman’s right to vote.

Just a few days before the 1872 election, Woodhull, her husband, and her sister were arrested on obscenity charges after Woodhull & Claflin’s Weekly ran an article about minister and orator Henry Ward Beecher’s alleged extramarital affair. Woodhull wanted to address the sexual double standard between men and women, but since she was targeting a prominent figure, the article ended up being more of a scandal than the affair itself. The three were eventually acquitted on a technicality, but the damage to Woodhull’s reputation had been done.

She tried to run for president again in 1884 and 1892 but was unable to secure an official nomination. She died in 1927 at the age of 88.

Woodhull once said, “The truth is that I am too many years ahead of this age, and the exalted views and objects of humanitarianism can scarcely be grasped as yet by the unenlightened mind of the average man.”

Her ambitions were certainly stifled by the obstacles of her era, whereas women today face far fewer institutional challenges. However, the public still has a hard time taking female candidates seriously the higher they climb up the political ladder. Woodhull was criticized for her strong-willed, independent personality — the same way Hillary Clinton was treated during her candidacy in 2008.

That’s why AAUW is so passionate about fostering an encouraging political atmosphere for women through programs like the Elect Her initiative and Name It. Change It.

What traits do you think women need to succeed in a presidential campaign? Are those traits the same ones likely to be demonized in women?

This blog post was written by Communications Fellow Nicole Dubowitz.

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