AAUW Public Policy Priorities

Adopted June 2017

AAUW’s Public Policy Priorities, adopted every two years by every-member vote, establish the federal action issues on which AAUW members across the country focus their advocacy efforts and guide the work of the national staff. States and branches should also use the Public Policy Priorities to inform their advocacy efforts on state and local issues.

The strength of the AAUW Public Policy Priorities is that they originate and end with the membership. In the fall of even-numbered years the AAUW Public Policy Committee (APPC) solicits feedback from members and staff to develop proposed Public Policy Priorities based on viability, critical need, strong member support, and potential for distinctive contribution. Once the draft is developed, it is posted online for a comment period and submission of additional proposed revisions. The APPC then finalizes the proposed Public Policy Priorities, and the AAUW Board of Directors reviews, amends as necessary, and approves them before they go to the membership for a vote in the spring of odd-numbered years.

Download the 2017-2019 Public Policy Program brochure


2017–19 AAUW Public Policy Priorities

The Public Policy Priorities underscore AAUW’s mission of advancing equity for women and girls through advocacy, education, philanthropy, and research and speak to women’s needs, aspirations, and concerns across the life span. The work of AAUW builds upon more than 130 years of responsible public participation, and the following principles provide a basis for AAUW members’ actions at the local, state, national, and international levels. Implicit in each of our principles is support for government agencies administering programs, including adequate appropriations, effective and accountable administration, and provision for citizen participation. We advocate public discussion to ensure enlightened decisions on these principles. We work to increase the number of women and other underrepresented populations in policy- and other decision-making positions. AAUW is committed to working in collaboration with diverse allies and coalitions to break through educational and economic barriers for women and girls.

Public Policy Principles for Action

Basic to all of AAUW’s public policy efforts is the understanding that true equity requires a balance between the rights of the individual and the needs of the community. AAUW opposes all forms of discrimination and supports constitutional protection for the civil rights of all individuals.

AAUW believes that high-quality public education is the foundation of a democratic society and the key to economic prosperity and gender equality. We advocate equitable climates free of harassment, bullying, and sexual assault. We support academic freedom, civic education, protection from censorship, bias-free education, and responsible funding for all levels of education, including early childhood education and programs for students with disabilities. We advocate increased access to higher education, especially for women in poverty. We promote equitable efforts to close the persistent achievement gap that disproportionately affects low-income children and students from minority communities.

AAUW promotes the economic, social, and physical well-being of all persons. Essential to that well-being are an economy that provides equitable employment opportunities; reduction of poverty; a living wage; quality, affordable dependent care; paid family and medical leave; safe, livable, and affordable housing; quality, affordable, and accessible health care, including reproductive health care; and a clean, healthy, and sustainable environment. We support a Social Security system that provides inflation-protected, guaranteed lifetime benefits with a progressive benefit formula, spousal and widow benefits, and disability and survivor benefits. We oppose any efforts to undermine Medicare and Medicaid, including privatization and block grant proposals. AAUW recognizes that gun violence is a public health crisis.

AAUW believes in the right to privacy and freedom from violence. We firmly believe in the separation of church and state. We support a fair, balanced, and independent judiciary. We support public budgets that balance individual rights and responsibility to the community. We see an urgent need for meaningful campaign finance reform, open and fair elections, and nonpartisan voter education efforts that will promote equitable political participation and representation in appointed and elected office.

AAUW supports efforts to improve racial, ethnic, and gender justice. This includes creating a diverse culture of involvement, respect, inclusion, and connection, where the richness of ideas, backgrounds, and perspectives is fully appreciated and utilized.

AAUW believes that global interdependence requires national and international policies against human trafficking and that promote peace, justice, human rights, sustainable development, and mutual security for all people. We support the civil and human rights of all immigrants, including a fair and just path to legal status. We support a strengthened United Nations and its affiliated agencies. We advocate implementation of the Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action from the 4th World Conference on Women and subsequent declarations. We affirm our active participation in the U.N. Commission on the Status of Women and our commitment to ratification of the U.N. Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW). We support international family planning programs that are consistent with AAUW policy.

Biennial Action Priorities

National priorities inform state and local action. Biennial priorities for national action are chosen according to the criteria of viability, critical need, strong member support, and potential for distinctive AAUW contribution or leadership. No order of importance is implied.

To support a strong system of public education that promotes gender fairness, equity, and diversity, AAUW advocates

  • Adequate and equitable funding for quality public education for all students
  • Opposition to the use of public funds for nonpublic elementary and secondary education and to charter schools that do not adhere to the same civil rights and accountability standards as required of other public schools
  • Protection of programs that meet the needs of girls and women in elementary, secondary, and postsecondary education, including strong promotion of science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) education and comprehensive sexual health education
  • Vigorous enforcement of Title IX and all other civil rights laws pertaining to education
  • Increased support for and access to affordable higher education for women and disadvantaged populations
  • Increased support for programs that break through barriers for women and girls in STEM fields

To achieve economic self-sufficiency for all women, AAUW advocates

  • Pay equity and fairness in compensation and benefits
  • Equitable access and advancement in employment, including vigorous enforcement of employment anti-discrimination statutes
  • Greater availability of and access to a high standard of benefits and policies that promote work-life balance, including quality and affordable dependent care
  • Programs that provide women with education, training, and support for success in the workforce, including nontraditional occupations and women’s entrepreneurship
  • Strengthening programs, including welfare and career and technical education, to improve postsecondary education access, career development, and earning potential
  • Strengthening retirement benefits and programs, including pension improvements and protecting Social Security from privatization

To guarantee equality, individual rights, and social justice for a diverse society, AAUW advocates

  • Vigorous enforcement of and full access to civil and constitutional rights, including affirmative action and expanding voting rights
  • Self-determination of one’s reproductive health decisions
  • Increased access to quality, affordable health care and family planning services, including expansion of patients’ rights
  • Freedom from violence and fear of violence, including hate crimes, in homes, schools, workplaces, and communities
  • Support for U.N. programs that address human rights and women’s and girls’ concerns
  • Freedom in the definition of self and family and a guarantee of civil rights for all family structures
  • Passage and ratification of the Equal Rights Amendment

Additional Policy Resources

Up to 10 copies of the 2017–19 AAUW Public Policy Priorities brochure are available free of charge through the upcoming advocacy activities form. For additional copies, visit ShopAAUW or call 800.225.9998.

AAUW Action Network and Two-Minute Activist Tool: The cornerstone of AAUW’s e-advocacy efforts, Action Network sends subscribers urgent email notices when their advocacy is needed most. With our Two-Minute Activist online tool, it takes no time to contact your legislators and make your voice heard. Anyone with an email address can subscribe.

AAUW Washington Update: This weekly email bulletin offers an insider’s view on the public policy process, the latest policy news, and updates from the Public Policy and Government Relations Department. Join the list today.

Quick Facts: AAUW compiles current information and advocacy resources on issues related to our Public Policy Priorities in order to provide resources that offer rigorous analysis and most effective avenues for action. For updated position papers and quick facts on AAUW’s priority issues, visit the AAUW Issues webpage.

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Download the 2017-2019 Public Policy Program brochure


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