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Posts Tagged ‘women leaders’

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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In July 2009, President Obama announced the American Graduation Initiative, a higher education plan that focuses on community colleges. With an increase in federal support, including a recent $500 million grant from the U.S. Department of Labor, community colleges are playing a key role in higher education dialogue, and enrollment has risen in the last decade. Community colleges provide affordable education that can help students earn an associate degree, transfer to a four-year institution, or gain valuable job skills. But behind this work are leaders —community college presidents.

Merrimack College in North Andover, MA on September 23, 2010.The American Association of Community Colleges recently released a report that found that in 2012, female leaders of community colleges had a higher median base salary than male leaders had. However, when benefits were taken into account, male presidents made slightly more than women. The report also found that about 75 percent of surveyed community college CEOs plan to retire in the next 10 years. With an increase in the number of women community college presidents since 1991, this may be a prime opportunity for women to fill vacancies at the CEO level.

While academia has been the traditional pipeline to college presidency, this burgeoning era of new community college leadership calls for transformational leaders who have a mix of skills, behaviors, and experiences. AAUW has empowered women to lead for more than 130 years. For academic leaders, this advancement has come from opportunities like our fellowships and grants and networking with other AAUW members and supporters. It’s important for women leaders to mentor and champion the next generation of college women administrators. In fact, research shows that it’s critical for women to identify and build relationships with mentors in order for them to become university presidents.

Do you have words of wisdom for aspiring college administrators?

This post was written by AAUW College/University Relationships Manager Christine Hernandez.

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My friends and I have a lot in common, but there is one word that often leads to abrupt disagreements: the f-word. No matter when I say it or to whom, the frequent response is a shudder of the shoulders. Like the other f-word, the sound of the word “feminist” sends chills down others’ spines.

Bethany Imondi spoke about student loans and the pay gap at an AAUW panel in November.

Negative stereotypes of feminists — like bra burning, unshaven underarms, and man hating — perpetuate false assumptions and distract from the true goals of the feminist movement. At its core, feminism simply strives to establish equal opportunities for women, and yet many women today hesitate and feel embarrassed to classify themselves as feminists.

Despite women’s significant gains over the years, including the recent news that a record number of women will serve in the next Congress, other glaring issues of inequity remain. Women may outnumber men in higher education and earn more degrees than ever, but women still earn less than their male peers earn — a significant pay gap exists for women just a year after college graduation. Climbing the corporate ladder remains difficult for women, and positions of leadership continue to be dominated by men.

These dismal facts should be enough to motivate all women to embrace the progressive ideals of feminism. Any person who believes that women deserve equal opportunities is a feminist. Bra burning is not a prerequisite; voting for pro-women’s rights candidates, volunteering at a local women’s shelter, or working to protect women from sexual assault are just a few examples of advocacy on behalf of women’s equality.

Many women my age seem ashamed or embarrassed to identify as feminists when they should be embracing their beliefs. The challenge today lies in convincing women, particularly young women, that there is more to feminism than the backlash of stereotypes that emerged after the activism of the 1960s. In 2012, gender discrimination still exists. It is imperative that today’s generation of women continue the fight their mothers and grandmothers initiated to shatter the glass ceiling. It might not be the sexiest term, but the f-word is one all women should proudly claim, not only to transform the stereotypes but also to promote a more promising future for women of all ages.

This post was written by National Student Advisory Council member Bethany Imondi.

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When I was a child, my parents always told me that, as a woman, I was supposed to be shy, feminine, and passive. These qualities aren’t necessarily bad, but they aren’t for me. I want to be independent, assertive, and powerful. I was never allowed to do the many things that my brother did. He could play video games, but I couldn’t. He could wear sweatpants in public, but I couldn’t. Additionally, I was told to like the colors red and pink. Going to college gave me a sense of freedom from the restrictive perspectives of my parents. I was finally able to make decisions that would affect my future on my own, which included majoring in computer science. Even if I’m the minority as a woman in the computer science field, learning about technical subjects like programming, data structures, and algorithms has been the greatest experience. I even get to create video games in one of my classes!

