Speak Up

Telling Our Stories Heals Us

Author, Speaker, Media Producer, Social EntrepeneurTess Cacciatore is a storyteller who has won awards for her productions that tell the stories of people around the world. But her most powerful story is her own, and she tells it in her new Amazon bestselling book, Homeless to the White House. In this conversation, Tess talked about the discoveries she made on her journey from escaping a bullet in the Congo to singing “We Are One” on the White House lawn, and how all of it confirmed her resolve to dedicate her life to telling powerful stories to liberate and empower people throughout the world.
“Writing is a wonderful tool,” Tess told Dr. Nancy. It will help you heal, whether you write your daily thoughts in a journal or a short story, book or film. Her book took eight years to write and the telling was possibly more emotional than the experiences themselves. She didn’t fully realize how close she had come to death, while making a documentary in the Congo. Telling that story, and many others, created a laser focus on how she lived her life. It led her to examine the choices she had made that were not just mistakes, but created unhealthy relationships, lead to domestic violence and actually almost got her killed. Ultimately, she began to see all of the adversity that she experienced as a blessing, and that allowed her to progress to the next—and infinitely better—chapter.

#Reveal2Heal Cultural Movement

Tess’s mission as a filmmaker, speaker, author and social entrepreneur is to drive change by inspiring women and men from around the world to join forces and have their voices heard. Her story taught her three important lessons:

  1. Every story has value. Besides the healing you experience in the telling and relieving regrets, guilt, self-recrimination, or hateful grudges against other people, it can help others who are going through similar experiences.
  2. Forgiveness of yourself is first and foremost. She related that the blueprints we all carry from our youth, whether we’re told that we’re fat, ugly, stupid, lazy or whatever, have to be erased. The only way to do that is to forgive yourself. You have to do that before you can forgive anyone else. Complete forgiveness must take place before you can progress to the third most important lesson.
  3. Self-love is the most transformative. Tess said that she always felt that she loved herself, but she didn’t understand what that truly meant until she forgave herself and everything she perceived as being bad. That was when she began to see the world through different eyes, developed empathy for others and opened to all of the generosity and abundance that is available when your heart is truly open.

The Birth of GWEN

Tess said that the end of her book is really only the beginning of her story. Although she has always been passionate about human rights, the value of every human being, and felt outrage at judgments against others for being different, she rose to new determination to help the world transform itself. She founded The Global Women’s Empowerment Network (GWEN), a 501c3 that works with and connects to other charities to benefit women and children around the world. She also founded the GWEN Studios, a production company that utilizes the power of media and technology to enable people to share their stories and transform their lives.  Launching this summer, GWEN Studios is working with others to create a network to reach 250 million households. Tess wants to encourage anyone wanting to find their voice to reach out to her and GWEN. She plans to broadcast all kinds of content from documentaries, features, short films and TV series to a whole music division.
Buy Homeless to the White House on Amazon. And listen to this conversation for more about Tess’s story. Then check out Tess’s website and the Global Women’s Empowerment Network to learn how you can connect in these exciting initiatives to share, heal and transform our stories.

Doing What You Love Creates Good Karma

filmmaker, founder 360 Degree Karma

Catherine Gray

Filmmaker, Catherine Gray founded 360 Karma as a platform for her initiatives to inspire and empower women through her many film and event productions, including the “Live, Love Thrive” talk show and conference and her new “She Angel” investor program. Always reaching out for ways to help people who have no voice, Catherine produced the first documentary about gay marriage, called “I Can’t Marry You.” After pounding the pavement for years to get it aired and seen, PBS finally asked for it just after the first two cities in the United States legalized gay marriage. To celebrate Gay Pride Month in 2003, PBS aired it and shared the stories of long-time couples who had been denied basic marital rights in our society because of their life-mate choices.
Speaking for the underdog and empowering them through their stories is a recurring theme in Catherine’s work. She expresses amazement at the women she interviews on her talk show, especially for their ability to overcome obstacles and make a difference in the world. Catherine’s belief that we are here to use our gifts and do what we love guides her to use her gifts as a filmmaker and storyteller to help others use theirs. That is the secret of living a happy life and creating good karma. Her “Live, Love Thrive” guests benefit by being able to share their stories and the viewers benefit by being inspired to follow their dreams.

