Empowering Women Since 1881

This summer I joined a cause which really revs my engine. I had no idea this organization existed until I was invited to a picnic in the park for the local branch by my supervisor who is the president for this area. We are a small community and so our membership at this branch is particularly small, but it is growing. I am the youngest member; however, I hope that before too long I will no longer hold that title for our branch.

AAUW Torrington-Wheatland Branch, July 2015

The American Association of University Women (AAUW) was started in a living room in 1881 when a recent college graduate came to her friend out of frustration of how little opportunities there were available for her, a woman, to exercise her degree. From two women it grew into 16 and from there, over the last 134 years, it has blossomed into 170,000 members and supporters!

Here are a few things you can thank AAUW for having a heavy hand in:
Marie Curie, Nobel Prize winner 1903, 1911
  • 1885 - Research disproving the theory that higher education harms women’s health.
  • 1913 – Reporting that women were paid about 78% of what men in similar positions were paid.
  • 1920 – Raising $156,413 toward the purchase of one gram of radium for Marie Curie’s Nobel Prize-winning research on radiation. 
  • 1940 – Assisting women who were fleeing the dictatorships of WWII.
  • 1946 – Early advocacy of the United Nations (they have been accorded permanent observer status).
  • 1955 – Supporting the first legislative proposal for pay equity (which passed in 1963).
  • 1964 – Helping pass the Civil Rights Act of 1964.
  • 1965 – Helping pass the Voting Rights Act.
  • 1972 – Playing a key role in the passage of Title IX of Education Amendments which prohibits sex discrimination in federally funded educational institutions.
  • 1981 – Taking on five of the famous “Cornell 11” staff who claimed the university paid them unfairly – the women won a $250,000 settlement in 1984.
  • 1988 – Leading the passage of the Civil Rights Restoration Act which reinvigorated Title IX after a US Supreme Court decision had undercut the law.
  • 1992 – Releasing How Schools Shortchange Girls which sparked a national debate that improved classrooms across the country.
  • 1993 – Successfully advocating for the passage of the Family and Medical Leave Act.
  • 2009 – Leading efforts to pass the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act (which Obama signed into law).
  • 2013 – Awarding $100 million in fellowships and grants to 12,000 women in 130 countries over the course of 125 years!

In 2015 there is a push for pay equality among the genders. We hear about this a lot in the news and, to me, it is shocking how prevalent of an issue it is when you think of how far we have come in recognizing and enforcing civil rights. Yet, here we are. The national average for the gender pay gap sits at 78%, as of 2013. Not much has changed since 1913. Naturally, this percentage varies from state to state. 

Check it out – how does your state fare?

Source    - Fightforfairpay.org

The piece that really hooked me into this organization was their support for the STEM fields. While they support higher education for women on any level for any degree, the researchers for AAUW have noticed a severe disparity in female representation in the STEM fields (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math).

There are many possible factors contributing to the discrepancy of women and men in STEM jobs, including: a lack of female role models, gender stereotyping, and less family-friendly flexibility in the STEM fields. Regardless of the causes, the findings of this report provide evidence of a need to encourage and support women in STEM.
What I like about this statement is that last sentence saying we need to encourage and support women in STEM. It's not that men are bad for holding the majority, it's that we need to get young women excited about science, math... engineering! Technology is all around us and yet women make up only 27% of all computer science jobs.

This is something I can be passionate about because I am going into a STEM field, myself. At the age of 29 I have decided to go back to school and start chasing dreams. I will probably spend the entirety of my 30’s behind a thick stack of books on mathematics, physics, and astronomy. We all have our own motivations for why we have chosen the fields we are currently in and some of us are completely content with our decisions. I am not. I was never a math person until I met my husband who has his masters in applied mathematics. He helped change my view of math from “I can’t do it” to “I’m going to conquer this!”

That’s another thing I love about AAUW – it’s not just for women! Yes, it is focused on representing women, but there is an understanding that this is an equality issue which involves both sides of the gender equation. Men are welcome to join!

AAUW Members are the movers and shakers in policy making, education advocacy, and leadership building. Their contributions to the academic careers of women the globe over will continue to impact for generations to come as they help pave the way for equality in pay, education, rights, and confidence!

Who can become a member?
  • Graduates of a 2+ year college
  • Current college students who are attending courses
  • Women and Men


Are you a 2015 graduate or know a graduate who would like to sign up?! Let me know and we can connect you with the Give a Grad a Gift option with AAUW which gifts a year’s membership!