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AAUW Funds Cheyney University-Based Project to Address Stereotypes and Biases

February 4, 2015

Kelly Rancifer, 1st Officer US Airways Express, speaks on

Kelly Rancifer, 1st Officer US Airways Express, speaks on "My Life, My Label, My Future" as part of a AAUW-funded project to address stereotypes and biases

Cheyney University of Pennsylvania is one of 11 student-led teams selected to join a nationwide effort to fight stereotypes and biases.  The American Association of University Women (AAUW) awarded a $5000 grant to Cheyney for a campus project as part of AAUW’s ongoing collaboration with Pantene, a hair care brand owned by Proctor & Gamble. The 2014–15 AAUW Campus Action Project (CAP) grants, sponsored by Pantene’s Shine Strong campaign, are one way the brand is supporting women.

Each year, the AAUW CAP grants provide funding to teams of students and faculty to create community-based solutions to some of the far-reaching problems explored in AAUW research, which includes the real-life effects of biases and stereotypes. In the past few years, the AAUW research reports Graduating to a Pay Gap: The Earnings of Women and Men One Year after College Graduation and Women in Community Colleges: Access to Success have addressed how stereotypes harm women’s educational opportunities and salaries.

“We are very excited about being awarded the AAUW Cap Grant and the creative and educational programs that our students are organizing for the campus and local community with the theme #MyLifeMyLabel. We are offering a speaker series with presenters focusing on career fields in which women are historically under-represented and the development of confidence and self-esteem. There will also be a series of panel discussions on how black women are portrayed in the media, a visual campaign celebrating several famous women in recent history and some local women who are great role models for our young women. We’ll bring the project to a close with a Women’s Empowerment event on April 25th. All of the events leading up to the Women’s Empowerment event are open to the community free of charge. The event on April 25th is also open to the public, but at a minimal charge,” stated Dr. Cherita G. Weatherspoon, Executive Director of University College and AAUW CAP Grant Project Director.

“Despite all of the progress that we have made as a society, negative and harmful stereotypes about women persist, affecting nearly every area of life,” said Kate Farrar, vice president of AAUW Campus Leadership Programs. “We are pleased that Pantene is joining our effort to empower college women so they can be voices for change.”

According to Dr. Weatherspoon, the first event, held Tuesday, February 3, featured Kelly Rancifer, 1st Officer US Airways Express, who flew in from Atlanta, GA to speak on My Life, My Label, My Future. “Her message was well-received and the students felt empowered and encouraged to be who they define themselves as and not the labels that others place upon them," Weatherspoon said. "This was the goal, so I am very pleased about the impact this first event had on participants.”

The next event, open to the entire Cheyney and outside communities, will be Tuesday, February 17th at 7 pm in Burleigh Hall Conference Room. Dr. Weatherspoon feels that both sexes can benefit from the discussions.

"Even in 2015, women are still viewed as less than men in many ways. We are stereotyped as sex symbols. We are used, abused, degraded and discarded in our homes, in the workplace, and in social settings," she acknowledged. "In situations where we come to the table with the exact same qualifications as our male counterparts, we still seem to not measure up. In the same situation where a man is labeled an expert, a woman might be labeled a know-it-all; he is labeled as assertive, while she is labeled aggressive or an expletive. This project will help ignite the conversation at Cheyney about how we view women, and in particular black women. Our approach to addressing this issue, while aligning with the grant goals to reduce the stereotypes of women and the resulting biases, is a bit unique in that we are primarily targeting how our young women view themselves, view the possibilities available to them, and motivating them to define for themselves who they are and their value in society. However, the information that will be shared through our speaker series, visual campaign and panel discussions are relevant for the entire campus and local community."

In addition to Cheyney University, the 2014–15 CAP grantees include teams from Clemson University in South Carolina; the College at Brockport in New York; Murray State University in Kentucky; Napa Valley College in California; Pacific Lutheran University in Washington; Sierra College in California; the University of Dubuque in Iowa; the University of Maryland, Baltimore County; the University of Wisconsin, Milwaukee; and West Virginia Wesleyan College.

With Pantene’s support, one member from each CAP team will also present on their project at the 2015 National Conference for College Women Student Leaders, hosted by AAUW and NASPA–Student Affairs Administrators in Higher Education. This annual conference, which is held at the University of Maryland, College Park, gathers college women from across the country to address important and contemporary leadership issues.