Take the Lead 50 Women Can

Serving on the advisory board for 50 Women Can Change the World in Media and Entertainment is an extension of Catherine’s advocacy for the underdog. She is adamant about the impact of film and television on the way we see things. By educating people and showing them things that aren’t in their own sphere of life, these top 50 women will go back to their companies and help accelerate women into positions of influence, meaning more women writers, producers and directors. She sees it as a way to massively change the content of movies and TV in a positive way. Both she and Dr. Nancy note that with women currently representing only 4% of movie directors, the messages and stories are extremely limited. Creating a catalyst like Take the Lead’s 50 Women Can multiplies the opportunities to funnel more women into the filmmaking process, increasing feminine energy and empowering all women of all religions, ethnicities, sexual orientations and races. All women working together with men can create the most positive impact for positive change.

She Angels Investing Initiative

Originally named “She Tank,” Catherine’s new initiative to help women fills in the gap of the lack of investment capital for women-owned businesses. Although the statistics show that women businesses largely are more successful than those started by men, only 3% of venture capitalist dollars go to women and only 15% of traditional funding does. “She Angels” puts women together with women investors, giving them an event to pitch their business idea and get the funding and mentoring support they need. The first event premiered in Los Angeles recently and Catherine looks forward to expanding it to other cities throughout the United States.

More to Come

Check out Catherine’s book of inspiring stories about women overcoming adversity and triumphing over trauma in her book Live, Love Thrive: Inspiring Women’s Empowerment. Tune in to “Live, Love, Thrive” talk show on UBN (Universal Broadcasting Network). Episodes are also re-broadcast on YouTube, social media, iHeart Radio and iTunes. Check out her website for upcoming events, https://www.360karma.com/, to join her community, to be a guest on “Live Love Thrive” or simply connect through e-mail or social media.
Listen to this interview for more of Catherine’s personal story and insights to how we can help empower one another through our stories.

Speak Your Truth with Personal Passion

Rabbi Laurie Coskey

Women should speak their truth about whatever incites their personal passion, urges Rabbi Laurie Coskey, Ed.D., whether that is the environment, the homeless, prejudice against various groups—in whatever way you can. It may mean joining the Rotary in your community (Laurie is a long-time member); you might join the PTA; you could volunteer at a victim’s center. Whatever stirs your passion, reach out to others and work together to make positive change. As a social justice advocate, Laurie’s lifework is to obtain fairness and dignity for everyone and she works tirelessly to achieve it for people who don’t have enough power to do it for themselves..
Her commitment to improving the lives of those in need is inspired by her Jewish background, her chosen vocation of rabbi, and her belief that the greatest gift we have to give one another is our love. In that regard, she serves on various boards in San Diego including the Interfaith Worker Justice. Her work there inspired her powerful TEDx Talk about the San Diego interfaith clergy who reached out to officials to stop disappearing immigrants and their families in 2007.

To Create Real Change, We Must Change the Systems.

Laurie realized the importance of changing systems, which she chose as the subject for her doctoral study. She continues to win victories for the issues she is passionate about through negotiation and teamwork. As an advocate, she learned not to lead the people who need her advocacy, but instead to walk beside them and help amplify their voices.
In this interview, she tells a heroic story about janitorial workers in office buildings organizing for better working conditions. The women who do the work are often single mothers who may speak little or no English and they work for male supervisors at night, who can control them through rewards or penalties based on sexual favors. These courageous, powerless women overcame their fear and stood up and spoke out. They do not participate in the #MeToo movement, but the activists who are helping them did appear at the Grammy Awards this year. Things are changing, Laurie says, one squeaky wheel at a time.

Our Lives Will Change When Women Become Legislators

Dr. Nancy and Rabbi Laurie share their concern that women’s perspective is often ignored. The male perspective has created our current system and to change it women must get involved. Besides getting involved in our communities, Laurie encourages women to run for public office, while admitting that it is a huge commitment to serve in elected office. Things really will not change until we make different policies, which women can do by winning elected office at their community, state or national level. She stresses that with so few women at the top of our organizations, it’s time for women not just to integrate, but to lead. That is when we will see significant change that affects everyone’s daily lives.
Listen to this interview for more wonderful stories about Laurie’s life and experiences. She invites anyone who would like a personal rabbi (Jewish or not) to contact her via twitter, Facebook or Linked-In. She is happy to listen and reply. Check out this news video about Laurie’s work in San Diego for more inspiration about what a difference community involvement can make.

Lexi Jackson Proves the Future Is Female!

