Washington Update (May 30, 2014)

Earlier this week, AAUW was invited to the Fourth White House Science Fair. The event brought together young award-winning scientists from around the country. Among the many extraordinary exhibits, I was particularly impressed by the second-grade winners of Toshiba’s ExploraVision who created a design concept for a “Hot Car Safety System.” Meeting the two girls and one boy on the team, I was struck by the fact that they are the same age as my own daughter!

Of course, another parent of daughters — President Barack Obama — has taken a keen interest in promoting girls’ engagement in science. This science fair focused on the importance of engaging girls and young women in science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) fields (although there were many boys and young men scientists attending as well). President Obama told the crowd that we need all of our children to develop highly in-demand STEM skills to ensure our future competitiveness in the global economy. He said that not making an effort to interest girls in STEM would be like “not putting half of our players on field.”

AAUW and its members want all girls to have a chance to get on the field. That’s why we’ve teamed up with the Verizon Foundation — a partnership that was announced at the White House event! — to launch an initiative to teach girls how to develop mobile applications (&lrquo;apps” for short) at Tech Trek, AAUW’s weeklong STEM summer camps for rising eighth-grade girls. Thanks to the $84,000 grant from the Verizon Foundation, participants at the University of California, Santa Barbara; Southwestern Oklahoma State University; and the University of Alabama, Huntsville camps will pilot an apps inventor course, which was developed by MIT.

As Valerie Jarrett, Senior Advisor to President Barack Obama and Chair of the White House Council on Women and Girls, tweeted from the science fair: “Let’s hear it for the girls!”

Yours in AAUW,

Erin Prangley
Associate Director of Government Relations

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A proposal to reauthorize federal legislation that provides workforce training programs has bipartisan support in both chambers of Congress (how often does that happen these days?), and it is expected to come up for a vote soon. Contact your representatives today, and urge them to support the Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act (WIOA)!


Tell a friend (or two, or more!) about the workforce training bill and urge them to take action.


Remember the Women’s Economic Agenda events that have been happening across the country, from Florida to California to Texas? Women members of Congress, led by House Leader Nancy Pelosi, are taking this show on the road with a Women’s Economic Agenda bus tour — and Lisa M. Maatz is joining them!

Here are three ways you can follow the bus tour:


A report from the Government Accountability Office revealed the effects of the automatic budget cuts known as sequestration on school districts. The report found that due to reduced federal funding, there were fewer resources for specialist instructors and the average class size increased by several students. AAUW warned that sequestration would lead to both of these impacts.

While we’ve got your attention… next week, you’ll notice a slightly different format for the Two-Minute Activist e-mails sent via Action Network. You’ll still get the same great information and easy way to contact your members of Congress, just with a tweaked format. We hope you like it! As always, we appreciate your feedback.


Maya Angelou Dies at 86

On Wednesday, Dr. Maya Angelou, the award-winning author, poet, and activist, passed away in her North Carolina home. Angelou was best known for her memoir I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings, which described growing up in the South during the Jim Crow era. Her career included honors such as receiving the Presidential Medal of Freedom from President Obama and reading her poem On the Pulse of Morning at the first inauguration of President Bill Clinton. AAUW had the privilege of hosting Dr. Angelou at our 1993 biennial Convention in Minneapolis, where she told us: “It is time for us to talk about courage. The vision, the voice, will not bring us victory unless we have courage.” Thank you, Dr. Angelou, for giving so many women courage.

#YesAllWomen Becomes Powerful Online Movement

In response to the misogynistic, hate-filled shooting in Santa Barbara last weekend, Twitter users created the hashtag #YesAllWomen. The phrase #YesAllWomen was created as a counter-point to the #NotAllMen movement that attempted to push “men’s rights” into the spotlight. The movement garnered thousands of women’s personal experiences, fears, and stories about sexual violence, and it trended worldwide for several days. Celebrities and political figures—both men and women—joined the #YesAllWomen trend on Twitter to show their solidarity.

Five More Universities under Title IX Investigation

On Wednesday, the Department of Education Office for Civil Rights announced it is investigating five additional schools for possible Title IX violations. The addition of the University of Alaska system, University of Delaware, Elmira College in New York, University of Akron in Ohio, and Cisco Junior College in Texas brings the total number of publicly disclosed Title IX investigations to 60 across the country. The Department of Education will examine each school’s handling of sexual assault cases following reports of mishandled claims. The announcement follows a recent push by the Obama administration to fight campus sexual assault.


AAUW Members Defeat Anti-Equal Pay Bill

Congratulations to AAUW of Louisiana members for their successful advocacy efforts to defeat HB 956! The legislation would have reversed the equal pay progress made last year and damaged workers’ ability to bring pay discrimination claims. AAUW-LA members used a Two-Minute Activist alert, #stopHB956 Twitter storm, and phone calls to ensure legislators voted against this harmful bill.


On Thursday Julia Collins extended her winning streak on Jeopardy!, further cementing her title of the show’s winningest female contestant. Collins, who has a master’s degree in engineering, has won 19 consecutive rounds of the trivia game show, which brings her total earnings to $410,000. Collins’ streak makes her the second most successful contestant overall, but she has far to go to take the number one spot, currently held by $2.5-million winner Ken Jennings.


A Wall Street Journal survey of CEO pay data for 300 of the largest publicly traded American businesses revealed that the top-earning female CEO was paid less than a third of the top-earning male CEO’s pay. Carol Meyrowitz, CEO of T.J. Maxx, was paid $20.6 million per year in 2013, while Oracle’s Lawrence Ellison was paid $76.9 million. Of the 300 CEOs, only 14 were women and Meyrowitz is ranked as the 26th highest paid overall.


  • On Friday, General Eric Shinseki resigned as Veterans Affairs Secretary. His resignation followed revelations of systematic delays, cover-ups of the delays, and other problems within the VA health system. According to a 2011 survey, a higher percentage of female veterans compared to male veterans rely exclusively on VA health care.
  • On Thursday, President Obama hosted the Healthy Kids and Safe Sports Concussion Summit at the White House. The president announced that new efforts will be made to reduce the growing number of emergency room visits for sports injuries. These endeavors include the NFL’s commitment of over $40 million for safety resources and concussion studies, the NCAA’s announcement of $30 million for concussion education, and the National Institute of Standards and Technology initiative to develop better protective equipment.
  • Last Friday, the Oklahoma Legislature voted (71-18) to repeal Common Core standards in favor of using standards developed by the state.
  • Despite rising college costs, a new study by the Economic Policy Institute found that earning a college degree is still economically worthwhile. Four-year college graduates made 98 percent more an hour in 2013 than individuals without a degree. This is the largest pay gap between college graduates and non-graduates to date.
  • On Thursday, Google released data on its employee demographics and acknowledged its lack of internal diversity, including by race and gender. Google’s transparency on workforce diversity is a great step forward for women in STEM fields because we cannot solve a problem without first knowing the facts.

On Thursday, Sen. Claire McCaskill (D-MO) continued her pursuit of information from the American Council on Education (ACE) about its recent webinar that advised colleges on responding to the senator’s survey on campus sexual assault. After ACE refused to release this information following McCaskill’s initial request earlier this month, she sent a second letter reiterating her request and pushing the ACE for a legal justification for their non-disclosure.

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