Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Past Time for Change

About a week ago, my sister Jane was honored as a 2011 Distinguished Alumna of the University of Texas at Austin. When we first learned that she would be receiving this honor, I did some research on this award and yes, it's a very big deal and everyone in the family is extremely proud of her. Now Jane admits that she is not the typical honoree. In which I mean that she doesn't have an air-conditioned box at the football stadium, hasn't given tons of money to UT, she has only been a member of the Texas Exes alumni association for the last three years, and, up until the awards ceremony, she didn't own any clothing that was burnt orange unless she really liked it or orange was 'in' that year.

So why did they pick her? Well, she does support the School of Communications and has been involved in several things through that school. Like talking to classes when she is in Austin and being a commencement speaker at the School of Communication's graduation ceremonies a few years ago. And she freely credits UT with opening her eyes to a much bigger world than she ever dreamed existed outside of Kenedy, Texas. Add to all that twenty years as editor-in-chief of Woman's Day magazine (preceded by stints as health, beauty and fashion editor at that same publication), and founding the Woman's Day Heart Awards, plus coming up with the idea of wearing red in February to support research and education about women and heart disease. And supporting women's issues and a few other things. Yep, that's all worth some major recognition.

 Jane w/ the siblings and two nieces (aka my daughters).
Jane's the one in the center wearing the burnt orange jacket.

So the entire family gathered in Austin and we celebrated this achievement together. It was a great time and as I said, we are all extremely proud of Jane. But there's just one tiny problem I had with this award. It was given to six people this year and only two of them were women. The award given is a throwback to the early fifties when the award originated: A burnt orange blazer that was obviously created because, back in the time of Ozzie and Harriet, no one could conceive that the award would be given to a woman. That blazer is highly prized by those who 'bleed' burnt orange, but it bothers me as it seems to scream 'men only' club. And given the disparity between the number of men who have received this honor compared to the number of women, it's not really surprising that I feel that way. Here's a fun fact for you: In 2003, all six award recipients were men. Only eight years ago. The most women who have received this honor in a single year is three. The number of women recognized in a single year has never been more than the number of men.

Since 2003, the Texas Exes have tried to make sure that at least one or two women are included in each group. And as much as I'd like to blame the organization because that would be so easy, the truth is we, the alumni of the University of Texas, nominate people for this award. The recipients are chosen from those nominations. And if we aren't nominating women, then women are not going to receive this recognition.

While I'm sure the men who have received this award over the years deserved it, I refuse to believe that there aren't just as many talented, successful women who also deserve it. And it is past time for a change. Quite honestly I had no idea this award existed before Jane received it. I'm betting there are quite a few alums who also have no idea. Especially women, since, let's face it, the Texas Exes are better known for tailgate parties than award ceremonies, and if you're like me, you don't give a damn whether the football team is winning or losing. But now I know and so do you. UT is fond of saying that what starts here, changes the world. So, how about we change the world? Go out there and find those talented, successful women who have a degree from UT and then nominate them for this award. Every year. Here's the link: Texas Exes Alumni Awards. If we all do it, then we can finally give the alumnae of the University of Texas the credit they so richly deserve. And if you are not a UT alum, then take a few minutes to search your college website to find out how you can nominate a deserving woman for that institution's alum awards. I guarantee every college has one.

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