Lexi Jackson, a sophomore at Washington University in St. Louis, already knows that the only way to affect change is to engage – and wow – has she engaged! She was recently chosen to participate in a Washington University student panel providing commentary of the State of the Union Address on ABC News. She was poised, articulate, and on message throughout Before the President’s Address began, she shared her concerns on how the tax bill undermines the Affordable Care Act. She hoped President Trump would address the issue and follow up with a plan to navigate the elimination of the tax penalty and how to keep health care premiums down, mitigating costs for families who are impacted.
As if that weren’t impressive enough for the young business strategy/political science student, ABC News followed up the next day saying that the executive producers were impressed and invited Lexi to write a SOTU response column for their website the day after the address. “I considered it a blessing from God, to have the opportunity to share my remarks on a national forum and transparently discuss my family’s story,” she said.
Her commitment to keeping health care costs affordable isn’t just an issue for Lexi, it’s personal. As she wrote, “Five years ago, I awoke to the news that my father had been in a severe car accident. He had experienced significant physical injuries and nerve damage. Ultimately, the accident would render him disabled, eligible for disability payments and Medicare coverage. My family’s journey since that day has been filled with more unpredictability and change than we could have ever imagined. Life sped up significantly and we began to understand the importance of immediacy and efficiency — both in the context of my father’s care and in the government processes in which we were now compulsory participants. Ultimately, we realized that there are some things for which you have absolutely no time to wait.”
Her recognition that time is of the essence goes far beyond her father’s story, and Lexi sees a number of issues in the world today that also need to be addressed NOW. That’s in part why she stays so busy. On campus, Lexi is the Director of the Olin School of Business’ first Diversity and Inclusion Summit, the Incoming Director of the student-run strategy firm Bear Studios, and an orientation leader. She’s passionate about the intersectionality of business and politics and the social impact that can be generated from strengthening principal-agent relationships whether they occur between legislators and constituents or companies and customers.
The Diversity and Inclusion Summit, which happened on February 9, was quite an impressive undertaking, especially as it was the University’s first. She, along with two other sophomores, realized that the issues of diversity and inclusion hadn’t been thoroughly addressed in a summit setting, and they set their sights on creating an incredible event. With a keynote panel including Arvetta Powell, Director of Diversity and Associate Experience from Build-A-Bear Workshop; Emily Pitts, Principal of Inclusion and Diversity, Edward Jones; Susan Stith, Vice President of Express Scripts; Adita Akbani, Senior Principal Scientist, Pfizer; and Kim Hawkins, Multicultural Talent Acquisition Recruiter, US Bank, attendees were able to learn a lot about issues in the workplace from the best and brightest in the industry.
The keynote panel was followed by break-out sessions, and “Navigating Microagressions in the Workplace” was led by Keisha Mabry, Adjunct Lecturer at Washington University and “Friendworking” Expert. The “Women in Tech” session was led by Kelly Lee, Business Program Manager on the Infastructure Team at Facebook, and Kirsten Miller, Compliance Manager with Uber.
“These issues really spoke to me, and to the two other students I planned the summit with,” Lexi said. “To me this isn’t political, this is a business and a human issue. I’m so glad we tackled this and had these discussions at Wash U.”
Lexi brings a fresh perspective to her work and her studies at Washington University, and stays involved to include that perspective in the overall narrative. “If you are passive about an issue or disaffected by your current situation, then you will never be able to change things. If you are holding out and waiting to get involved until you feel 100% equipped to do so, you will never be able to make an impact.”
“I’m engaged and keep myself busy. I think I’ve always seen each stage of my life as an opportunity to be involved,” Lexi said. “I feel that you should always take the resources available and see what you can do to assist others and actively make the decision to affect change and get involved.”
Lexi has always been surrounded by strong women, and they have admittedly served as an inspiration to her. Her grandmother, Dianne Elizabeth Osis, founded “Springfield Business Journal” at a time when the field was considered a boy’s club and women weren’t necessarily welcomed. Her mother, Jennifer Jackson, followed in her mother’s footsteps, and has not only continued the work her mother started, but successfully navigated the publication through a changing media landscape and grew the company in the digital realm. Since taking over, she also started a communications company.
“I didn’t realize how much my grandmother had done until her retirement party. She accomplished so much while raising her children as a single mother. Her story is so empowering and made me realize that I can be successful in business and politics,” Lexi said. “And then there’s my mom, who took SBJ in a different direction, integrated a digital platform, and started a new company while dealing with the financial and emotional strain from my dad’s car accident. I’ve never been more amazed by someone handling all of that than I am by my mom.”
With the groundswell of women of every generation speaking, and working together to bring about change, Lexi has great hope for her generation, and the mark they will leave. “I think my generation will elect the first woman president, and that is not an inherent women’s issue, but it is a symbolic gesture that will solve some of the disparities we see today.”
“I also think we are going to see a massive shift in corporate culture,” Lexi added. “Family leave will be normalized, because we’re seeing innovators in that space – in all sectors – and these innovators are developing maternity and paternity leave. I think that will lead to more gender equality in the workplace, and that people will realize that women can be mothers and have successful careers.”
As Lexi wrote on Facebook, she responded to the State of the Union Address in hopes that one day she’ll give a State of the Union address of her own. Today, looking at the unique pressures that her generation faces, Lexi feels it is more important than ever to engage. “I think that it’s important to make a difference no matter who or where you are. If there weren’t challenges, there wouldn’t be the incentive to speak out.  I have a voice, and I plan to use it.”
We look forward to listening. Watching Lexi take her first steps as a strong woman to impact change is inspiring. Women who make a difference are driven by passion and Lexi is already demonstrating that she has what it takes to change history and maybe even one day, deliver her own State of the Union Address.

