AAUW Fellowships and Grants: Advancing Inclusion and Equity

December 19, 2018

Carolyn Moore, a fire captain in St. Louis, Missouri, received an AAUW career development grant. Photo courtesy of Rare Eye Photography.

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AAUW fellows and grantees are leading by example in their respective fields – including advancing key areas of AAUW’s strategic plan focusing on the intersection of racism and sexism, exerting female leadership in traditionally male roles, and researching the pay gap. Below are examples of three recipients’ ongoing work.

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Investigating Activism

“My hope is to increase women’s voices and platforms,” said 2018-2019 AAUW American Fellow Sarajaneé Davis, a Ph.D. candidate and graduate teaching associate in history and African-American studies at Ohio State University. She was one of five fellows who joined an online discussion about the intersection of racism and sexism that the California online branch program held in September.

Davis is studying how gender shaped student activism in the Black Power movement from late-1960s to mid-1970s. Her work examines the political climate at college campuses primarily located in the upper south, including North Carolina, Virginia, and Maryland.

While there has been a lot of research on the African-American protests during the Civil Rights era of the 1950s and 1960s — from sit-ins to marches — less is known about the black social action that took place about a decade later. “The tone and tenor shifted,” Davis said. “In language and demands, [activists] were becoming more assertive and more clear. They wanted more than a seat at the table and a voice on campus.” What they sought was full equality.

Black women were instrumental in community organizing, making intellectual contributions, and spreading the movement’s ideals, Davis said, even as they faced the dual challenges of fighting racism and sexism.

“In a patriarchy…of course women are always fighting to have a voice,” Davis said, although she noted that Black Power was no more misogynist than any other social justice movement of the day. At the same time, black women at predominantly white educational institutions found that “there was not a ton of space for black and white women to work together,” she said.

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Now in the fifth year of her Ph.D. program, Davis is hard at work on her dissertation, which she hopes will highlight black women’s leadership and influence on an important part of history. “Ideally I’d love for it to add to the robust and expanding literature of mid-century social movements,” she said.

Putting Out Fires

The 2018-2019 AAUW Career Development Grantee, Carolyn Moore, is challenging preconceived notions about what women’s work is or could be. Moore is the fire captain in the St. Louis Fire Department and the only African-American woman commissioned officer serving in the department.

She first considered becoming a firefighter in the late-1980s when her uncle, a retired battalion chief, told her the department had hired its first women for the job. “He … gave me encouragement and support and suggested I apply,” she said. Although she was initially apprehensive, she rose to the challenge after her mom told her she would have seized the opportunity had it been available when she was a young woman. “If my mother said she would be interested, then I was also.”

In 1989, Moore became the seventh woman to join the department. “We were the women pioneers of the fire industry,” she said. She met with the other women monthly to discuss how to handle the challenges and disappointments that came with being the firsts.

“The hardest part of the job was the physical challenges,” she said, citing mastering the technique for using the jaws of life. “The women worked together and shared this knowledge, which gave us the confidence that we could do the job.”

With the support of her AAUW award, she is currently pursuing a master’s degree in management and leadership, and she intends to develop a fire-service management and leadership consulting firm. She also wants to give back: “I plan to start a mentorship program and reach out to young girls and women who are interested in joining the public service field,” she said.

Analyzing the Gap

Closing the gender pay gap is among AAUW’s top priorities for 2019 and beyond. As our report The Simple Truth points out, women earn 80 cents for every dollar paid to men. A key strategy for achieving equity is to encourage women to negotiate for a fair and equitable salary and benefits when accepting job offers or promotions. Yet many women feel uncomfortable negotiating due to differences in how men and women are socialized to behave.

For example, in reflecting on her career, 2012–13 AAUW American Fellow Sanjukta Chaudhuri, Ph.D., said, “Maybe it is cultural and social pressure, but I have a hard time negotiating. I feel diffident and greedy.” Meanwhile, she routinely hears male colleagues threatening to leave their positions for higher-paying jobs unless they are given greater compensation.

Chaudhuri is a research analyst in Minnesota’s Department of Employment and Economic Development. According to her recent research, there is a 28.3 percent gender earnings gap in health care and social assistance in Minnesota, the largest and most female-dominated sector in the state.

She often hears people say that the gap can be attributed to women’s choice of profession or their decision to take time off, but there’s more to it than that. “The pay gap persists even after adjusting for education, choice of major, hours of work, industry and occupation of employment,” she said.

Whether analyzing the pay gap, examining history, or fighting fires, these women are using their AAUW awards to do work that will ultimately enhance the lives of women and girls. In that way, the funds can be viewed as an investment in the future — one that AAUW expects to yield rich returns.

By:   |   December 19, 2018