A call to actionPublished 5:00pm Saturday, March 9, 2013
Lisa Maatz began honing her skills as an advocate before she left grade school.
Maatz, the director of public policy and government relations with the American Association of University Women, has dedicated her career to promoting equity for women and girls and spurring social change in Washington, D.C., and it all started with a petition she put together at the age of 9. She spoke at Austin High School’s seventh annual Women’s History Assembly on Friday, which was International Women’s Day.
Also, during the assembly, nine students were recognized on stage as winners for their history projects on women’s issues.
Long ago at her elementary school in Hinckley, Ohio, the girls bathrooms had no doors on their stalls. The school, strapped for cash, did not replace them after they fell off. When 9-year-old Maatz found out the boys bathroom did have stall doors, she went to the principal to ask that the doors be replaced. The principal patted her on the head and told her not to worry about it.
She turned around and started collecting signatures. Her effort soon snowballed in popularity, and she returned to the principal with an enormous show of support.
“I remember clear as day going into his office and putting this petition onto his desk and saying … ‘I’m not the only one who wants doors,’” she said.
Thanks to the backing of those around her, Maatz said she was pleased to find doors on the stalls not long after that.
“That is the power of advocacy,” she said.
While students may not have already been familiar with the work of advocates, Maatz assured her audience they had behaved as their own advocate many times, including when they ask their parents for an extended curfew or relaxed restrictions.
“You lobbied them,” she said. “You made a case. You were persuasive.”
After speaking to the lengths women have historically gone to for rights like the ability to vote and equal treatment in all educational programs funded by the government, Maatz turned students’ attention to the future.
“We’ve made huge progress, but we still have a way to go,” she said, adding one of the most prominent issues is women getting lower pay than men for the same type of work.
Sue Grove, co-president of the Austin AAUW branch, introduced Maatz and mirrored her call to action.
“Don’t rest on your laurels,” Grove said. “My generation fought for a lot of what you’re doing.”
Women’s history project winners
First: Sophia Thoen — Women in Education
Second: A tie between Emma Weikum, Anna Bachmeier and Bailey Mueller — Women in Government (local representatives) and Noah Brehmer, Justin Bergemann and Conner Bollum — Women in the United States Senate.
Third: Abby Bickler, Nik Gasner and Carolyn Hackel — Title IX and its Impact on Women.