We’re Still Marching and Making Our Voices Heard!


Right now, the next chapter of the women’s movement is being written – and it’s up to each and every one of us to help author it by fighting for what we believe in – Senator Kirsten Gillibrand
In 2017, on post-Inauguration Saturday, 4.6 million marched for women’s rights as human rights in 642 cities on every continent on the globe. One year later, women recognized that anniversary, and once again took to the streets to make their voices heard. Proving that there is power in numbers, hundreds of thousands of women gathered in major cities and small towns around the globe.
Last year women marched to express their outrage in what The New Yorker described as a, “shell-shocked solidarity.” With hundreds of issues among them, headlines generally spoke to the core issues surrounding women’s rights, with messages as diverse as the marchers.

Power To The Polls


This year, U.S. activities focused on a power-to-the-polls theme, with a focus on registering voters and encouraging women to run for office in 2018, and especially in the November midterm elections. Women’s March organizers launched a #PowerToThePolls campaign, which focuses on combating voter suppression and making sure that all people who are eligible to vote can easily exercise that right. Reuters reported that March organizers hope to build on the energy felt by Trump opponents after his surprise election victory and channel it into gains for progressive candidates in November’s midterm elections, and they used the weekend to work towards their goal of registering one million new voters. The campaign was timely as events took place against a backdrop of political dysfunction, with the federal government newly shutdown.

Pine Island ROAR Rally in Bokeelia, Florida


Nationwide, women and their families promised to use their votes to shift the course of American government during the mid-term elections. And in many areas where there wasn’t an official march, women organized and took to the streets as part of the #PowerToThePolls campaign to get people registered to vote and use their voices to shake up the status quo.

And We Marched…

Every event and gathering around the world had its moments, as energized crowds continued to work towards change. In Los Angeles, Viola Davis explained that her “testimony is one of poverty” and “one of being sexually assaulted.” She continued: “I know that every single day, when I think of that, I know that the trauma of those events are still with me today. And that’s what drives me to the voting booth. That’s what allows me to listen to the women who are still in silence.”
In New York, 23-year-old singer Halsey delivered a free-verse poem recounting her experiences with assault and feelings of powerlessness. Her poem closed with strong words of hope and encouragement that triggered an outpouring of support and gratitude from around the world. “We are not free until all of us are free. So, love your neighbor, please treat her kindly. Ask her story and then shut up and listen. Black, Asian, poor, wealthy, trans, cis, Muslim, Christian. Listen, listen and then yell at the top of your lungs. Be a voice for all those who have prisoner tongues. For the people who had to grow up way too young. There is work to be done. There are songs to be sung. Lord knows there’s a war to be won.”
In Washington, D.C. Democratic National Committee chairman Tom Perez emphasized the number of women running on the party’s ticket in November. “If the Congress, if the White House, if the governorships across America had more women like I see here today, we would be a much better America.”

We Marched With Our Male Allies

For many men, this year’s #MeToo movement raised greater awareness of the fight for gender equality and led them to participate more fully in the events. In Las Vegas, men at Sunday’s march said they felt an obligation to speak out about their gender’s treatment of women and stand beside women as allies. That’s good news because leading into the 2017 Women’s March, some men weren’t sure what role, if any, they should play in the day’s events. Men were “slow to support” the march, Washington Post writer Michael Alison Chandler wrote at the time, because they worried that attending a demonstration led by women would make them seem “unmasculine.”

Pine Island ROAR Rally in Bokeelia, Florida

Will the March Be as Effective?