With this newfound freedom, I stumbled upon roller derby. I was drawn to it at first because I thought it was such a cool sport. It is the polar opposite of what my parents would consider conventional. I saw women of all ages roller skating, shoulder checking, and hip bumping other women out of their way while wearing skirts and bright leggings! They expressed womanhood and female strength in a new dimension and displayed an innovative sense of self-expression. People encouraged these awesome, modern women and cheered them on. I was in intrigued, so I decided to join them.

I now train with the Charlotte Roller Girls in North Carolina. It is a fun sport, but practice is tough. Many of the new members are skating for the first time in years. Stopping with skates has been my biggest challenge — I have fallen quite a few times during practice. But it’s all worth it in the end. When practice ends, I’m always shocked at how quickly the two hours have passed. Each practice strengthens our communication, and everyone is always supportive of those who need help. The roller derby women are not just a team. We are a family — a family that protects and looks out for our fellow teammates, and no one is ever left behind.

This post was written by National Student Advisory Council member Maybellin Burgos.

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On October 9, I had the honor of hearing Lilly Ledbetter speak on my campus, St. Cloud State University. Ledbetter’s story is an inspiring one. After 19 years of working at Goodyear Tire and Rubber in Alabama as a production manager, a note was slipped into her mailbox revealing a startling pay gap between her and three male colleagues in the same position. Despite knowing that taking the corporation to court would be a long, uphill battle that would likely not lead to the compensation she was owed, she sued Goodyear. “It wasn’t about me anymore,” she said. “It was about my daughter, my granddaughter, and the women and families in this nation.” Her case went all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court, and in 2007, after nine years of fighting, she received the final verdict. She lost because of an unreasonably short statute of limitations that would have required her to file suit years before she even knew she was being paid unfairly.

But her story did not end there. Ledbetter became the namesake for the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act, which was the first bill signed into law by President Obama in 2009. The bill righted the wrong of the Supreme Court decision by allowing the statute of limitations to reset with every discriminatory paycheck.

As I sat in the audience listening to this strong woman share her story, two things happened to me. First, I was humbled by how much women in the past have achieved to guarantee me certain rights. Second, I was inspired to do the same for future generations of women. I think that my generation often does not take the time to learn about the influential women in our country’s history. I feel that young women believe the struggles of the past are over, when in fact they are far from complete. Even today, women’s median earnings are still only 77 percent of men’s, which accounts for huge losses in income, retirement savings, and Social Security benefits over a lifetime of work. But Ledbetter’s speech appeared to raise students’ awareness. Through the question-and-answer session following the speech, you could hear people expressing their outrage at what happened to her and their demand to change what is still occurring today.

St. Cloud State University has been making great strides to bring inspiring programming to young women. At the SCSU Women’s Center, where I work, we strive to empower women, increase awareness, and develop programming to support those principles on our campus. Our mission statement speaks to these ideals: “With passion and purpose to end sexist oppression, the Women’s Center promotes a safe, inclusive, and engaged community through advocacy, education, alliance-building, and women’s leadership.”

My hope is that by bringing speakers like Ledbetter to campus, our generation will have a greater appreciation for past struggles and those who fought them. I also hope that when someone from my generation is faced with a situation where she has to decide whether to stand up for herself, she will think like Ledbetter: “I knew that the only choice I had was to stand up for myself and do what was right. I understood the risk I was taking. It would surely be the hardest fight of my life, and there were no guarantees I’d win. … But as I ruminated, I realized I had no other choice.”

This post was written by Bre Moulder, a St. Cloud State University sophomore majoring in political science and women’s studies. St. Cloud State University is an AAUW college/university partner member.

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To most of our AAUW Dialog readers, it’s no secret that women’s representation in American politics is appallingly low. Women make up just 17 percent of the U.S. Congress, 24 percent of state legislators, and 23 percent of state executive officers. The numbers are even lower for women under 40 and for women of color. The United States is ranked 80th in the world for women’s representation in national politics, behind countries like Uganda, Pakistan, and Afghanistan. Yowza.

With Election Day looming, these numbers are always in the forefront of my mind as women’s issues are ignored or attacked by political candidates. The truth is, when we don’t have women in the pipeline for political office, we can’t be guaranteed someone at the table will be representing our interests.

