This Student Leader Is Channeling Frustration with Gender Inequality into Positive Action
This summer, we caught up with former members of the AAUW National Student Advisory Council, the exclusive group of college women who advise AAUW on student issues and help plan the National Conference for College Women Student Leaders. Abby Lemay served on the 2010–11 SAC in her senior year while she studied sociology and American studies with a minor in women and gender studies. She also served on the AAUW state SAC in Florida and will soon attend graduate school.
Q: What experiences in your life fostered this enthusiasm for women’s rights and equality?
A: Before college, I didn’t know much about women’s equality issues. Freshman year, I was placed in a seminar that started with a focus on gender differences. It was something that I had never thought about before, and I had professors encourage me to pursue education in that field. It turned out to be a perfect fit for me.
Q: You started on the National Student Advisory Council and then later served on the state SAC in Florida. What is it about AAUW that makes you want to stay connected?
A: I really love AAUW! Every experience I’ve had with AAUW has been positive. I appreciate what they do for young women. I wish that more young women were involved with AAUW in the way that the SAC members are involved. My biggest interest with AAUW is pay equity in the workplace and all that AAUW does with $tart $mart workshops.
Q: You helped secure an AAUW grant to start a Tech Trek camp for girls in Florida. What made you want to be a part of this project? What will be your role?
A: I was invited to help out with Tech Trek. I actually didn’t know a whole lot about the camp until I was approached by the person who was in charge of it. Lisa Fuller, who manages the state SAC, asked me to work on the project. It’s happening this summer. There’s a whole lot of work to do, but it’s exciting to be involved in the very first Tech Trek in Florida.
I’m the volunteer coordinator, so I’m hoping first of all to create a really successful environment for these girls. I think starting with middle school girls is the best way to promote women’s participation in STEM.
Q: I read that a career goal of yours was to be a community organizer. Do you still wish to continue in that field?
A: I’m still interested in that field. I’ve been working for the past of couple of years with homeland services in central Florida. I’m going to be going back to school soon to study nonprofit management, and it will only get better from there.
I would like to eventually get back to promoting women’s rights. Unfortunately, in Florida we are a pretty conservative state, and there are not a whole lot of opportunities where I live to get into that field. Long term, I want to finish the nonprofit management degree. I would ideally like to work with pay equity. The most enjoyable moments of working with AAUW has been the work I’ve done with pay equity, like Equal Pay Day or the $tart $mart workshops. I know that I want to do something that relates community organizing to pay equity and equal rights in the workplace.
Q: Are there any other lessons or skills that you learned while working with AAUW?
A: AAUW definitely helped me grow a lot in my public-speaking and event-organizing skills. I learned how to take all my frustrations with the way things are for women in America and channel them into something positive and focused. I think that a lot of young women in college who are interested in women’s rights activism are angry, and they have a right to be. It’s really important that AAUW’s work focuses on change and on making things better.
This post was written by AAUW College/University Relationships Intern Mabinty Quarshie.
Editor’s note: Since this interview, the Tech Trek camp that Abby Lemay worked to fund has been successfully completed in Florida.