Monday, April 27, 2009

Stand Up and Be Counted

Last weekend I attended my second annual BPW State Conference. It was a busy and productive time. I thought I might be expelled from BPW for standing up for my strong—perhaps pigheaded—beliefs.

I learned from the best the importance of being true to myself. Sometimes Jim exasperated me with his determination to stand up for his “principals”. I tried to get him to lighten up and admit that in a democracy, the majority ruled. No way! When he knew something was right, he defended his position. When I tried to reason with him, he merely declared, “That’s against my principals.”

My problem with BPW had nothing to do with our state or local organizations. I am proud of my local Business and Professional Women’s Club. They are great women to work with and, boy, are we ever a busy group! We hold fundraisers, activities and award scholarships. The ladies in our local are my friends and I care about them.

Even Jim with his principals, would have said, “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.” Unfortunately, BPW/USA is broken. My Jim-like round of stubbornness began when BPW/USA came up with a plan to charge a license fee for the BPW name.

Our national organization has made some bad business decisions and is on the brink of bankruptcy. They lost nearly $200,000 on the national conference last year and then lost touch with the very women they were created to serve. After months of pleas for more money from our incredibly shrinking organization, BPW/USA finally realized the members couldn’t bail them out of their mess.

I’ll spare you the details, but now BPW members are voting on a merger between BPW/USA and BPW Foundation. This is the same foundation that recently gave BPW/USA $500,000, but suspended scholarships for 2009-2010. Needless to say, that didn’t set well with a lot of members.

The merger plan got worse. BPW/USA trademarked all their programs and the use of the BPW logo and even the letters “BPW”. This trademark was approved in January 2009. Why would they do such a thing? To protect the trademark, they said. In reality, it was to charge an annual license fee of $40 per person to any woman who wanted to remain a “BPW” member and continue the proud tradition of our foremothers.

What if we didn’t want to pay the hostage fee to use our own name? BPW/USA’s response was to advise us to check with our Secretary of State to take the necessary steps to change state and local names. The Missouri Federation of Business and Professional Women’s Clubs, Inc. was chartered in 1938. Our legal council advised us that this is our name and we don’t have to change it.

BPW was born ninety years ago in St. Louis by a group of women who stood up for their rights and to promote equality and fairness for women in the workplace. These forward-looking women were not afraid to stand up for their sisters and themselves.

Our Missouri women have led the charge for the past ninety years. This weekend, we stood up for the organization we love and for the opportunity to revitalize and reorganize our group.

After we discussed the proposed resolution to disassociate our Missouri Federation from BPW/USA, we were asked to stand if we supported the resolution. The room was filled with my BPW sisters who stood up for what was right.

I believe BPW/USA underestimated the caliber of women who make up their membership. It wasn’t just the newer members who stood up, but long-term members who have been involved in the organization for decades. Women with integrity, courage, and principals stood up to be counted.

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For information about the BPW Merger visit http://bpwgrassroots.blogspot.com
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