American Association of University Women Gives Thanks For New, Equal Opportunities

President John F. Kennedy once said, “As we express our gratitude, we must never forget that the highest appreciation is not to utter words, but to live by them.” With that in mind, the American Association of University Women would like to pause this Thanksgiving to give thanks for the many wonderful opportunities and advancements for women and girls during 2010. Here are just a handful of them:

We’re thankful for the increased number of female ambassadors to the United States. Twenty-five of 182 ambassadors in Washington are women, a fivefold increase since the late 1990s. Some cite the “Hillary Effect,” Secretary Clinton’s high visibility on the world stage, as the reason more presidents are choosing female ambassadors.

We’re thankful for the equal opportunities in the Navy for women to serve and for all the women and men who serve our country in the military. For the first time ever, women will serve on submarines next year.

We’re thankful for Equal Rights Advocates in California fighting on behalf of female UC Davis students for increased opportunities in sports and for the ACLU of Louisiana for contesting sex segregation in public schools. These Title IX advocates are increasing opportunities for girls and women everywhere.

We’re thankful for First Lady Michelle Obama for highlighting the epidemic of childhood obesity. Through the “Let’s Move!” Campaign, Mrs. Obama is encouraging active families, schools and communities and promoting smart decisions about eating right.

We’re thankful for the Education Department’s Race to the Top program and for every student and teacher who dreams big. The program allows high schools to compete to show why they are a model for success in hopes of winning the prize—a commencement speech by President Obama. We’re also thankful for $1.8 million in grants from the Department of Labor to support women in non-traditional occupations like construction and manufacturing.

We’re thankful for 50 years of the pill empowering women to make reproductive choices.  We’re also thankful for the passage of a Wisconsin law that requires public school sex education courses to teach about birth control and STI’s, and shutting down many abstinence-only programs.

We’re thankful that the U.S. Department of Education closed a loophole that allowed schools to evade Title IX compliance in athletics.  And we’re thankful for each and every one of the 38 investigations by the Education Department’s Office of Civil Rights to identify and address all forms of inequality in public schools.

We’re thankful for AAUW’s leadership at the 54th United Nations Commission on the Status of Women in March, and at the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) expert group meeting on Gender, Science and Technology in Paris, France in October.

We’re thankful for a Title IX legal victory in Michigan by a student who underwent years of bullying because his school failed to protect him.  We’re also thankful for Justice Department lawyers in New York interpreting Title IX to cover discrimination based on gender stereotypes; the Civil Rights Division applied the law to a case on behalf of a teenage boy who was beaten up for “being effeminate.”

We’re thankful for the creation of the U.S. Business and Industry STEM Education Coalition, which plans to combine resources to enhance the nation’s commitment to STEM education and increase the number of students from underrepresented populations in the STEM workforce.

We’re thankful for the Senate defeat of an amendment to the Federal Aviation Administration reauthorization bill (H.R. 1568) that would have extended the Washington D.C. school voucher program by five years. The program would have diverted $20 million per year from public to private schools.

We’re thankful for the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s effort to combat the growing public health issue of teen dating violence, which included the release of an interactive web-based training for educators and others working with teens. We’re also thankful for AAUW’s Legal Advocacy Fund’s Campus Sexual Assault Program in a Box, which provides information on the prevalence of sexual assault as well as tools to end it.

We’re thankful for AAUW’s research report, Why So Few? Women in Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics, which explains the shortage of women in STEM fields. The acclaimed report received nationwide coverage in publications like New York Times, Washington Post and TIME magazine. The report was also presented by AAUW at a White House dialogue with the Office of Science and Technology Policy.

We’re thankful that AAUW was able to attend a White House Forum on Workplace Flexibility, put on by the White House Council on Women and Girls, President Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama in March. We’re equally thankful the AAUW attended the first ever White House Summit on Community Colleges, hosted by Dr. Jill Biden.

We’re thankful for the first female president of Harvard University, Drew Gilpin Faust. Since she has begun to serve, Harvard has seen a record number of women among its faculty. We’re also thankful that, for the first time, women earned more doctorates than men in 2008-2009. AAUW Director of Research Catherine Hill was quoted on the front page of the Washington Post highlighting the new statistics.

We’re thankful for the 40 percent drop in the global maternal mortality rate since 1980 and the continued attention maternal health is receiving as part of President Obama’s Global Health Initiative and from a UN Millennium Development Goals.

