Newsletter | Mar/Apr 2015

The Origins of the Steering Committee

by Lucia Bogatay
The following is an article about the thinking behind the organizational system we use for the OWA/DP, and how it came about. This editor actually wrote the article which was published in the January, 1974 issue of the OWA Newsletter. Since this was written before spell check, I have taken the liberty of correcting the spelling. Note that ESCMT is the Engineering Society Committee for Manpower Training.

“The Steering Committee” is familiar to most of our members, but since there is an election this month, we felt this was a good time to explain how it came about, and the reasons for its peculiar design.

Last spring, before elections were held, there was a meeting of people interested in the development of OWA’s government. Like me, they were mostly people with a distrust of “Executive Committees” as they are conventionally formed, and felt that in order to keep our interest in the OWA we might try to design a system that we would be able to enjoy.

We knew, first of all that we needed some kind of organization because of the experiences of Boston’s women’s group as related to us by Dolores Hayden. Her warnings to us last winter made some of the members argue for a leadership as broadly based as possible to make sure it represented a consensus of the membership. Others felt that the offices should be of a specific rather than a ceremonial character; i.e., not “President” or “Sargent-at-Arms.”

So the Steering committee was created with five equal members and five alternates. The five original tasks were Treasurer, Education Coordinator, Publicity coordinator, Employment Coordinator, and Publisher. Members were duly elected and meetings began. We soon discovered the advantages of having the alternates function as regular members. Finally, we added two student members and wrote up the By-Laws in the form approved in December.

The Committee functions very well and so far the original goals have become fact as explained below:

    1. Administrative duties are shared in rotation among the Steering committee members, who occasionally delegate things to others from the general membership. Each Committee member acts as chairman and organizer of one general meeting, arranges for food. Each member generally offers her house for one of the meetings. Each member is editor of the Newsletter for one month. Each member volunteers (hopefully) to take notes at a meeting.
    2. There are always plenty of ideas and all sides of any question are aired, much as at general OWA meetings. Decisions are made, after discussion, by consensus.
    3. Each Committee member has a special on-going project in addition to shared administration. Some of these jobs will probably expand into task forces as OWA gets older. New projects will arise, such our calendar and the board Membership in ESCMT.
    4. No one is really overworked, though many work very hard and each project is potentially time consuming and we all feel that more could be accomplished.

A great deal of help has come from OWA members and our group depends on members contributions to the Newsletter. As more members become ex-members of the Steering Committee, they will surely continue to be helpful.This design can accommodate a large membership. As of this moment the Committee constitutes about one third of the membership. Thus a high proportion of OWA members are deeply involved which should continue to keep it alive and growing.

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