role models

Why Gaining Equality Inspires Women’s Hope

What a thrill to experience women’s quest for equality through the play, “Gloria: A Life”in New York City this past weekend! The theater-in-the-round evoked Gloria Steinem’s living room, with each seat backed by a colorful pillow, the stage filled with Persian rugs and ethnic prints, stacks of books, and electrified by a powerful ensemble cast of eight women actors. Multi-media projections brought history to life as Christine Lahti enacted Steinem’s career, starting as a “girl writer” in the news industry of the time, which was unashamedly dominated by white men, also portrayed to entertaining effect by women actors.

For two hours, we were THERE with the young Gloria as she struggled to escape the pink ghettos of fashion and beauty writing assignments, as she fought to gain recognition for her skills rather than her looks, and as she learned from experienced African-American organizers. Over the decades and in community with other women, she gained the courage to overcome her fear of public speaking and began her life’s work as an organizer.   We learned with her, as she spoke with other activists hundreds of times each year, learning and educating around a still-radical notion: women and men arefully equal and human.

My fifteen-year-old granddaughter sat riveted throughout the performance, and said she learned a lotthat she had not known about the women’s fight for equality. I learned a lot too:

  • That the U.S. Constitution was modeled after the Iroquois Confederacy, that Benjamin Franklin invited two Iroquois men to attend the Constitutional Convention as consultants, and that their first question was, “Where are your women?”
  • That despite denigrating public pronouncements by national (male) TV commentators, the first issue of magazine, which Steinem co-founded and published free of fashion and beauty advertising in 1971, sold out in Los Angeles in just eight days.
  • That experienced women activists of color were allowed to speak to the media only about race while Steinem, a newbie, was elevated as the spokesperson for women’s issues (which might explain a lot about racial tensions surrounding the 2016 Women’s Marches.)
  • That the protesters who piled bras, girdles and other restrictive clothing into a barrel never set a match to it because they could not get a fire permit and were too obedient to break the law, even though the press forever after dubbed them “Bra Burners.”

And so much more. What a great teaching tool! I hope the play becomes popular in high school theater programs because young people need to understand what it took to gain the rights they enjoy today.

The play is adapted from Steinem’s fascinating 2015 memoir My Life on the Road, and if you can’t get to New York to see the play, you should read the book. At the performance I attended, which was a benefit for TakeTheLead, Steinem herself led the audience discussion that forms an integral part of every performance. Women and men, young and old, asked questions, shared personal stories, and expressed their appreciation for the doors Steinem and her peers opened for all women today. Rights young women take for granted today were absolutely outrageous ideas then.  Sexual harassment, previously accepted as “just life,” is now a thingthat women can fight. Today women have a legal basis for seeking equal pay, equal opportunity, and the right to control our own bodies, even though progress is uneven and continually threatened.

Steinem, now 84, noted in her closing comments one benefit of growing old: she can remember when things were so much worse than today. She stressed that women’s equality is not something to be won in a mass movement later, but by each woman every day doing a small thing to stand up for equal rights. We gain the courage for those actions by connecting and living in community with others, sharing our stories, laughing and crying, and making our plans together. She left us with a challenge and a question: “What outrageous action for equality will youtake in the next 24 hours?”

Gloria Steinem’s Endorsement is Something I Cherish

This is a big thank you to Gloria Steinem, who endorsed our new book, In This Together – How Successful Women Support Each Other in Work and Life. I will thank her in person on December 15 when I attend the play “Gloria, A Life” in Manhattan (please join us there), but I’d like to tell you now why it means so much to me that she wrote:

“Whether our problem is isolation in a male-dominant culture, distance across racial barriers, living in front of a computer screen, or all three, Nancy O’Reilly’s In This Together will help us to create community, success, and well-being.”

That’s exactly what I hoped this book would do, and Steinem’s radical idea that we are “linked, not ranked” is the key to women to supporting each other. When we join together around our common goals for women and girls, there’s no limit to what we can do. It’s time to stop allowing ourselves to be divided by income, social standing, race, ethnicity, gender expression, background, or any other differences. As a traveling feminist, Steinem learned “one of the simplest paths to deep change is for the less powerful to speak as much as they listen, and for the more powerful to listen as much as they speak.” That’s crazy talk, right!

Gloria Steinem, as you know, is a feminist activist and organizer who has stood up for her belief in the equality and full humanity of women and men since the 1960s. It’s this simple yet radical concept that underlies women’s worldwide fight for equality. She is a thrilling writer and thinker, author of five books, and co-founder of NewYork magazine and Ms. Magazine, where she still serves as consulting editor. Steinem and I are united in our support for Take The Lead, as they seek to prepare, develop, inspire and propel women to leadership parity by 2025.