We’re thankful for Barbie’s new job as a computer engineer, a sign of encouragement for young girls to enter STEM careers, courtesy of Mattel.

We’re thankful for the many, many tireless supporters of the Paycheck Fairness Act and pay equity in the workforce, like Rep. Rosa DeLauro, the House sponsor of the bill that was barely defeated in the Senate.

We’re thankful for an administration that continued to express support for the simple justice of pay equity by meeting with national leaders in the campaign for the Paycheck Fairness Act on the afternoon it was blocked by the Senate.

We’re thankful for Domestic Workers United‘s (DWU) and the historic passage of the Domestic Workers Bill of Rights. After years of advocacy led primarily by immigrant women of color, New York State’s more than 200,000 domestic workers will be entitled to basic workplace protections including paid sick time, vacation days and overtime pay.

We’re thankful for the foresight and courage of the Department of Defense, President Barack Obama and members of Congress to begin the repeal of Don’t Ask Don’t Tell. We’re also thankful that same-sex partners of executive branch employees were extended the same benefits opposite-sex partners receive.

We’re thankful for the 90th anniversary of the 19th amendment. We wish more women – especially younger women – exercised it in November.

We’re thankful for Julia Gillard, Australia’s first female prime minister, and for Dilma Rousseff, who will become Brazil’s first female president on January 1, 2011.

We’re thankful for the creation of UN Women, or the UN Entity for Gender Equality and Empowerment of Women, headed by former Chilean President Michelle Bachelet. The entity will work to aid member states in successfully reaching their goals on gender equality and enhance the UN’s efforts to empower women worldwide.

We’re thankful for the creation of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, which, under the leadership of Elizabeth Warren, will protect students and their families through better-regulated lending practices.

We’re thankful for the passage of Wall Street reform legislation, which gives the federal government authority to terminate contracts with financial firms that do not guarantee “fair inclusion” of women and minorities.

We’re thankful for Justice Elena Kagan’s confirmation as the fourth woman to serve on the Supreme Court; a third of the high court is now female for the first time in history.

We’re thankful for Batgirl and her willingness to demand fair pay, along with our coalition partners who help us fight for pay equity and the never-give-up spirit that unites us all.

We’re thankful that the first provisions of the new health care law kicked in this year, many of which specifically support women, including a focus on children’s health, lifetime caps and free preventive care.

We’re thankful for the United States rising significantly in the World Economic Forum’s 2010 Global Gender Gap Report rankings from 31st last year to 19th this year, the first time the United States has been in the top 20 since the report began five years ago.

We’re thankful for the Obama administration launching a new initiative to work toward ending anti-LGBT bullying and harassment in schools, and President Obama, Secretary Clinton and Vice President Biden contributing It Gets Better Project video messages encouraging teens to seek help when they need it and maintain hope for the future.

We’re thankful for lots of gubernatorial firsts: Susana Martinez (R) is the first female governor of New Mexico, as well as the first female Hispanic governor in the nation; Nikki Haley (R) is the first female governor of South Carolina, joining Martinez as the first two women of color to win gubernatorial races; and Mary Fallin (R), becoming the first female governor in Oklahoma.

We’re thankful for our online community and their help in spreading the word about issues impacting women and girls. We’re thankful for an amazing new website and the groundbreaking “AAUW Experience” that shows the world the meaning of being part of our community.

We’re thankful for the AAUW Action Fund Capitol Hill Lobby Corps, whose persistent and thoughtful volunteer advocacy helped pass critical legislation and held lawmakers accountable on their votes.

We’re thankful for AAUW members and supporters who put their money where their mouths are by generously giving to help women advance their educations and develop leadership skills.

We’re thankful for AAUW Executive Director Linda Hallman for, as one AAUW member put it, her “innovative, passionate leadership and whirlwind energy in leading groundbreaking tours to Israel and Cuba.”

We’re thankful for the publication of AAUW Legal Advocacy Fund Program Manager Holly Kearl’s Stop Street Harassment: Making Public Spaces Safe and Welcoming for Women. We’re also thankful for Secrets of Powerful Women: Leading Change for a New Generation which features a chapter written by Public Policy and Government Relations Director Lisa Maatz.

And of course, we’re thankful for you, the AAUW Action Network, for your spirited advocacy to break through educational and economic barriers so that all women have a fair chance.

From all of us at AAUW, best wishes for a happy and healthy Thanksgiving and a joyful beginning to your holiday season.