It is for that exact reason that AAUW and Running Start teamed up for Elect Her–Campus Women Win, the only national program that encourages and trains college women to run for office in student government and beyond. We are excited to announce the 39 colleges and universities that will be offering these trainings for women on their campuses this spring. Stay informed about Elect Her via Facebook, and send any questions about the program to leadership@aauw.org.

New Sites in 2013

California State Polytechnic University, San Luis Obispo, California

California State University, Chico, California

Georgetown University, Washington, D.C.

Ithaca College, Ithaca, New York

Middlebury College, Middlebury, Vermont

North Carolina Central University, Durham, North Carolina

Portland State University, Portland, Oregon

Sierra College, Rocklin, California

University of Central Florida, Orlando, Florida

University of Minnesota, Minneapolis/St. Paul, Minnesota

University of Tennessee, Chattanooga, Tennessee

Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University, Blacksburg, Virginia

Returning Sites

Coastal Carolina University, Conway, South Carolina

Denison University, Granville, Ohio

George Washington University, Washington, D.C.

Georgia State University, Atlanta, Georgia

Georgian Court University, Lakewood, New Jersey

Howard University, Washington, D.C.

Idaho State University, Pocatello, Idaho

Louisiana State University, Baton Rouge, Louisiana

Loyola University, New Orleans, Louisiana

Mount San Jacinto College, Menifee, California

Northern Michigan University, Marquette, Michigan

Pacific Lutheran University, Tacoma, Washington

Stanford University, Palo Alto, California

Stony Brook University, Stony Brook, New York

University of Alabama, Tuscaloosa, Alabama

University of Cincinnati, Cincinnati, Ohio

University of Connecticut, Storrs, Connecticut

University of Louisville, Louisville, Kentucky

University of North Carolina, Wilmington, North Carolina

University of Texas, Arlington, Texas

University of Virginia, Charlottesville, Virginia

University of the West Indies, Mona; Kingston, Jamaica

University of Wyoming, Laramie, Wyoming

Washington and Lee University, Lexington, Virginia

Western Washington University, Bellingham, Washington

Willamette University, Salem, Oregon

Wright State University, Dayton, Ohio

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Although AAUW only recently launched our first student organizations on college and university campuses, the student org at the University of Missouri is flourishing. After hearing about the group through a women’s empowerment residence hall on campus, senior Taaj Reaves attended a few meetings, became a member, and is now the AAUW-MU student org president. While it is only her first semester in that role, Reaves has big plans for the group this year and was excited to share her experience with AAUW Dialog.

Adviser Jane Biers and President Taaj Reaves at the Women’s Leadership Conference in Columbia, Missouri

AAUW: What types of meetings and events do you host on campus?

Reaves: Once or twice a month, we host a female guest speaker from the Missouri community. For example, we will host the president of the Missouri State Women’s Political Caucus. We also host screenings of documentaries such as Miss Representation and facilitate voter registration drives. In addition, we are seeking university funding to host a Women’s Awareness Week with topics and presentations on the issues of wage gap disparity, women’s access to health care, and the glass ceiling for women in politics.

AAUW: Do you partner with a local branch or other student organizations on campus?

Reaves: Absolutely! In the past, there have been social opportunities for our members to network with local branch members, and we are looking forward to working with our local branch in the near future. We are very active with other women’s groups on campus and have forged great relationships with organizations such as Stop Traffic and the Feminist Student Union. We are also involved with the on-campus Women’s Center.

AAUW: What are some of the best benefits for AAUW student organization members?

Reaves: The best benefit women get from our student organization is the connections they make with their peers and mentors. We enjoy going to our local branch meetings. Our members get a chance to hear from women in a wide range of career fields through our various guest speakers, and many of our members have gone on to intern with these guests.

AAUW: What has been your favorite part of being involved with the AAUW-MU student organization?

Reaves: My favorite part of being involved with AAUW has been the amazing opportunities I have had to meet and connect with like-minded young women. Being president allows me so much room for growth and development. I have seen my leadership style change tremendously. I am so passionate about this organization and what it does for women and girls, so being able to share that message with others is very important and a huge benefit of being a part of AAUW-MU.

