December 29, 2017
If 2017 has taught us anything, it’s that our activism is needed now more than ever. It’s crucial that as we look ahead to new challenges and accomplishments to be achieved in the New Year, we prepare to protect the progress we’ve already made. In order to be ready for anything 2018 throws at us, we need to become better, more efficient, and more stalwart activists — and to accomplish that we need to know what resources are available to us and be ready to use them. Though figuring out how to ramp up your activism can be daunting, you’re not alone; AAUW’s got you covered in 2018.
1. Know your rights at work.
By the end of 2017, it became clear that more and more people are finding the strength and confidence to speak up about sexual harassment and assault in the workplace. Choosing to disclose an instance of harassment is often a matter of safety and comfort, but not knowing what constitutes sexual harassment or what to do once you experience or witness it can deter people from disclosing. Knowing your employer’s responsibility to create a workplace culture that discourages sexual harassment and what resources and protections your employer is legally obligated to provide can help you determine how to help create a better and safer workplace culture, too. In 2018, resolve to know your rights around sexual harassment in the workplace so that you can empower yourself and others to recognize and report sexual harassment and assault.
The presidential election has long since passed, but local elections are coming up on the horizon all over the country — and they’re coming fast. Keep up with the schedule of your state and local elections and make sure you’re ready to make your voice heard on women’s issues such as reproductive rights, paid family leave, and equal pay, to name just a few. In 2018, resolve to make your voice heard every chance you get by registering to vote and showing up at the polls. Remember: Your voice makes a difference.
3. Negotiate your salary.
Women working full time in the United States typically are paid just 80 percent of what men are paid on average, but negotiating for your salary and benefits can help chip away at that gap. Whether you’re entering the job market for the first time or already a working professional, AAUW has resources to help you get paid fairly for your work. Resolve to make 2018 the year you ask for the raise or promotion you know you’ve earned — and the year you help empower others by bringing AAUW’s salary negotiation workshops to your community. AAUW Start Smart teaches women entering the workforce for the first time how to negotiate their starting salaries at a critical time in their career, when benchmarks are set for future salaries.
4. Support the next generation of innovators.
The earlier girls are empowered, the brighter their futures can become. That’s especially true for girls interested in science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM), fields that are largely unwelcoming to women and girls. Commit to helping girls realize their potential this year with AAUW’s new STEM curricula, known as STEMpacks. Our cyber security STEMpack, created in partnership with cyber security industry leader Symantec, covers topics such as binary coding, programming languages, and deconstructing computers; and the aerospace engineering STEMpack we created with the Arconic Foundation introduces students to physics and engineering through a combination of scientific principles and exhilarating experiments. These programs keep girls excited and enthusiastic about entering STEM fields at an age when AAUW research shows they’re most likely to lose interest and give them the confidence they need to succeed in STEM fields and beyond.
5. Help young women find their voices.
This year, commit to making progress toward getting more women into leadership, whether that woman is you or someone else you know. Women are still left out of top leadership positions — especially women of color, who face both gender- and race-based stereotypes and barriers in their pursuit of leadership roles. Speaking out against workplace sexism and learning best practices to improve gender equity in the office can help dismantle some of the prejudices and stereotypes that work against women’s advancement, but it’s important to prepare women for leadership as early as possible, too. The National Conference for College Women Student Leaders is devoted to teaching leadership skills, providing role models and a network of outstanding peers, and giving college women the confidence they need to go after the leadership roles they deserve in college and in the world beyond. Encourage a college student you know to help close the leadership gap by attending NCCWSL 2018.
6. Be an ally.
Activist, artist, academic, and Aboriginal elder Lilla Watson said, “If you have come here to help me, you are wasting your time. But if you have come because your liberation is bound up with mine, then let us work together.” Social justice is not only for members of marginalized communities — it’s for everyone, because everyone benefits from it. When we understand that overcoming and dismantling biases and systems of oppression advances equity for everyone, we can begin to make real change. Make 2018 the year you recognize and learn about your privilege, find out what you can do to leverage that privilege to help others, and prioritize the voices of people of marginalized communities above your own.
7. Get involved.
Your voice matters all the time, not just during elections. AAUW has a number of ways you can get involved in promoting equity for women and girls. You can become a Two-Minute Activist and receive alerts of opportunities to weigh in on important issues when you’re needed the most; join or start an AAUW student organization to empower students on your campus; read up on women’s issues such as the student debt crisis so you can be ready to educate others; and share AAUW’s work on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and anywhere else you can use your platform to make a difference. Be sure to keep up with local politics, issues, and events so that you can get involved locally, too. In 2018, resolve to remember that it’s never the wrong time or too late to make yourself heard and to do what you can to fight for the issues that matter to you.
This post was written by AAUW Editorial Assistant Femi Sobowale.
AAUW’s Start Smart and Work Smart programs are designed to empower women with the skills and confidence they need to successfully negotiate their salary and benefits packages.
In 2018 AAUW will be working more efficiently than ever toward progress for women in our focus areas of education, leadership, and economic security — but we need your help to do it. Give to help AAUW accomplish our mission of equity.