The times, they truly are a-changin’, especially when it comes to opportunities to attend college for women.
Over the past 40 years the number of women attending college has more than doubled, according to a 2011 Pew research poll. Fifty-three percent of students on American campuses are women. And women are not only more likely than men to begin college, they are more likely to graduate.
That’s the good news for women. Even so, only 44 percent of women attend college, so there’s more to be done.
In the marketplace, too, there is work to accomplish. Upon entering the workforce, university women often earn less than their male counterparts.
One group that strives to increase opportunities for women in the U.S. is the American Association of University Women. For 130 years, beginning long before women found a significant place in higher education or even had the right to vote, the association has worked to advance equality for women and girls, especially by encouraging growth through advanced education.
Here in Napa, these efforts continue, but it’s not all work and no play. While providing workshops and scholarships for local girls and young women, members of the association find collegiality and sisterhood. As women who have been fortunate enough to advance their own educations, they join with others to reach out to support women of the next generations.
“The American Association of University Women’s mission of advocating for women and girls brings local women together working for a worthy cause as well as an opportunity to form lasting friendships and personal connections,” said Patricia Parker, association president.
What is your purpose or mission?
Patricia Parker: “The American Association of University Women advances equity for women and girls through advocacy, education, philanthropy and research. By joining the association, you belong to a community that breaks through educational and economic barriers so that all women have a fair chance. Our vision is that the Association of University Women will be a powerful advocate and visible leader in equity and education promoting measurable change in critical areas that impact the lives of women and girls.”
In brief, what’s the history of your organization?
“The association, founded in 1881, is the nation’s leading organization advocating equity for women and girls. Its first California branch began in San Francisco in 1886.
“Our Napa County branch, chartered in 1929, introduced the Well-Bay Clinic, founded by member Dr. Ethel Priest. Our branch also initiated the first nursery school in Napa, participates in The Table, and established our Scholarship Foundation in 1980 providing scholarships to local high school students. Our 210 members benefit from a rich history.”
Who are the people you serve?
“The American Association of University Women’s national programs serve women and girls through educational grants, legal case support for workplace sex discrimination, leadership programs for campus student leaders, and support for public policies and laws that are fair to women.
“For example, our recent research publication, ‘Graduating to a Pay Gap,’ addresses pay inequity in the workplace. Our anti-cyber-bullying project offers resources to parents and teachers for dealing with bullying. This project is made possible through the work of member volunteers.
“Since 1998, we have sponsored also 55 middle school girls to attend Tech Trek science/math camps at California universities. Our scholarship foundation has given 17 high school girls $1,000 scholarships and five Napa Valley College graduates $2,000 scholarships, just since 2010.”
Is there an anecdote that illustrates the work you do?
“Jennifer, one of our scholarship recipients, completed her degree at Napa Valley College and transferred to UC Davis to study nutrition science. She was active in student government while taking a full course load, working, and being a single parent. She told us, ‘I plan to be able to give back to my community and support other women reaching their goals once I have reached mine.’
“Michaela from Napa High said, ‘Thank you so much for providing a scholarship that opens so many doors to women throughout the nation.’ And Esther, one of the young women our branch sponsored at Tech Trek, credits her ‘amazing experience’ as reaffirming her desire to pursue a mathematical and scientific career path.”
What’s a current need or upcoming project?
“Each year, Napa County’s American Association of University Women raises money for scholarships. We are indebted to our members for their volunteer time and monetary contributions and also to our community business partners who make donations of goods, services and dollars.
“This year’s ‘Do it for the Girls’ Campaign is under way, accepting monetary donations for 2013 scholarship awardees. A fundraising event, The Literary Loop, will be held on Thursday, Feb. 7 at Covenant Presbyterian Church, 1226 Salvador Ave. Starting at 6:30 p.m., meet 12 local and Bay Area writers and share lively discussion about their books. The ticket price of $30 includes full program, book signing and refreshments. Books will be available for purchase. Reservations only. For information, call 224-7129.”
Each week, Napa Valley CanDo provides a profile of a Napa Valley nonprofit or service club — what the organization does, what it needs and how an interested person can get involved. For more information on the column, contact Hilary Zunin at CanDoN2N@gmail.com. To learn more about opportunities for community service, visit NVCanDo.org.