On March 18, NSU’s chapter of the American Association of University Women (AAUW) held “Gender Agenda: Gaining Momentum” , its 8th annual celebration of International Women’s Day, featuring keynote speaker Debbie-Wasserman-Schultz, Florida’s 23rd District Congresswoman.
About 120 NSU students, faculty, staff and community members attended the event in the Don Taft University Center.
Candy Fish, president of NSU’s AAUW branch, said that the motivation behind this year’s theme was the gender issues that still exist today, such as income inequality among professional men and women.
Melodee Smith, AAUW’s International Women’s Day chair, is a lawyer and reverend. She opened the event by speaking about her hopes to end women’s suffering around the world and asked the audience for a moment of silence to reflect on their own challenges.
Smith provided a brief history of International Women’s Day, explaining that it was born out of tragedy. After New York’s Triangle Shirtwaist Factory fire on March 25, 1911, which killed 146 young immigrant women workers, women’s rights advocates pushed to reform federal labor laws and the celebration was internationally recognized as a holiday.
AAUW is a national organization headquartered in Washington, D.C. Its over 1,000 chapters work to end gender discrimination in the workplace and higher education, and to resolve other issues women face through education, advocacy, research and philanthropy.
Fred Lippman, chancellor of NSU’s Health Professions Division, shared that his mother was a survivor of the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory fire, a fact that awed the audience. He also introduced Congresswomen Wasserman-Shultz, whom he has mentored for over 20 years.
Wasserman-Shultz was elected to the Florida House of Representatives in 1992, when she was 26, becoming the youngest female legislator in state history.
During her keynote speech, she acknowledged the past 15 years of progress that women have made in regards to education, careers and rights, such as the recent enactment of the federal Violence Against Women Act.
“We have come a long way, but must keep pushing. We are not there yet,” she said.
Wasserman-Schultz said that professional American women today earn 77 cents for every dollar earned by men in the same job, a fact that she believes should inspire, motivate and push the nation to close this gap. She is currently working with colleagues to enact the Paycheck Fairness Act.
She said, “I stand on the shoulders of women — our mothers and grandmothers — to fight, to voice this inequality.”
Smith said, “Congresswoman Wasserman-Schultz is an inspiring leader who will guide us as we address issues today and in the future.”
Kamala Anandam, president and founder of the Weston branch of AAUW, helped create the NSU chapter and has been with the organization for 20 years.
Anandam said, “NSU has great role models to make this chapter grow.”
Kate Waites, professor of English and gender studies in the Farquhar College of Arts and Sciences’ Division of Humanities, won the Founders Award, for helping to form NSU’s chapter of the AAUW.
She said, “I am grateful for my students [who are] open to these ideas and willing to make differences in these issues.”
Reshma Daniel, senior legal studies major, won the Outstanding Student Involvement Award for her involvement since her sophomore year. Daniel will attend law school to pursue a career in women’s rights and plans to be a lifetime member of AAUW.
Don Rosenblum, dean of the Farquhar College of Arts and Sciences, received the Recognition of Outstanding Support award.
Rosenblum said that he has supported AAUW since 2006 by providing organizational ideas and financial support. Given that the majority of NSU students are women, he said “it seems very appropriate to have a chapter here.”
NSU’s AAUW branch is open to all NSU students, staff, faculty, administrators, and the surrounding community.
Membership is free for all NSU undergraduate students, while graduate students pay an annual fee of $18.81. National membership through NSU for other members costs $49 annually, plus state and branch fees. The national dues are tax deductible.
For information on NSU-AAUW membership, contact Letitia Frazier, vice president of membership, at firstname.lastname@example.org.