AAUW: Do you have any advice for other AAUW student organizations?

AAUW-MU student organization members Ariel Park, Alexa Henning, and Carolyn Cianciolo tabled on campus at a fall welcome event last year.

Reaves: Be enthused about the message of AAUW, and have a passion for it. Your energy will shine through and show others how important it is to be an advocate of women’s issues. The best ideas are born through conversation and collaboration. We suggest making your social media usage — Twitter, Facebook, and Tumblr — as relevant as possible. Ask questions of your followers, congratulate high achievers, and have conversations. Also, don’t be afraid to ask for money! AAUW’s mission is not one-dimensional, and there are topics that all university students should be informed on. Thus it is important for the greater community and campus to support AAUW efforts!

If you are inspired to start an AAUW student organization on your college or university campus, send us an e-mail at coll-univ@aauw.org with “Student Organization” in the subject line. You can also check out our Program in a Box for more information on forming an AAUW student org.

This post was written by AAUW College/University Relationships Intern Courtney Douglas.

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Candidates running for political office are put under a microscope. But some are scrutinized in ways that others aren’t. In her piece for the Women’s Media Center, AAUW Director of Leadership Programs Kate Farrar wrote, “The more things change, the more they stay the same. Just look at the coverage of Secretary of State Hillary Clinton wearing headbands or going ‘au naturel.’ Or skim the story on former Republican presidential candidate Michele Bachmann’s fingernails.”

Photo courtesy of the Clinton LibraryThese are excellent examples of the ways in which women candidates are judged differently than their male peers, and it’s ridiculous. But recently we’ve started judging men’s attire too — like Paul Ryan’s “dad pants.” Seriously?

I can’t believe we, as a nation, are talking about this stuff. It’s an issue that has always been part of the conversation, and I don’t think it should. It doesn’t matter if the candidate is a woman or a man — we shouldn’t be talking about their clothing or fashion choices. Instead, that energy should be directed toward coverage of their stances on issues that affect our daily lives. Whether Clinton wears headbands or Ryan wears dad pants is irrelevant to my day-to-day existence. What does matter are candidates’ views on women and our hard-won rights.

Unfortunately, this distraction also exists for women in other professions. The New York Times last month published a story about women technology professionals that highlighted their appearances instead of their achievements. Focusing on their clothes and comparing their opulence with the frumpy sweats and jeans worn by other tech moguls doesn’t empower them — it demeans them.

The reporter includes a quote — and a troubling message — from designer Stacey Bendet Eisner: “[Successful tech women] also want an element of sophistication to their clothes because they want to be taken seriously.” Unfortunately, in our society, women and girls are constantly bombarded with the message that the only way to be taken seriously is to look good.

I can’t believe crucial column inches and spots in the blogosphere are devoted to something so superficial when there are more substantive, life-altering issues that should be the topics of national conversation.

Rather than focus on the fashion choices people make, look at the substance. Let’s not keep using these shortcuts to judge people and label them. We know there’s going to be a next time — this issue will keep popping up again and again. History has shown that. Hopefully, though, we’ll know to look past it because intelligence, skills, and viewpoints matter. Appearance does not.

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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.

“If Mitt Romney and Republicans played up their feminine side last week in Tampa, Democrats on Tuesday were utterly and unabashedly feminist.” So says the National Journal after the Democrats’ schmoozefest Tuesday night. I won’t lie — I enjoyed it. The Democratic women of the House were wonderful, a rainbow with superstars like pay-equity champion Rosa DeLauro of Connecticut, choice champion (and my former boss) Carolyn Maloney of New York, and the always-feisty and on-point Gwen Moore of Wisconsin.

Lilly Ledbetter had the crowd jumping out of their seats, stating that “equal pay for equal work is an American value.” And of course, first lady Michelle Obama gave a tour-de-force defense of and case for her husband’s reelection. All were entertaining. All were feel good. But I would also say that Ann Romney’s speech was also very feel good, and the GOP trotted out lots of women as well.