There was some concern leading into the weekend’s events that the movement that began with the Women’s March one year ago lacked the cohesiveness to move forward. Experts speculated that there were too many special interests and too many different messages to truly affect change. However, what’s important to remember is that it has brought change and done what it was established to do. One year ago, the Women’s March aimed to start a movement of women from all walks of life who would continue their activism long after they had gone home. In many ways, that goal has been realized.
One year ago, thousands of women threw themselves into activism for the first time in their lives, and the march events provided a rare chance to build a network of like-minded people. The networks that were formed in 2017 have grown and expanded, and the women involved remain active.
Jo Reger, a professor of sociology at Oakland University in Michigan was quoted in the New York Times as saying that the feminist movement, like other important social movements, has always had people coming together and then breaking apart. “We think it looks so chaotic and full of factions and what it really looks like is every other social movement. Often those factions end up coming back together later on.”
Whether you marched, registered voters, or supported your sisters on the street in some other way, it’s time to turn our focus to the polls, register voters and support women preparing to run. It is at the polls that we can truly affect change and create a world where women and men don’t have to march in protest, but instead live in a world where equality is the standard, and women are safe in the workplace, and in the community. Change starts now. Let’s work together. To make it happen.

You Can Help Women Speak Out

2017 was the year that women made their voices heard, particularly in Hollywood. It was there that women spoke out, and their allegations of rape, sexual assault and harassment by producer Harvey Weinstein and a growing list of other high-profile men launched a national conversation about power and abuse. As a result, we have reached a tipping point and nationwide, women from all walks of life are courageously speaking out about being harassed, groped, cat-called and even raped. These women have broken their silence, and by talking about their experiences in the workplace and in their communities, they are helping other women do the same.
Some women are feeling emboldened by the actions of others, and stepping up to say, “me too,” whereas others still hesitate. Perhaps they are worried about the ramifications of doing so. Maybe they are afraid they won’t be believed, or worry about retaliation, harm to their careers, financial losses, threats to their safety and more.
Some experts speculate we’ve just reached the tip of the iceberg when it comes exposing sexual harassment. According to a 2017 Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) study, three-fourths of sexual harassment victims never report it. The EEOC also reports that up to 85 percent of women have experienced sexual harassment in the workplace and many men as well. However, other reports show the tide is shifting. One evidence of this is a TIME/SurveyMonkey online poll of American adults conducted in November, where 82% of respondents said women are more likely to speak out about harassment since the Weinstein allegations. Either way, there are still a lot of women keeping their stories to themselves, and not receiving the support and resources they need.
Whether a woman steps forward with allegations, or shares her story with you quietly — a whispered conversation over a cup of coffee, or a tearful recount at the water cooler — she needs your support. After all, punishments and threats to keep women quiet remain prevalent, and whether she makes headlines or just makes small waves, she needs to know she is not alone. It is up to us, women and men, to support the women who find the courage and strength to share their stories, and support them as they navigate the process.  Here are a few ways we can help.
Listen – Listening builds a foundation of trust, creates empathy, and paves the way for conversation. If we all take real time to listen, we can truly support the woman speaking her truth and clearly show her that her voice has merit. But as The Wall Street Journal recently reported, experts find we’re naturally not good at listening. We have a tendency to swap stories, so we interrupt. We’re uncomfortable with emotions, so we avoid focusing too closely on someone else’s feelings. We’d rather talk about ourselves, so we rush the talker along. We need to hone our listening skills, take time to hear what each woman has to say, be a support, and help the speaker share her truth.
Lend Your Voice – Today, the actions of the women speaking out are spurring many others to do the same. As we can see in TIME’s “Silence Breakers,” whether the woman speaking out is a world-famous actress in Hollywood or a housekeeper or a nurse in the Midwest, what separates them is less important than what brought them together — a shared experience. Whether you have a story of your own to share, or want to lend your voice to theirs to bring about accountability and change, now is the time to make your voice heard. We must add our voices to this cause. We must be part of the solution.
Offer Your Support – Those who have come forward publicly have helped others, and many women now feel safe speaking out. These advances are real and valuable. However, we need to look deeper at the inequalities that keep harassers safe and victims silent. We need to support initiatives geared towards removing these inequalities and creating a just and equal workplace and society. Whether you volunteer, join in a march, participate in a movement, or reach out to your human resources department or elected officials – act. Now is not the time to sit on the sidelines and observe. Lend your time, talent, and resources to help bring about change. We can also reach out to our male allies and ask for their support. While they may not be able to directly relate to the experiences that women are sharing, they can and do feel empathy, express compassion, and can lend their voices and support, not only to help prevent harassment, but to build a world where equality isn’t the exception, but the rule.
The time to act is now. The world is paying attention. It is crucial that we keep moving forward, help women speak out, and do what we can to build a world where all women, and men, are able to live without fear of harassment, and are valued and treated equally.
 

