When we were in the process of acquiring YWTF [the Younger Women’s Task Force], we had a retreat in DC for each of the existing chapter leaders and as the youngest Board member at the time, I was invited to be the liaison. At this retreat, the young women learned what it would mean for them to become AAUW members. They were all horrified at the membership requirement- not because they didn’t have degrees and couldn’t join but because of the exclusivity of it. They couldn’t understand why we would have a barrier for people who might want to help support our causes. This is not the way they think. I don’t mean to dismiss the acquisition of a degree but it is less of a big deal to women today. I am 46 and there was never a question that I was going to college. Yes, I am proud of my degrees but I am not interested in belonging to any organization just because I completed college. I am interested in belonging to an organization that fights for women’s equity and rights and I don’t care one bit if the other members have degrees as well.

[Many of AAUW’s] … 170,000 members and supporters are [not members, but] people who engaged with us in some way-signed a Care.org petition, signed up for Action Alerts, donated money or time, attended NCCWSL, responded to a social media event (twitter storm eg.). Many of these fall in the demographic of under 50. Many do become national members. It is just highly unlikely that a 25 year old woman is going to join a branch where the next youngest person is 65. I did join as a 22 year old but my grandmother was a member and she paid for my membership plus they pulled me onto the board right away. I was attracted by the mission, not the fact everyone had a degree.

…[W]e absolutely cannot adequately fight for equity and inclusion of women at the decision making table when we only allow certain women/people to belong to our group….

-Charmen Goehring
AAUW Branches: Sacramento (CA), CHAR (CA), CA Online, Bath-Brunswick (ME)
Edited from an email sent on April 22, 2017

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