I have had the good fortune of being the president of the Faculty Women’s Interest Group since 2010. We planned a celebration this year to honor the women who held firm on forming the organization 25 years ago; there were so few at the first meeting that I extended the group to the first five years. The result was a list of around 30 women who founded a feminist organization within ACSP to address feminist issues within the planning academy.
It was a very touching celebration, with founders sharing their memories and newcomers sharing their gratitude. We also took time to remember some of the founders who are no longer with us, like Marsha Ritzdorf, and those who are struggling with illness, like Marsha Marker Feld.
The testimony to look how far we’ve come came at the lunch: this year we had close to 200 women who attended. We have certainly joined the academy in large numbers. But disparities between men and women in the academy persist, and the fight continues. The advantages and gains of white women have exceeded those of women of color.
Thus our 25 year celebration has to denote a turning point as well as a celebration: our past teaches us how difficult it is to succeed when nobody believes in you, and how important it is to join together as a means to create opportunities. Our gains in numbers have to be accompanied by the recognition that those gains include obligations to use our power to support those coming after us, and to work with people of color to make their lives and paths easier within the academy. Our students and colleagues need our support and our leadership.
We have come a long way in 25 years; I am a grateful beneficiary of it, and have blessed to have been a small part of it.