A New Day for Women

by Dr. Nancy D. O’Reilly

With so many voices crying out to be noticed right now, it’s difficult to hear each individual message. Like everyone who watched the Golden Globe Awards, I cheered Oprah’s message about how Sidney Poitier’s winning the Oscar affected her as a young black girl watching from the cheap seats and how she is aware of the young black girls watching her today. For me, too, role modeling, mentoring and bringing up the next generation of women leaders is a strong motivator. But the most important part of her message for our times is her emphasis on using our stories to expose those who abuse their power over others. This power of our stories is what women are accessing today. If you listen carefully, you will hear one tale composed by many voices speaking all together, and as Oprah said in her speech, “women are the story.”
Now is the time for us to accelerate the momentum that began with the Women’s March a year ago by supporting #metoo and “Time’s Up.” We need to change the culture in permanent ways so these events and stories don’t fade into a forgotten history. This month Leadership Ambassadors Tabby Biddle and Elisa Parker are rolling out 50 Women Can Change the World in Media and Entertainment. This Take the Lead initiative both inspires women storytellers who work behind the cameras in Hollywood and gives them the tools to rise to roles where they can tell the stories women and girls need to hear.
Women are stepping forward to run for office in record numbers, with pro-choice Emily’s List reporting last November “nearly 21,000 women interested in running since last year’s election, up from a record 920 who expressed interest in the 2016 campaign.” We have a mid-term election cycle this year and with so many veteran senators retiring, there are opportunities for women candidates to replace elderly white men. In fact, black women’s solidarity in the South is credited for defeating Roy Moore in the Alabama special election and the call is out for more capable smart women leaders of all colors to step forward and serve their communities.
The Millennial women I speak with inspire me. Unlike my generation, they refuse to betray their gender to lead as men. They step forward as educated, talented young women who expect the companies that employ them to satisfy their needs for fulfillment at work, challenges and equal opportunities for advancement. But they also expect that workplace to be led by people who look like them, with women in direct proportion to men, especially on boards and in the C-suite, where women are notably missing. Their vision is of people of both genders working together as partners with respect for one another’s skills and accessing all that is available for a sustainable future for all of us.
As special correspondent for CBS Sunday Morning, Oprah interviewed a group of Hollywood activist women involved with Time’s Up, which they described as a campaign without a leader. Women can get it done without a specific leader. Their goal is to maintain momentum for women who cannot speak – because we have the spotlight. So far Time’s Up has raised $16 million legal defense fund to help plaintiffs get a lawyer. When Oprah asked if this movement was going to succeed in ending harassment and abuse, Lucas Film President Kathleen Kennedy said, “The time’s up for silence. We can start there.” Actress Tracee Ellis Ross said, “There’s a constructive fury for a resolute pursuit of equity.”
Yes, perpetrators need to gain an understanding of consent and respect and some men need extensive relearning. But the culture is still so toxic, there are many areas where even strong powerful women are still afraid to speak up. For now, let the focus remain on hearing and healing the women, rather than immediately shifting the spotlight to forgiveness and helping the perpetrators. Let the abusers feel uncomfortable for a while and listen to women. Reece Witherspoon paraphrased a quote by Elie Wiessel, “Silence helps the tormentors, not the tormented.”
I agree with Oprah and the other activist women that a new day is on the horizon. The time is NOW! I really believe we are ready to step forward and take charge of our future. Women and men are tired of feeling less and being used and ignored.  We want equality at last. In time, we can move forward to reconciliation and re-education. But right now, let’s reach out to support other women telling their stories, embrace this concept, open our hearts and souls to this new day, and heal together.

