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Page last updated on March 21, 2019 at 10:18 am

Good afternoon. I am so glad to be with you today, recognizing and celebrating the contributions of these outstanding women and Women’s History Month. I am proud to be in your company, enjoying this lovely meal on a beautiful spring? day. A lot of people work very hard to bring this event together: the Commission on the Status of Women (led by Debby Herbenick and Ashley Hazelrig), our wonderful performers today, the Girl Scouts, all the nominators, the terrific staff of the City of Bloomington Community and Family Resources Department including Beverly Calender-Anderson and Sue Owens, of course our generous sponsors who make it possible to be here enjoying the hospitality of the Monroe County Convention Center, and the team of people who prepared and are serving our meal today. Please join me in thanking them all. And thank you ALL for being here, the place to be in Bloomington today.

Last year Dawn couldn’t be at this lunch because she was working with the Senate Judiciary Committee dealing with a certain Supreme Court nominee. I’m not going to remind us more of that, but I’m very pleased that my leading light, my partner, my inspiration, Professor Dawn Johnsen is with us today as well. Dawn worked with and was inspired by Byllye Avery back in the 1980s and 90s on issues of women’s rights and racial justice. And Ms, Avery, your remarks were so inspirational. Thank you for being with us today, and for all you have done in your lifetime for women and for racial equality and for our country.

In the recently finished year of 2017, various organizations pick a word of the year. What popped, what trended, what word or phrase stood out. “Fake News” was the choice for Collins Dictionary. “Complicit” by (I didn’t say this would be pleasant)  “Youthquake” was choice of Oxford Dictionaries (you can look that one up). But it was our all-American Merriam Webster that got it right I believe, as their choice for the 2017 word of the year was “FEMINISM.”

Searches for that word spiked in 2017, around the women’s marches, and the MeToo movement, and all during the year.

Feminism first entered an English dictionary with Noah Webster in 1841 with the definition “the qualities of females.” Their definitions today include “the theory of the political, economic, and social equality of the sexes” and “organized activity on behalf of women’s rights and interests.”

In this our city’s and county’s Bicentennial Year, I want to take a moment to remember we’ve come a long way as a community – as a country too. Oh my, there is a long way to go, but there has been progress, and I wanted just to note some of that.

Women have been half the population, of course, oh for millennia. But 200 years ago, they were 0% of elected political leaders. 0% of college degrees. And usually invisible in the business and commerce sectors.

On the progress side, in the most recent year, women earned about 60% of the bachelors and masters degrees awarded in America. But the gender pay gap persists, with women earning about 80% of what men earn, and women of color significantly lower than that.

From a base of 0, women have increased nationally to 31% of city councilors, 25% of state legislators, and 21% of big city mayors. The numbers have risen but definitely smaller at higher levels of government: 19% of Congress, 12% of governors, and of 45 Presidents, well it’s still 0% women. And in business while women-owned firms constitute nearly 40% of all firms, they tend to be smaller, and only 6% of CEOs of Fortune 500 are women.

I do want to note that locally our progress has been stronger. Women constitute 44% of our city council. While currently our mayor is not female, over the last 35 years, a woman has led city hall 34% of the time. In the county offices, it’s even stronger: women make up 55% of county-wide elected administrative officials, 57% of the county council, 67% of county commissioners, and 67% of our nine county judges.

There ends our Bicentennial moment. Progress has been made, but so much more remains to be done. And THAT brings us to our 2018 Women of the Year, who have so significantly helped highlight work that remains to be done right here locally.

You have descriptions in your programs, but let me emphasize the program that has earned this year’s award.  

Several years ago, as a high school student in Bloomington, Morgan Newman participated in Project STEM, a summer research program, in which she worked with Dr. Murray and Dr. Newman. Morgan’s project  focused on how people perceive black women, using the Implicit Association Test to examine the implicit biases of black and white young adults.

Last summer, high school student Phoebe Powell, interned in Dr. Newman's lab and worked with Morgan to help complete data collection for that study. Phoebe and Morgan weren’t done. Based on their own experiences, they developed a study to explore racial biases and the experiences of black girls in Bloomington. Specifically comparing. experiences of black girls in a predominately white town/school with  experiences of white girls. Using focus groups and data collection the project showed young black women having more negative experiences as far back as kindergarten.

Passionate about helping younger generations of black girls, our award winners wrote an editorial that ran in the Indy Star and was picked up by USA Today. They met with school superintendents to encourage teacher trainings to better address issues related to race and gender. A powerful video summarizes the study and conclusions, and highlights personal testimonies from brave young women speaking about themselves and our community. I encourage you to look it up.

Fuller bios are in your program, but as all four come up to stage, let me share a little:

Morgan Newman is a junior at Vanderbilt University majoring in Public Policy and Sociology with a minor in Statistics. She is involved with Dance Marathon, the Multicultural Leadership Council, Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority, and she founded Black Girls Lift. Morgan plans to continue to fight inequality in her career and intends to earn a PhD.

Phoebe Powell is an active band member at Bloomington High School North where she plays baritone saxophone in the marching, concert and jazz bands. In addition, she’s graduating a year early and hopes to further her education at Spelman College in Atlanta, Georgia majoring in Biology.

Dr. Sharlene Newman is a cognitive neuroscientist in IU’s Department of Psychological and Brain Sciences and the programs in Cognitive Science and Neuroscience. She earned her B.E. at Vanderbilt University in electrical engineering and mathematics and her Ph.D. and M.S. at the University of Alabama Birmingham in biomedical engineering. Among MANY other things, Sharlene founded the summer research program that targets low-income high school students, Project STEM, where students spend 8 weeks working in IU faculty research labs.

Dr. Maresa J. Murray is an Associate Clinical Professor of Human Development and Family Studies, in the School of Public Health-Bloomington at Indiana University and is Director of Undergraduate Studies in the Department of Applied Health Science. She earned her Undergraduate degree at IU-Bloomington, and both her Masters and Doctorate degrees at Michigan State University, in the College of Human Ecology. 

Today it is my honor on behalf of all of Bloomington, to thank Dr. Murray, Dr. Newman, Morgan Murray and Phoebe Powell for their collective work on the study, which, we believe will lead to more equitable educational opportunities for young black girls and women in Bloomington, and to present them with the 2018 Women of the Year award. Congratulations!!