A record number of Virginia members of the American Association of University Women, a national advocate for women’s equity, attended their annual Summer Leadership Meeting on July 25, 26, and 27. In ZOOM sessions over the three days, members attended virtual meetings to hone their leadership skills, strategize Federal and state advocacy efforts, and most importantly, stand in solidarity against racism.
Keynote speaker Mark Bowers, Founder and Executive Director of the Professional Development Consortium of Hampton Roads (PDCHR), kicked off the meeting by sharing practical advice on how to enhance the value of the organization to its members, identify target members, and engage members by using “Lead Smarter, Not Harder” methods.
Day 2 shined a spotlight on AAUW’s advocacy. Kate Nielson, AAUW Director of Public Policy and Legal Advocacy, spoke about plans for public policy and legal advocacy at AAUW, and the leadership role branches play in promoting AAUW’s public policy priorities. Madison Roberts, a recent UVA Master of Public Policy graduate, briefed the group on her gender-pay equity wage gap research, making significant recommendations for state legislation.
State Co-Vice Presidents for Public Policy, Susan Burk and Denise Murden, followed with a blueprint for AAUW-VA public policy activities for the coming year, including a major focus on nonpartisan Get Out The Vote activities.
Day 3 was headlined by Dr. Janice Underwood, who was appointed by Governor Ralph Northam as the Commonwealth of Virginia’s first cabinet-level Chief Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Officer. This position is the first of its kind in the nation. Dr. Underwood challenged AAUW of Virginia to have the hard conversations about race and implement the One Virginia Statewide Strategic Plan for Inclusive Excellence as a model.
A stirring presentation was delivered by Dr. Angela Hattery and Dr. Earl Smith modeled on their book “Policing Black Bodies: How Black Lives are Surveilled and How to Work for Change.” Their presentation closed with a “call for action,” prescribing what AAUW could contribute to dismantling systemic racism.
The meeting closed with the inspiring words of the late Congressman John R. Lewis--an American hero whose words should live on in the actions that we each take. From his book, “Across That Bridge: A Vision for Change and the Future of America,” Rep. Lewis wrote: “Freedom is the continuous action we all must take, and each generation must do its part to create an even more fair, more just society.”