Lobbying in Sacramento for California Women and Girls

The Santa Maria Branch of AAUW (American Association of University Women) hosted registered part-time lobbyist for AAUW-California, Shannon Smith-Crowley. She is the founder of Partners in Advocacy which specializes in the areas of medical and health advocacy including reproductive health, women’s health, and equity for women and girls.

Smith-Crowley spoke about her work with AAUW-California and her lobbying efforts in Sacramento for the women and girls of California. She shared strategies on how to combine voices and work together in achieving mutual goals. This was a great opportunity for persons interested in learning effective methods of lobbying and advocacy locally and at the state level.

Hobnobbing with Helen

Tweets matter.

This is likely no surprise to my readers. What is especially noteworthy, however, is that tweets can have a huge impact on officials at the state level of government.

“Legislators pay a lot of attention to tweets,” according to registered lobbyist and legislative advocate Shannon Smith-Crowley, who addressed a group of about 50 American Association of University Women (AAUW) members on Saturday, Jan. 21, at the County Administration Building on Lakeview in Santa Maria.

The Sacramento-based attorney, who represents AAUW in the state capitol, delighted her audience, who were all ears to hear about legislative developments that affect women.

There were AAUW members from Atascadero, the five cities, Lompoc, and Santa Maria chapters at the meeting. It was the opinion of some that attendance would have been far greater had the Women’s March not occurred on the same day. Apparently, the AAUW ladies who marched were all fired up to make a splash in the rain.

ADVOCATING FOR AAUW (left to right) Cathy, Judy, Shannon Smith-Crowley, and Marion at an American Association of University Women program meeting on Jan. 21 in Santa Maria. Photo by Helen Ann Thomas

Back to Lakeview: Attendees convened in the lobby for conversational buzz and Starbucks coffee, juice, and muffins before filing into the main room to hear Smith-Crowley deliver a highly informative talk about her work in behalf of AAUW and about significant accomplishments in the area of pay equity—one of the hot topics on her agenda.

The Santa Maria chapter hosted the get-together. Judy Frost and Alice Worhacz, current co-program chairs, and Cathy McCue, president, were clearly pleased at the turnout.

This event attracted locals Jeni Olivera, Barbara Steveson, Marianne Angel, Margaret Cooper, Judy Martin, Elizabeth Jones, and Dot Slater.

Smith-Crowley is a very good speaker who is able to keep her audience engaged with a steady presentation of highly relevant information. She has a pleasant, light-hearted touch and elicited many chuckles from her audience.

She told the group that there is and has been “monumental progress on pay equity law.

“The happenings in that area,” she added, “are game-changing.”

Employers, she said, “perpetuate the status quo,” with pay scales and arbitrary rules without, many times, realizing the unfairness of their behavior.

Muriel pours some coffee at the AAUW program meeting on Jan. 21 at the County Administration Building in Santa Maria. Photo by Helen Ann Thomas

The speaker told us that much of lobbyists’ successes depend on relationships. Developing and maintaining relationships with legislators and their staffs is key to getting what you want.

“It is important,” Smith-Crowley told us, “to be seen and heard.”

It is the goal of the AAUW lobbyist to persuade legislators, Smith-Crowley said, that “our [AAUW’s] priorities should be their priorities.”

AAUW was founded in 1881, in Boston, Mass., as a catalyst for change in issues affecting women. Membership is open to those who have either at least an associate degree (or the equivalent, like R.N. training) from a regionally accredited college or university. Men, of course, are welcome.

AAUW promotes the education of women and offers scholarships through most of its chapters. The Santa Maria chapter gives three scholarships of $250 each to Allan Hancock College
students each year.

AAUW California also sponsors a Tech Trek program, which provides a one-week academic, residential camp for eigth grade girls at several colleges and universities, including UCSB.

One of the pluses of attending this meeting was being able to connect with women from other areas. Claudia Collier, president of the Atascadero group, which has around one hundred members told me, “This was terrific. I have lots of information to take back to my chapter.”