The CA Online Branch participated in the AAUW CA Speech Trek project for the first time this year, and the branch contest winner was Vivien Shen. Thanks to our branch’s Speech Trek Coordinator, Cathy Foxhoven, we may all enjoy seeing and hearing Vivien’s winning speech:
AAUW Mourns the Passing of Linda Brodsky
Linda Brodsky, a former LAF-supported plaintiff, passed away last month at the age of 61. While a professor at the State University of New York, Buffalo, Medical School, Brodsky suspected that she was being paid less than some of her male colleagues and that she had been passed over for promotion in favor of a less-qualified male candidate. She sued the university for pay inequity in violation of Title VII and the Equal Pay Act and for retaliation for complaining about pay inequity in violation of Title VII. LAF adopted her case in 2003, and she successfully settled all claims in 2008.
A renowned pediatric ear, nose, and throat specialist, Brodsky was the first woman to be a tenured full professor of otolaryngology and pediatrics at the University of Buffalo Medical School. In addition to her fight in court for equal pay, she worked to end gender discrimination in medicine. She founded Women M.D. Resources, an organization devoted to helping women physicians fight workplace discrimination. We mourn her passing, but we celebrate her work as a doctor, teacher, mentor, and advocate.
U.S. Senate Votes on Two Bills Related to Military Sexual Assault:
Recently the Senate voted on two bills to change the military’s approach to sexual assault. Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand’s (D-NY) bill included removing prosecuting authority over sexual assault and other major crimes from the military chain of command. Sen. Claire McCaskill’s (D-MO) bill included some reforms of the existing system but left prosecutorial authority within the chain of command. Both bills had bipartisan support. Ultimately, Gillibrand’s bill didn’t pass, while McCaskill’s did.
Although AAUW applauds the reforms in McCaskill’s bill, we believe that true reform requires removing prosecutorial authority from the chain of command. We will continue to advocate for legislation that advances this goal.
“Equality for Women is Progress for All” is the theme for this year’s observance of International Women’s Day. UN Secretary-General, Ban Ki-moon, put it this way:
“Countries with more gender equality have better economic growth. Companies with more women leaders perform better. Peace agreements that include women are more durable. Parliaments with more women enact more legislation on key social issues such as health, education, anti-discrimination and child support. The evidence is clear: equality for women means progress for all.”
While much progress has been made to protect and promote rights for women, the UN points out that nowhere in the world can women claim to have all the same rights and opportunities as men. Most of the world’s 1.3 billion absolute poor are women. On average, women receive between 30-40%less pay than men for the same work. And women continue to be victims of violence and gender inequality in almost all aspects of life.
While we are called upon to observe this day because AAUW works both here and abroad for all women and girls, here are some interesting facts from a historical perspective:
- In 1984, historian Renee Cote uncovered the origins of the March 8th date for this observance and her work was published in Canada.
- The first International Women’s Day occurred on March 19, 1911 in Austria, Denmark, Germany and Switzerland. The March 19th date was chosen because it commemorated the day in 1848 when the Prussian King promised to introduce votes for women; but he failed to keep that promise. The date was then moved to March 8 in 1913 and some surmise it was because the date fell on a Sunday).
- The United Nations celebrated International Women’s Year in 1975; the same year the first conference on women was convened in Mexico City.
- In 1977, the UN General Assembly adopted a resolution proclaiming a UN Day for Women’s Rights and International Peace to be observed by its member states according to their own historical and national traditions.
- It wasn’t until 1994 that the first bill to recognize International Women’s Day in the United States was introduced.
D.C. Circuit Hears Arguments in Klay v. Panetta
On February 14, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit heard arguments in Klay v. Panetta, a Legal Advocacy Fund-supported lawsuit brought by survivors of military sexual assault and litigated by attorney Susan Burke. The case was originally filed March 6, 2012, and AAUW Executive Director Linda D. Hallman spoke at the accompanying National Press Club event.
In the suit, the Klay plaintiffs allege that U.S. military officials tolerated sexual predators in their ranks and antagonized service members who reported rape, sexual assault, and harassment. The plaintiffs argue that this culture of sexual assault violates their constitutional rights. In early 2013, the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia granted the defendants’ motion to dismiss the case. The court held that the plaintiffs’ injuries were “incident to their military service” and that the court was prevented by legal precedent from ruling on a military matter. Burke then appealed to the D.C. Circuit. Stay tuned for the appeals court’s ruling.
Supreme Court Hears Arguments in McCullen v. Coakley
On January 15, the U.S. Supreme Court heard arguments in McCullen v. Coakley, a case testing the constitutionality of buffer zones around reproductive health care clinics. Anti-choice activists filed suit against Massachusetts to challenge a state law designed to protect clinic patients from intimidation and harassment. The law creates a 35-foot buffer zone around reproductive health care clinics that only patients, employees, and their agents may enter, preventing anti-choice protesters from approaching patients as they enter the clinic. The plaintiffs argue that the law violates their free speech rights, claiming that they are constitutionally entitled to approach patients to offer anti-choice literature and anti-choice counseling. The U.S. Court of Appeals for the 1st Circuit upheld the law, and the plaintiffs appealed to the Supreme Court. AAUW signed on to an amicus brief urging the Supreme Court to uphold the law.
We discussed McCullen and its potential impact on the rights of women and girls during our Supreme Court call last October. As mentioned then, McCullen tests the strength of a case from 2000 in which the Supreme Court upheld a different buffer-zone law. However, since that decision, the makeup of the court has changed significantly — there are four new justices — and the buffer zone mandated by the Massachusetts law is significantly larger than the buffer zone upheld in the 2000 decision. Look for LAF’s analysis of the court’s ruling later this year.
Vivian Shen, a junior at Aragon High School in San Mateo, won 1st place for the California Online Speech Trek contest, Saturday, February 15, 2014. Vivian is the president of her speech team and coordinated the contest for her team. She began her speech by sharing a personal story of a male student stating that she can’t be involved in computer science because she is a girl! A DVD of Vivian’s speech will be sent to the Speech Trek coordinator, Donna Erickson, for the final competition determining the top three contestants to speak at the April convention.
One of the contestants was a former Tech Trekker, and guests attending were the speech team advisor for Aragon H.S., parents and Virginia Beck, AAUW CA Director. All attendees were given the AAUW membership brochure.
Vivian received a $50 Amazon gift card from the California Online Branch and all participants received certificates of appreciation.
The three community judges were: Jennifer Pfaff, President of the Burlingame Historical Society, Joanne Garrison, authoress and lecturer, and George Metropolis, elementary school teacher and actor.
Cathy Foxhoven, Speech Trek Coordinator
AAUW’s annual art contest is underway. Members may cast their vote between now and February 28.
The first annual California Online Speech Trek contest is scheduled for February 15, 2014, 10am-12pm at Burlingame Parks & Recreation Department, 850 Burlingame Avenue, Burlingame. If you are in the area, you are cordially invited to attend. You’ll be so impressed by these young students – their writing/research talents, as well as their speaking abilities.
Seven students from San Mateo, Millbrae and Daly City will be competing for 1st place. That 1st place winner will receive a $50 Amazon gift card from the branch, and continue on to compete in the finalist contest on March 10th in Watsonville. The top three of that competition will then compete at State Convention in Los Angeles in April.
Two city council women and one male actor will be the judges for this competition. The two women have previously judged for the Speech Trek finals.