Last fall, eight incoming transfer students met to create the UCLA chapter of the American Association of University Women, a national organization most of them took part in at their previous college campuses.
AAUW, an organization based in Washington, D.C., aims to help university women join student government and public office, according to the organization’s website. AAUW uses a research-based approach to help women advance their careers, despite the lack of women in leadership roles.
UCLA became the final UC campus to open a chapter of the American Association of University Women.
According to an AAUW study, women working full time in the U.S. were typically paid 79 cents to a man’s dollar in 2014. The study also concluded it would take 100 years to close the wage gap at the current rate.
Jehan Kazi, vice president of AAUW at UCLA and third-year political science student, said she recalls nervously hoping at least five or six people would attend their first chapter meeting in late November 2015. She and her co-founders instead walked into a room packed with 35 students, male and female, who were hoping to learn more about advocating for women in the workforce.
Ivelisse Porroa-Garcia, president of the UCLA chapter of AAUW and fourth-year political science student, said she thought the UCLA community could benefit from the club. She added she thinks a majority of existing student groups spent time debating feminist ideals, but AAUW takes a different approach by offering workshops to help women in the workforce,
Porroa-Garcia said AAUW stands out from other feminist clubs because its primary goal is to encourage women to get involved in campus leadership.
“(AAUW) is not very partisan,” Porroa-Garcia said. “It is focused on bringing women to leadership positions on campus and increasing their confidence so they are not afraid.”
Kazi said UCLA chapter organizers plan to let members determine what the club focuses on in the future.
“My vision is to make it more personal and to bring things to students that would help them, like workshops for women who are interested in student government,” Kazi said.
She added AAUW headquarters previously held a workshop dedicated to getting females into student government leadership positions, and 72 percent of attendees later held campus leadership positions. Kazi said she hopes to hold similar workshops at UCLA.
Kazi said she also wants a representative from Counseling and Psychological Services to speak about sexual assault resources at UCLA. She said she also plans to hold workshops about daily microaggressions against women and how to be an effective public speaker, and hopes to have career center representatives teach members how to build a resume and cover letter.
Porroa-Garcia said she thinks the executive board’s diverse fields of study, including biology, business and child development, brings a varied background to club management and allows the board to address increasing female representation in the workplace from multiple perspectives.
Guillermo Navarro, a third-year political science student, was one of about five male students who attended the first general meeting for AAUW last November. He said he wanted to widen his perspective, but was hesitant to go at first because he might not be able to relate to the issues being discussed.
Navarro said he was most interested in hearing the questions the club leaders posed to attendees, because he wanted to learn about issues women face from individual perspectives.
“One of the things they talk about is getting harassed while walking around,” Navarro said. “I haven’t experienced that, but being with friends and my sisters, I’ve seen it happen.”
Porroa-Garcia said UCLA AAUW executive board members plan to continue holding chapter meetings on the UCLA campus and partner with the national organization in the future.
A university partnership would include student benefits, such as lowering costs of attending national AAUW events, and faculty services, such as inexpensive litigation for female faculty members who fight for equal pay, Porroa-Garcia said.
She added all other UC campuses have an AAUW chapter on campus, all of which already hold university partnerships.
The club will hold general meetings once a quarter, and will partner with other campus organization during future events. Later this year, they will collaborate with UCLA Recreation to hold the Bruin Self Defense workshop against sexual assault, an event open all current UCLA students. The board also plans to hold salary negotiation workshops for students in spring quarter.