Tuesday, July 31, 2007

Why do I care?

My older grandson turns eight this week. My younger grandson is five. No granddaughters, and unfortunately there won't be any. So why do I still care about equity for women and girls? Because my grandsons will always live in a world with women, and I want a fair playing field for all of them. I envision a world where men and women can both live and grow freely, where a person is paid for the quality of his/her work and not more or less because of her/his gender, where women are not treated as second-class citizens. My grandsons are being raised to be normal, equal-opportunity people - I hope that by the time they're adults that will be the standard.

AAUW is working towards this mission - "equity for women and girls through advocacy, education and research". By working in AAUW I help support this goal. I am not an outspoken person; I don't like to give speeches, etc. My AAUW work is "background" stuff - but it needs to be done. There's a place in AAUW for everyone who believes in this same mission.

Monday, July 23, 2007

Getting Along?

Robert Putnam, author of Bowling Alone and often mentioned when we talk about communities, is the guru of "social capital" which basically refers to all the ways that people form relationships in their community or not. Communities with high social capital seem to also have better economies, more education, less crime and so on.

Recently the NYT had an article on his recent research which to his surprise showed that more ethnically diverse neighborhoods had more isolation and less trust than more homogeneous ones. In other words they had less social capital Not only did the residents not trust those of other groups, they did not trust members of their own group either. For those of us believing in diversity this is perplexing news.

What does it mean? Obviously no one knows, and lots of people have opinions. Maybe it just means that diversity is harder than we thought. The best way to convince yourself that not all Muslims are terrorists is to meet Muslims who are good citizens and neighbors. Of course, that goes for any other group. But it apparently is not going to just happen. We are going to have to work at it. And it won't always be comfortable.

Wednesday, July 11, 2007

Visions

One of the amazing convention speakers was Renee Poussaint who with Camille Cosby founded the National Visionary Leadership Project (at www.visionaryproject.com) which interviews prominent African American leaders. Absolutely fascinating web-site both for the content and how it is done. Learning that today's students are not interested in the written word, she developed a means of linking older community members with youth. Interviews can be brought up and viewed in 45 second units, transcripts read, or research links explored. In addition Ms. P. is a speaker worth studying in her own right--a really brilliant speakers.

Friday, July 06, 2007

One Shared World

Thanks to global trade, travel, and communication, our national borders are melting away. The coffee we drink, the shoes we wear, the customer service line we call - all link us to people throughout the world. Global poverty links us, too. What happens abroad affects our health, our jobs, our environment, our security, our way of life. AAUW members, with their deeply held values of generosity, social justice, and activism, have the power to make a difference.

AAUW is one of only four national women's organizations selected as a "Connecting Working Women to International Development" grantee of One Shared World, a new national campaign funded by the United States Agency for International Development to help raise awareness of America's global development assistance efforts. One Shared World seeks to engage American working women in thinking about and supporting the many public and private efforts that help people in developing countries live better, healthier, and more productive lives.
I just returned from Phoenix - where the heat is a "dry heat" - and the American Association of University Women national convention. It was a great four days, filled with information on mission-based programming and big decisions on the future of the organization.

For me, AAUW conventions, both NYS and Association (this was my second Association convention), tend to be both energizing and moving. This past weekend in Phoenix was no different.

I attended a workshop on the status of Title IX, the law that ensures equity in educational opportunities for girls. The law has done a world of good in helping girls achieve in sports (for which the law is perhaps best know) as well as in areas in which girls are typically underrepresented. Lisa Maatz, AAUW Director of Public Policy and Government Relations, led the workshop and was a dynamic speaker. There seems to be a strong inclination on the part of the current administration to erode much of Title IX. Maatz however was clear about the work AAUW members and other like-minded organizations and individuals must do to protect this important law.

I was also able to hear members from Alabama discuss ways to engage young women through a Student Advisory Panel. The young women gain invaluable leadership skills while still in college. AAUW gains critical insight into the next generation of members and leaders. This workshop left me jazzed to work with NYS branches in implementing similar efforts here.

The highlight of my convention experience however was bringing my daughter (eight years old) to hear Dr. Mae Jemison. Dr. Jemison received the 2007 AAUW Achievement Award, AAUW's highest honor. She was dynamic, funny and inspiring. And hearing the woman who inspired much of the work we do with the Expanding Your Horizons(tm) was a real treat.

As always, after a weekend with AAUW women, I came home with renewed determination and passion for the work we do. Knowing that you are in the company of dedicated, terrific women will do that for you.

If you aren't already a member, check out your local branch and see how you might reap the rewards of membership. (Click here for a map of NYS branches. If you're not in NYS, click here.)