In My Life on The Road, Steinem tells stories about the travels and relationships that have shaped her activism. She lived in India as a young woman, and that is where she first witnessed the power of talking circles, where everyone in the village had a chance to speak and listen in turn, and the goal was understanding and consensus rather than winning or losing.

Why Equality for Women Frightens People

Change is about more than uniting people in a movement, though. Steinem encourages others to find their voices, noting, “The first step toward speaking for others is speaking up for ourselves.” By suggesting that women should have equality everywhere, she up-ended the patriarchal power structure. People who have power usually fight to keep it, and feminists became a lightning rod for criticism, controversy and often vocal protests. Even some women have felt more threatened by this idea than liberated.

We write a lot in In This Together about the many gender stereotypes that limit women’s aspirations and behavior. Refusing to accept those limits when writing in praise of the benefits of travel, Steinem pointed out, “Even the dictionary defines adventurer as “a person who has, enjoys, or seeks adventures,” but adventuress is “a woman who uses unscrupulous means in order to gain wealth or social position.”

When people fretted that Steinem was in danger when traveling alone, she pointed out, “Records show that women are most likely to be beaten or killed at home and by men they know. Statistically speaking, home is an even more dangerous place for women than the road.”

Full equality would empower women to provide safety for ourselves and our families, and to pursue any career. Steinem recalls working as the only “girl writer” on a pioneering political satire TV show. Women were – and are – poorly represented in the writing room, she wrote, “probably because the power to make people laugh is also a power, so women have been kept out of comedy. Polls show that what women fear most from men is violence, and what men fear most from women is ridicule.”

Have you noticed that when women gather together, we laugh a lot? When we link together joyfully around our common humanity and goals, it’s a wonderful life! Women are better off now than at any time in history, due in large part to the continuing work of courageous women. We’re keeping it going. Thank you, Gloria Steinem for taking the lead.

Hear Her Song Honors 20 Women

“Hear Her Song” Performers at The National Gallery of Art

Carla Canales, Founder and Director of The Canales Project recently created “Hear Her Song” to celebrate and give voice to stories of women who are changing the world for the better. I was honored to be among 20 women recognized by the Project, and was beyond humbled at the inaugural presentation on March 18 at The National Gallery of Art in Washington, D.C.

Presented in partnership with Vital Voices and my Leading Women co-author Linda Rendleman’s Women Like Us Foundation, an astounding array of songwriters, musicians, singers and artists created songs, performances and recordings to commemorate powerful insights into the nature of women’s leadership and the challenges facing women world-wide.

“Hear Her Song” audience at the National Gallery of Art

Each woman honoree was asked questions about her story to reveal critical choices she had made to overcome obstacles and realize her vision of success. Jacqueline Suskin, The Canales Project poet in residence, then took that information and composed the lyrics to each song. Melodies were then added by emerging female composers under the guidance of Musical Director Kurt Crowley, best known as the music director of the Broadway musical, Hamilton.

More performances are planned, including one scheduled for Saturday, May 19, 2018, 7:00pm at the Hammer Theatre Center in San Jose, California.

Dr. Nancy’s song:

Maggie Castrey, Dr. Nancy O’Reilly, Jen Dethro at The National Gallery of Art

Without doubt, the clarity
of purpose comes like a divine definition,
feminine form to craft a foundation
for the finest feeling.
This communal consideration
collects between hearts that nurture,
under the care of each voice considered
and always reshaping myths that block
us from betterment. In unison
we find the balance, bright bloom
of equality that brings us
into steadfast union.

~Jacqueline Suskin, Poet in Residence
~Madeline Myers, Melody

Check out The Canales Project.com for information about future performances and a complete list of the 20 women honored in the project.

“Hear Her Song” by artist Rosemary Feit Covey

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.

Successful Premier at Sundance

Sundance Film Screening sponsored by AAWIC

Terra Renee with the Utah Film Studios Staff


 
Women Connect4Good is excited to have supported the special film premiere hosted by Terra Renee’s African American Women In Cinema at Sundance Film Festival this month. It was a great success!
They screened Sinners Wanted, an independent film written and directed by Jimmy Jenkins and Joshua Jenkins and starring Clifton Powell, Lamman Rucker, Hope Blackstock, Beverly Sade and Roland Martin.

Jimmy Jenkins, Director, “Gigi” and “Pastor Leo”


Utah Film Studios announced that they are getting an Award for the Best Program during Sundance! Congratulations, Terra and AAWIC!

