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North Hills Monthly

American Association of University Women Promotes Equal Rights, Equal Pay

Sep 30, 2015 02:42PM ● By Shelly Tower Rushe
It’s 2015, and women have come a long way from earning the right to vote and burning their bras as a symbol of equality. While progress has been made, the American Association of University Women (AAUW) knows that there’s a long way to go.

Founded in 1881, AAUW is a nonprofit, nonpartisan, national organization for any man or woman who holds a college degree and is interested in working toward the advancement of women’s rights. Their efforts are based in advocacy, philanthropy, education and fellowship.

The national branch has been a part of landmark changes, including Title IX, which banned sex discrimination in any educational institution that receives federal funding. They have provided grants and fellowships for women since 1888, supported the first federal pay equity legislation in 1905, and in 1993, AAUW’s Lobby Corps worked to have the Family Medical Leave Act passed.

Locally, Michele Buford, co-president of AAUW North Hills-McKnight Branch, explains that they’re wholly behind the equal pay fight. “It pains me to say it, but women are still fighting the good fight in the workplace to be paid the same as our male counterparts. Women do the exact same work, yet because we are women, we tend to be stigmatized as weak or less competent, and therefore receive less of a paycheck. We should be paid based on our qualifications and the work we do, rather than the sex we were born.”

Nationally, AAUW provides extensive information on their ongoing fight for equal pay at AAUW’s sister website, www.fightforfairpay.org. According to their research, women in the United States make approximately 78 cents for every dollar that men earn for the same work. The gap is even wider for mothers, minorities and disabled women.

Buford sees the North Hills branch’s role as a more grassroots effort. “We are building up our confidence in understanding that we deserve to be treated equally,” she said, adding that their branch’s main goal is to do ‘anything and everything’ to advance the equality of women and girls. “We work with various organizations, every year something different.” The AAUW has supported efforts to end human trafficking, supported anti-racism organizations, and worked with college organizations with like-minded goals.

AAUW works closely with colleges and universities across the nation in all of their efforts. “We really want to reach women in college to encourage them to think about the future,” explained Buford, adding that the programs include scholarships, grants and outreach programs. “We’re currently working on approval for a STEM-based program that caters to middle school students.”

As a partner of La Roche College, AAUW offers the Sister Matilda Kelly AAUW Incentive Grant, which is available to female students. The La Roche organization One Youth recently received the annual AAUW Gateway to Equity Award for their efforts in partnering with local nonprofits that focus on youth development.

The organization is by membership rather than invitation. In addition to outreach programs, AAUW focuses on the professional and personal development of its members. Programs offered range from self-defense classes and educational programming, to book clubs, dinner clubs, volunteer opportunities and fundraising efforts.

Buford encourages anyone—male or female—who is interested in advancing women’s rights to join the AAUW. Meetings are held monthly and each features a special speaker. October’s meeting will feature Trusst Lingerie, a local startup founded by two women with industrial design degrees from Carnegie Mellon, who engineered a bra with better support and comfort. The meeting coincides with Breast Cancer Awareness Month. November’s meeting will feature two female entrepreneurs who own their own catering business.

To find out more, contact AAUW at http://northhillsmcknight-pa.aauw.net.