2018 To Be Another “Year of the Woman”

“You have to act as if it were possible to radically change the world. And you have to do it all the time.”Angela Davis
While 2017 was a tough year, it was also one of a great deal of progress. It was in 2017 that women made their voices heard in unprecedented numbers. From the Women’s March on Washington to the floodgates opened with the #MeToo movement, women are proving that they are no longer willing to remain silent, and the momentum of change is fast and far reaching.
TIME Magazine named “The Silence Breakers” as the magazine’s Person of the Year, in a nod to the women coming forward to accuse powerful men of sexual harassment and assault, and not only for the global conversation, but the movement they began. Stephanie Zacharek, Eliana Dockterman, and Haley Sweetland Edwards write in TIME that, “This reckoning appears to have sprung up overnight. But it has actually been simmering for years, decades, centuries. Women have had it with bosses and co-workers who not only cross boundaries but don’t even seem to know that boundaries exist. They’ve had it with the fear of retaliation, of being blackballed, of being fired from a job they can’t afford to lose. They’ve had it with the code of going along to get along. They’ve had it with men who use their power to take what they want from women.”
While the fight for equality, justice and dignity for women started with the suffragettes, the events of this past year have made a similar impact, and women are taking their message to the streets, the internet, and the workplace. Retired US Senator Barbara Boxer writes in USA Today, “As we say goodbye to the chaos of 2017 and its seemingly never-ending turmoil about…well everything…I believe it is possible, maybe even probable, that we will see 2018 turn into another Year of the Woman.”
Senator Dianne Feinstein agrees and has also been quoted as saying that 2018 could be another big year for women. Predicting that female candidates could sweep elections across the country, she recently told party officials at the California Democratic Party Executive Board meeting that, “Based on what I see out there that we are going to have another Year of the Woman.”
“What it means is that we have an opportunity to really turn this next year into a year of change affecting women,” she added.
So how can we best position ourselves to help make that change? Here are a few places we could start.
Support the women speaking out. As Melinda Gates writes in TIME, “2017 is proving to be a watershed moment for women in the workplace and beyond. Instead of being bullied into retreat or pressured into weary resignation, we are raising our voices—and raising them louder than ever before. What’s more, the world is finally listening.” Right now, women are feeling emboldened by the actions of others to step up and say, “me too” and to share their stories. Many high-profile men facing sexual misconduct allegations right now aren’t denying them. The allegations aren’t limited to the glitz and glamour of Hollywood, or the hallowed halls of Congress. The problem is far more wide-reaching than one man, or even one industry. This has impacted women in every industry and every walk of life, and is finally experiencing the spotlight of public attention and, more importantly, action, it deserves. Right now, we need to listen to the women who are speaking out, and create environments that are safe for all women and men.
Support the women running for office. EMILY’s List, VoteRunLead, and She Should Run have all reported a huge surge in women interested in running for office. As these women muster their courage and support and take the first steps to run for office, it demonstrates that this truly is a woman’s time to lead. It’s important in this time of unprecedented female engagement that we support the women who are running, and those who have run, perhaps already won, already hold office, and are serving in their communities, states, and nation on every level. We need to celebrate the women who have paved the way, and support those who prepare to follow their lead.
Make your voice heard. Whether in the workplace or in the community, it’s up to all of us to recognize what makes us effective communicators, learn from our differences, and create a supportive, collaborative environment where women and men have equal floor time. As women, we can’t unlock our full potential in the workplace, in the community, or in our homes until we gain recognition for our ideas and build a world where equality isn’t the exception, but the rule.
Work towards gender equality. The solution to much of what has been coming out of the #MeToo movement could be solved by having more women in leadership positions. The problems we face today – from our local communities to the workplace, and the global stage – require diverse leaders who have a variety of skill sets. Women bring the additional skills needed, as well as a different perspective to drive effective solutions. In short, female leaders change the game. By recognizing that we do indeed need more women in leadership, and working together to help women gain confidence and the skills they need to overcome barriers and reach their goals, we truly can change the world into one of 50/50 parity, where both genders value each contribution and shed the harmful effects of living in a male-dominated culture.
In 2017 we have seen an unbelievable progress towards gender equality, however, we will still need to continue to fight and work hard to claim equal rights for women. That is going to take all of us working together, and joining forces with the women and men in our lives who, like us, feel that equality shouldn’t be a lofty goal, but a way a life.

Who You ARE Makes a Difference

Founder of Blue Ribbons Worldwide

Helise “Sparky” Bridges


Helice “Sparky” Bridges had it all – a big house on the Pacific Ocean, fancy cars, beautiful sons and an emotionally abusive husband – when she hit the wall. She fell to her knees and cried, “Stop the world I want to get off!” and a voice answered,” You can’t end your life because you are going to sing and dance and write.”Later on she also understood that she must also make a difference in the world. The fact that she couldn’t sing, had never danced a step or written much beyond a real estate contract didn’t stop her. She left home with a potted plant and some clothes and did those very things in spite of apparent shortcomings because of what she IS–outrageous.
Sparky realized that everyone just tries to be the best mom or dad or teacher, but what everyone really needs is to be recognized and loved, just like she did.  She created a symbolic hug in the Blue Ribbon ceremony in 1980, now called “Blue Ribbons Worldwide” with a goal of uniting humanity through the power of love and within three months 35,000 people were honored with it. Sparky’s goal is to reach one billion people by 2020. That’s one in seven people in the world, the mathematical tipping point for social change.

“Bing!” is the sound of making dreams come true.

