A few final comments

[Okay, I’m cleaning the office preparing for a whirlwind of work, and found these notes that have no good place to be filed. This’ll be a quick “get things off my chest” that have been pending since Convention.]

Appointed officers

Aside from reinserting the degree requirement, one change made at the convention was changing the split of elected/appointed board members from 7/6 to 10/3. I fail to see how this is going to help anything (though given the timing of appointing the directors this year — within hours of the election results — perhaps it doesn’t make much of a difference).

I’d like to see the board move towards more thoughtful recruitment of appointed officers, with time to consider the skills and interests of those who are elected to the board. I don’t see why those to be appointed have to apply months before their term starts. And while I honor all those elected to the board, finding another 3 willing to go through the process of educating the entire membership on why they should serve seems an unnecessary expense that is unlikely to improve the overall quality of the board.

Election results

While all the candidates were pretty circumspect in their stand on the change to the degree requirement, one did break ranks and say she was in favor of retaining the requirement. Evidently there was a pact to “let the members decide” (see previous post), but the message I got in St. Louis was that all of the other candidates were in favor of the change (and there were many who took the “Open Membership” buttons to wear after the polls closed and before the bylaws vote).

So what can we learn from the defeat of the one candidate who supported the requirement? Well, those supporting the degree requirement had some odd views of what should be in the bylaws for a national organization (see above on elected/appointed officers and note there was a call for the quorum of an “every member” ballot to be something like 50% instead of the realistic but perhaps optimistic 5%). It’s not the bylaws, people, that will make or break the organization — but the skills, interests, and commitment of those who volunteer and are hired to lead the organization. So I’m baffled that they didn’t make that connection and elect at least one supporter to the board. Small victories, I guess.

Again, bylaws are the bones of the organization, but its heart and soul need to come from the people who are involved. This was the motivation behind the election2009.bbvx.org campaign that tried to raise awareness of the importance of the choice and provide the delegates with the information on the candidates. We’ll see how this evolves as we move into the age of “one member/one vote” where all the members will have a say in choosing our leaders.

How we are different

I continued to be amazed at those who ask “Well, if we drop the degree requirement, we’ll be just like NOW, the League of Women Voters, and all the other women’s organizations.” I actually had one friend (who wasn’t in St. Louis) ask how we’d be different from the garden club.

Get a grip, people.

Take a quick look at the public policy program and ask if that looks like a garden club? Well, no. And it doesn’t look like NOW or the League, either. I’d missed the rewriting of the public policy program (which had grown crufty and disorganized over the years), and I was cranky enough after the outcome of the bylaws session to skip the Sunday morning session where the 2009-2011 program was debated and passed. So when the program was posted later in the summer, a lot of my angst from St. Louis melted away and I was able to tell myself “yes, there is a reason I’m still active in AAUW”. ?The 2007-2009 public policy committee deserves our hearty thanks.

I find the new mission easy to talk to and the value promise is okay, but the public policy statement captures “who we are and how we’re trying to change the world” in a way that neither of those statements addresses. If you haven’t read it lately, check it out. [The diversity statement is still on target, too.]

Other things that make us different:

  • A focus on fellowships, grants and local scholarships and a corresponding focus on fundraising. In many communities that means book sales, and in others it is giving circles and other strategies that recognize that women’s economic power has increased so that larger gifts with less time involved make sense now.
  • An advocacy focus that, in my mind, includes the work we do in our communities. This isn’t just the voter guides and candidate forums, but the projects in the schools that “advocate” for financial literacy, getting more girls to consider the STEM fields, and quality education and higher education opportunities for all.
  • Our connections to campuses that include special grants as well as the fellowships, and the National Conference for College Women Student Leaders and other opportunities to increase the probability of that the next generation of women leaders will make strides to bring about gender equity.

So, in my mind, our focus is clear, and there is nothing in who we are and what we do that would be devalued by including those without degrees in our work. Those who want to join us are welcome. To paraphrase a quote from Susan McGee Bailey from a few years ago — the problems are so large, and the resources so small, that we can’t afford to turn away anyone who wants to work on our issues.

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