December 1987 Home   Newsletters

February 1988

April 1988

From the President (Anne Lee)
Speaking Out: Fear of Volunteering (Rhoda M. Dorsey)
Water Quality Issue Survey (Kiyoko Nitz)
Women's History Month
Lobbying Needed for Initiative (Marian Wilkins)
Join the Debate on Agriculture
New League Publication: Reapportionment in Hawaii
Fundraising Update
Initiative Forum (Marian Wilkins)
Natural Resources at the Legislature (Kiyoko Nitz)
From the Local Leagues...
And Other LWV/Hawaii News...
What Kind of School Would I Like? (Marion Saunders)

I recently came across this great article in the Ridgefield League of Women Voters Bulletin and want to share it with you. I hope you'll find someone to share it with too. -Anne Lee.

Speaking Out: Fear of Volunteering

Volunteer activities are missing from the resumes of many career women today. Here's why it will hinder their climb to the top of the corporate power structure.

By Rhoda M. Dorsey, President, Goucher College

Her credentials were in order; bachelors and masters degrees from good institutions, relevant on-the-job experience, good references from previous employers. She was dressed for success in a sedate but stylish manner. But I'm not going to hire the young woman whom I interviewed this morning for a key administrative position.

My reason is a simple one. She belongs to no professional or civic organizations; she has no record of having contributed her time to her college, to her profession, to her neighborhood, or to her favorite charity. She's one-dimensional, lacking in the outside interests that make her an asset to her employer and to the community in which she lives and works – and that will, over the long term, help her to advance personally and professionally

Her problem is, unfortunately, one that I see all too often among young women today. It's fear of voluntarism – and it is going to hold back many young women in their quest for positions in the upper reaches of the corporate structure and on corporate boards. Even more sad, it is going to limit their enjoyment of life in the fullest sense.

In the early days of the women's movement, voluntarism got a bad name. Volunteer work was equated with slave labor in the eyes of many feminists. Indeed, in 1971, the National Organization for Women, took a position against service-oriented voluntarism – although "political or change-oriented" volunteer activities were deemed acceptable.

The number of volunteers available to the Junior League, the Red Cross, and numerous other agencies that had long relied on volunteer support began to decline, as the women who had formed the volunteer nucleus turned to work-for-pay. Interestingly, many of those women got jobs in large part because they convinced employers that volunteer work had provided valuable work experience.

I thought back to my own arrival at Goucher, back in 1954, fresh from graduate school at the University of Minnesota. Like the busy young woman, I had little time, and I was ambitious. But I knew there was more to life than a career and a paycheck. As a graduate of Smith College, I decided to join my local alumnae club.

I sold books at the annual book sale, I made telephone calls, and I made a lot of friends. In today's parlance, I "networked." I'd caught the voluntarism bug. As my professional commitments increased, so did my volunteer efforts – and so did my visibility in the community.

From the Smith's book sales I moved on to the board of the alumnae association. And from the subcommittee work with the accreditation association, I worked myself up to the presidency. In fact, I'm sure my volunteer activities played a key role in my appointments to the four corporate boards on which I now serve.

More and more corporations are becoming aware of the added value that employees who volunteer bring to their jobs. In marked contrast to twenty years ago, the majority of America's volunteers now also hold full-time jobs. The Bank of America even evaluates its employees for promotion based in part on their community involvement. The young women who aspire to the corporate boards of tomorrow need to start establishing their track records today. Volunteer work can provide visibility, experience, and confidence. But, more important, it can offer a very special brand of fulfillment not found at work or at home. Networking is just a small part of the story. Paying society back in some small way for all that we receive from it is the real "bottom line,"

I enjoy, benefit by, and, I hope, add to the corporate boards on which I serve.. My long-term commitment to our local facility for troubled young women. is just as vital for me, however. All of these things make my life a fuller one – and a lot more fun.

Forget the advice that old Army hands used to give new recruits. Do volunteer – and keep on volunteering. Society needs more than a few good women.

(This article first appeared in the April 1986 edition of the GRADUATE WOMAN published by the Amer. Assoc. of Univ. Women)

Rhoda M. Dorsey
President, Goucher College

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