With over 40 million people and counting, Blue Ribbons Worldwide is working hard on its goal to unite the world through the power of love. Sparky calls it the glue that’s missing from our lives. The blue ribbon she created says, “Who I Am Makes a Difference” and the ceremony requires seven steps, beginning with looking the person in the eye and honoring them for the qualities that make them special, asking permission to place the ribbon over their heart and for them to receive the honor, and finally “Bing!” to signify making their dreams come true. Each blue ribbon presented is followed by two more with a request for that person to pay it forward to two others.

Sparky tells her own story and the inspiring stories of how the Blue Ribbon Ceremony made a difference in people’s lives in her book, Who I am Makes a Difference: The Power of Acknowledgement, Stories that Connect People Heart-to-Heart and Ignite the Human Spirit. One story on how the blue ribbon prevented a teen suicide is also featured in Chicken Soup for the Soul. That is at the heart of Blue Ribbons Worldwide, to end teen suicide, heal the world by helping one person at a time understand how much she/he matters. Today more than 40 million people have been honored with blue ribbons, but 2020 is only a couple of years away.

#BLUERIBBONCHALLENGE

Sparky says that people need to have personal connections and not be in such a “doing” world, but in a “being” world, where we can see each other’s hearts and the beauty in people. She is inviting others  to join her in becoming sponsors of a new initiative to train 40,000 middle and high school students to discover who they are, why they were born and the difference they make. The students will be honoring each other, honoring their parents and writing stories about it to unite the community in supporting everyone else’s dreams. Besides reducing teen suicides, bullying and the other epidemics that are infecting our teens, Sparky says that it will elevate education in America by developing social and emotional literacy. Instead of concentrating our efforts on conflict resolution, the Blue Ribbon Ceremony will focus on elevating our relationships to a higher bond of respect and love. To learn more about Blue Ribbons Worldwide, contact Sparky directly at her e-mail: sparky@blueribbons.org.
Listen to this conversation for more inspiring stories and to hear the 7-step Blue Ribbon Acknowledgement Ceremony from Sparky to Dr. Nancy. Check out Sparky’s website and ways Blue Ribbons Worldwide is uniting the world through sharing love with 40 million people and counting.Find out how you can help make it One Billion by 2020 at Blue Ribbons Worldwide.

Your Voice Matters


Celebrated writer, speaker and women’s leadership coach, Tabby Biddle is on a mission to help women realize that they own something more precious than they ever realized living in a male-dominated culture – a Feminine voice that needs to be heard. In the process of her own journey to make her voice heard, she discovered a little-known fact. According to June Cohen, TEDx Producer, only about 20 percent of the short-listed TEDx Talks that came to her for consideration on TED.com were by women. Worse than this, only 15 percent of the recommendations that came in for the main stage TED were women. That led June to ask  an important question, “Where are the women’s voices?”
Tabby’s response was to assemble as many women for TEDx and TED Talks as she possibly can. After delivering her own TEDx Talk at St. Marks, Tabby began a coaching workshop where she not only prepares women to take the TED stage, but helps them find a TED venue where they can be accepted and successfully use their voice.
If you’ve never thought you could be a TED speaker, think again. Speaking on the TED or TEDx stage can be the highlight of your career. As a female leader or an emerging leader, delivering a TED talk is an incredible vehicle for you to spread your message, build your brand and share what matters to you most. So what’s holding you back? If you’re not convinced that your message is really important, consider that according to the latest studies, when more women are leaders, communities and organizations are more productive, profitable, innovative and successful. When more women are leaders, we also change society’s view of what leaders look like, how they operate, and how they respond to social, economic and political needs.  When more women are leaders, we raise the aspirations of women and girls around the world.
You are important. Your brand of leadership is important. By stepping on the TED stage  and using your voice, you can potentially change, not only your own path, but the path of thousands of other women and girls. More women like you need to share their stories and change the cultural conversation. It’s time to shed the fear and self-doubt and accept the responsibility to make your voice heard.
Tabby urges women to make the dream of speaking on the TED or TEDx stage a reality. She provides the practical support and guidance necessary to take your rightful place on the stage and step into your legacy as a change-making feminine leader. The next course takes place in January, 2018. Early registration is October 1. You can participate from any location in the world. Now is the time to share your idea and story. Imagine transforming your life by sharing your message with thousands of other people and making the impact you’ve always dreamed of making. October 1 is fast approaching. Share your story and become the feminine leader you are destined to be. Your voice matters more now than ever before.  Click here to find out more about how to touch the lives of the people who are waiting for you, and become the thought leader that you know you are meant to be.

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