November 21, 2019

NYSUT Women’s Committee grants will empower union women

Author: Kara Smith
Source:  NYSUT Communications
women's committee
Caption: "EmpowerHER!" Leslie Rose, Hewlett Woodmere Faculty Association (left) and Tenika Wilcox, Troy Teachers Association. Photo by Becky Miller.

The NYSUT Women’s Committee rolled out the NYSUT Mosaics of Sisterhood Grant, which offers up to $500 for members to start local women’s committee chapters, to fund specific short-term projects, or for professional learning opportunities to move the women’s agenda forward.

Introduced at the committee’s annual meeting last weekend, the grant program is made possible by a generous donation from former NYSUT Vice President Catalina Fortino. Its goals include connecting women from diverse backgrounds and different generations, and creating mentorship opportunities. Although she couldn’t personally attend, Fortino purchased yellow rose corsages for all attendees, letting them know she was there in spirit.

“Catalina embodies what a sister is every single day,” said Jolene DiBrango, NYSUT executive vice president, who chairs the committee. “We are blessed to have a little part of her legacy.”

The meeting shined a light on the fieldwork members have done to grow NYSUT’s women’s movement. A year ago, only 12 NYSUT Women’s Committee chapters existed; now there are 23 and counting. Members shared tools to create regional empowerment events and learned how to accelerate the movement. They also received a new mentoring toolkit to help nurture the next generation of female union leaders.

“I’m inspired each day, by the NYSUT women I meet, to be a better woman, activist and to never stop fighting for true gender equality,” said DiBrango in welcome remarks to attendees. She noted that this year the event was live streamed to the NYSUT Women Facebook group for those unable to attend. “We’re striving to include, and reach out to as many women as possible — you don’t have to be a NYSUT leader to be inclusive and supportive of other women, or to start a local women’s committee.”

In an institutional bias activity, committee members learned about subtle ways women face gender discrimination in the workplace, and brainstormed strategies to overcome them. These include mothers being overlooked for leadership positions; men interrupting and talking over women in business meetings; and women being given less credit for their accomplishments and more blame for their mistakes.

The meeting included workshops on a range of other issues, from how to form local and regional women’s committees, to coalition building with other organizations, to political activism in upcoming 2020 elections. Representatives from NYSUT’s legal department provided an overview of legal issues impacting women, including the family and medical leave act and workplace discrimination. Committee members also discussed resolutions for the 2020 NYSUT Representative Assembly in May.

The NYSUT Women’s Committee is a permanent, standing committee with four main goals: encourage more locals to develop in-house women’s committees; educate female members about the work of the union; highlight women-specific issues, including inequalities in pay, health care and education; and involve more union women in leadership roles.

Visit for more information about the NYSUT Women’s Committee.