By Katie Potzick

Mary Karen Powers watched her own mother struggle for equal rights in the workplace. When she was sixteen, her mother was paid $6,000 less annually than her male colleagues for working the exact same job. This indignity motivated Powers to work for women’s equality in the workplace and beyond.
Powers, director of the Women’s Center at the University of Louisville, is an empowering woman according to those who know her best. She believes in helping women to recognize their potential and gain an equal place in the world.
“I’ve always been interested in women having a fair chance in the world at education, jobs and at life,” said Powers, who believes that college is a wonderful opportunity for women to learn about their aptitudes and to become open to new ideas. Furthermore, she is a strong believer in the power of education which she attributes to the beliefs her mother instilled in her
“My mom enrolled in U of L when she was 62 and graduated when she was 76. It was a dream of hers to have an education and be an educated women,” said Powers. “She instilled that love for education in her children.”
Now, through her work at the Women’s Center, Powers is hoping to inspire a new generation of women to take part in their own pursuit of education and self-improvement.
“I hope that women have the opportunity to hear new people, try new things, and, by expanding their world, begin to think more critically,” said Powers. “Then they can use their gifts to help others and make the world a better, more equal place.”
With the aid of her staff, Powers is able to coordinate events, activities and speakers that are aimed to promote equality, increase women’s self reliance, and heighten the understanding of women’s contribution to society.
On Nov. 13, the Center is holding their annual Elizabeth Cady Stanton Awards luncheon. The luncheon is in honor of Stanton and her involvement in the suffragette movement. The luncheon includes a talk by a guest speaker on women in politics and the suffragette movement and the handing out of
key awards. This ceremony
helps to recognize women in the community who have worked towards gender equality.
Another major annual event is Women’s Equality Day, for which a university-wide street fair was held at the Red Barn during the first week in the school year.
“For the Women Equality Street Fair we served 650 students lunch,” said Powers. “There was good food, good music and a lot of good information.”
The event celebrates women getting the right to vote and also provides informational booths to help register new voters.
The center also sponsors a lecture series about timely women issues such as Title IX and women in sports.
In addition to such events, Powers and the center also help students with practical matters such as child care, domestic violence, health issues and financial aid.
With the hard work of Powers and her peers, it appears that the Women’s Center will continue to grow and move forward.