Q: Please tell us about yourself and the path that led you to The National Association of University Women. Also, please share with us any adversity you have encountered and overcame during your studies.
Wright: I became aware of NAUW through a coulege and business partner. As a ministers child, I was taught to love, give, share and serve. My educational desires to teach Special Education aligned directly with the educational focus of NAUW for eradicating illiteracy and giving scholarships to help further higher education for minorities. I was interested in its mission to serve women, youth and the disadvantaged in our communities and in developing countries by addressing educational issues, advancing the status of women's issues, and strategically partnering with allied organizations.
The largest obstacle to my obtaining and completing my studies was having to raise my son while utilizing the work-study program to help finance my education. I am thankful for the assistance of my mother, brothers and sisters who spent countless hours as babysitters so that I could reach my goal. This enabled me to be the first of my immediate family to obtain a college degree.
Q: Tell us about The National Association of University Women: its creation (who created it and why) and its programs. In addition, who do you serve?
Wright: The organization began as The College Alumnae Club. It was organized March 1910 by Mrs. Mary Church Terrell, Dr. Sara Brown, Dr. Fairfax Brown, and Miss Mary Cromwell in Washington, DC. Twenty university graduates joined elected officers and planned a program. The new Club desired to stimulate young women to attain professional excellence, to exert influence in various movements for the civic good, and to promote a close personal and intellectual fellowship among professional women. The organization is divided into five sections of the US: Northeast, Southeast, South Central, North Central and Southwest as well as newly formed international branch in Harpers Marymount, Liberia, Africa.
On August 9, 1974 at the biennial convention in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, the Association accepted its updated Charter and became known as the National Association of University Women (NAUW). As the years progressed, the organization raised its voice regarding major civic and national issues such as business opportunities for African-Americans, mental health and child welfare, and the improvement of interracial and international relations.
The Association has cooperated with national and local social and economic programs and is affiliated with the National Council of Negro Women, National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, United Negro College Fund, the National Coalition for Literacy, and the American Council on Education, National Sorority of Phi Delta Kappa, The Black Women's Agenda, and HOLA.
Q: In your view, what unique challenges African American girls and women face in STEM studies and careers that are specific to both their gender and race?
Wright: As an elementary teacher and school administrator, I believe girls and women have not been given the same opportunities to access science and math curriculums. While there is a move to get girls involved in these studies, I believe society still somewhat shuns a girl’s interest to be "unfeminine" or "manly". African American girls/women also face the lack of qualified teachers, current books etc., especially in the inner city. NAUW has made a concentrated effort to push programs in the local branches which address "Girls in Science and Math". The Santa Monica Branch in the Southwest especially has a unique group of girls involved at this time.
Q: In your opinion, what are the top 3 reasons for the low STEM participation of girls and women nationally?
-Lack of Programs
-Not enough qualified teachers
Q: How can we increase the number of girls and women in STEM nationally?
Wright: Begin EARLY. Promote science and math in elementary school. Make them a daily subject, not every now and then. Activities such as Science Fairs, Chess/Checker Clubs, Math Competitions all will foster a keener insight for these subjects. Interest and motivation will increase.