Yes, yes, I know the substance of both conventions’ first nights was very different. The party platforms, both of which AAUW submitted comments on, are very different. While Tuesday night’s DNC lineup made for a fun evening — it’s never boring ­­­­­­watching lots of smart women speak snarky truth to power — I’ve gotten cranky. I want more from both parties!

The real question is what have you done for us lately? Yes, women will decide this election. But don’t just parade around your female celebrities and think that will satisfy us! The stakes are high; tell us why you deserve our vote! Don’t pander, and for goodness sake, don’t take us for granted. I’m so tired of lip service. While past achievements are nice and all, what’s your party’s plan for the future?

It’s time for the typical dog-and-pony show to stop. If indeed women decide this election — and it’s looking more and more like that will be the case — then we as women need to seize this opportunity to hold candidates accountable. Candidates from both parties need to tell us what their plans are for the economy, jobs, education, health care, responsible budgets, violence against women, national security, and other issues. They need to be clear about their positions on reproductive rights, pay equity, Title IX, child care, and food stamps. And women need to cast their votes accordingly.

Here’s the bottom line. The women of America have a real chance this time to turn the tide in our direction — in everyone’s direction, when it comes to equal rights. Both parties are scampering for our votes, and it’s our job not to give them away lightly. We need to cast them thoughtfully, deliberately, and every single woman of voting age in the nation needs to be registered and at the polls on November 6 or forever hold her peace.

But this journey doesn’t end with the election. Once women have chosen our president, our Senate, our House, and our state legislatures nationwide, the real work begins. AAUW plans to hold our legislators’ feet to the fire, based not only on their election-year promises but also on the fact that they owe their jobs to us. January is the time to start delivering. It’s like my wonderful mama always says: I brought you into this world, and I can take you out!

The AAUW Action Fund’s It’s My Vote: I Will Be Heard voter education and turnout campaign represents an unprecedented investment in making women’s voices heard in the 2012 election. Follow us on Twitter and on Tumblr for the latest updates, and check out our biweekly Campaign Update for news, resources, and ideas.

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It’s no secret that women are not highly represented in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) fields of study and careers. And until recently, I couldn’t see myself in this line of work. But that changed when I met peers and role models in STEM fields at the Leadership DELTA conference. Leadership DELTA is a yearlong program through the Delta Sigma Theta Sorority — co-sponsored by General Electric — that provides collegiate members, the majority of whom are STEM majors, the opportunity to build and enhance strong leadership skills, develop effective career paths, and gather resources and support to enter the workplace.

I was honored to be chosen to attend this conference, and I was inspired by the STEM professionals and students who participated. At the opening session, I met several high-level women professionals from GE, most of whom were members of the Delta Sigma Theta Sorority. As one of the few non-STEM majors in the room, I was delighted to find out how much work and effort goes into the GE women’s jobs, how rewarding they find their careers, and how the encouragement they received maximized their experiences. Lora Williams, area sales manager at GE, says, “Had it not been for [the National Society of Black Engineers], I would not have graduated with my degree in mechanical engineering.” The unconditional support that NSBE lent Williams was the motivation that she needed to successfully graduate with a STEM degree and ultimately settle into a STEM career.

In my cohort of 42 women, only five were not STEM majors. The opportunity to learn from my peers was life-changing. These dedicated and ambitious women truly show that with hard work, any stereotype can be combatted. TeAirra Brown, a senior at Norfolk State University, is majoring in computer science engineering and mathematics. “Although I may be one of few or the only female in most of my classes, it drives me to be that much better,” she says. “I know that people don’t expect to see me here, so I work even harder.” Many of my fellow attendees echoed this idea, and I realized that reassurance and support can help break down stereotypes — and more specifically, lead to an increase of women who are studying and working in STEM fields.

While I know that we will not wake up tomorrow and see women dominating STEM, I feel that programs like Leadership DELTA show young women that they do have a voice in these fields. Similar to the National Conference for College Women Student Leaders, Leadership DELTA brings women student leaders together to learn how they can be transformative leaders on their campuses and in their careers. Uplifting and encouraging women to participate in STEM is a sure way to help combat stereotypes and eliminate their fear of failure in these areas.

Did you have a role model who changed your preconceived notions about your career? Share your story in the comments section below!

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

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