Shania Brown (12-year-old child prodigy) Inducted into African American Women in Cinema

50 Women CAN Change the World

Founder See Jane Do

Elisa Parker


Media maven Elisa Parker travels the world to connect people through their stories. Founder and host of the radio show, See Jane Do, she is a dedicated activist for women, social justice and the environment, which is why she became a Take the Lead Ambassador almost two years ago and co-launched the initiative, 50 Women Can Change the World in Media and Entertainment with fellow Ambassador Tabby Biddle.  Elisa says that 50 Women Can is a game changer, as media creates how women and girls see themselves in our culture. To write a new history for women’s leadership, the storytellers have to be women, telling stories to empower women and show them how they can use their intrinsic power.

Feminine Power

Elisa’s own story about redefining power came when she left her high-paying job and had to become reliant on her husband’s income. She suddenly had to re-evaluate her value and self-worth. As a result, when she created See Jane Do, she sought to share stories to help women identify their own self-worth without regard to position and income and base their leadership potential on more intrinsic qualities. Now, she says we’re at a paradigm shift and are redefining the essence of power: power can be love, relationships and shared resources. Women increase their power when they come together and support one another to work toward the same goal. It’s about power with and power to, not about power over.
That is the momentum behind 50 Women Can Change the World in Media and Entertainment. As a Take the Lead Initiative, 50 Women follows a format where 50 women are nominated to be THE women in their field that can change the world to help achieve gender parity by 2025 (the mission of Take the Lead). Dr. Nancy put the support of WomenConnect4Good, Inc. behind the Media and Entertainment initiative to help transform the way women and girls see themselves. Until the stories about women are told by women, we remain stuck in the patriarchal system that holds women back.

The Progress of 50 Women Can

Elisa is very excited about the progress and the way this initiative works. The 50 women are just now being notified if they were selected, and Elisa credits the advisory committee with helping to produce an incredible cross section of women. Specifically, they wanted to choose from those women who have the most influence in shaping the story, which includes being able to develop, support and fund the content. In other words, they wanted to bring together women who are really making the decisions for female-led and female-centered content. Representatives ranged from executives representing most of the major networks, to women who have their own production studios, who are producers, directors, writers, cinematographers, and so on. The group is diverse, and ranges throughout ages, abilities and races. In the end, there were at least 40% women of color, as opposed to the 12% that represents the industry at large.
The selection process is only the beginning. The goal is for these 50 women to put their expertise in one place and use it to change the dynamics of the stories that show women what they can be. In this interview, Dr. Nancy talked about “Hidden Figures” and what it meant to budding girl-scientists. In fact, there were many women’s voices speaking out this year in the kind of unison that gets things done.

Perfect Timing

With the #Metoo movement, Elisa said that she feels like they are embracing the controversy at this very moment. However, she also stressed that they need their “man fans,” and count among their partners male advocates that are helping as well. As they move forward into their next phase, they will fine tune the program. The 50 women will most likely break out in smaller groups to co-create something together. What they will do will ultimately be determined by them.
Stay tuned for announcement of the winners and more about the progress. Listen to this interview for more inside stories about how Elisa and Gloria met, and how Tabby Biddle and Elisa came to launch 50 Women. Check out the interviews and other posts on See Jane Do,  and more. These are exciting times, and Elisa and Dr. Nancy both urge you to participate. Women can do anything together.
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Ways to Enhance Your Leadership by Making Your Voice Heard

To really change the status quo, women need to make their voices heard. Across the country, women are tackling that goal on a large scale (say by running for office), or by voicing their opinions in the workplace and in community organizations. Whatever the venue, speaking out is key, especially if you want to advance. Interestingly, a new study has found it isn’t just what you say that helps you get ahead, but how you say it.
Research has found that speaking up with information intended to help your group has a ton of benefits. It can improve performance, help come up with creative solutions, and address (and even avoid) issues that might hold your group back. And by speaking up, research suggests that not only will you help your group get ahead, it can help you emerge as a leader.
In efforts to better understand the power of using your voice, researchers Elizabeth McClean, Kyle Emich, Sean R. Martin, and Todd Woodruff found themselves wondering which matters more: who speaks up, or how they do it? In a search for those answers, the group recently undertook two separate studies, and their results were eye-opening.
Sean R. Martin writes in Harvard Business Review that they found those who speak up can gain the respect and esteem of their peers, and this increase in status made people more likely to emerge as leaders of their groups. However, these effects happened only for some people and only when they spoke up in certain ways.
“Specifically, speaking up with promotive voice (providing ideas for improving the group) was significantly related to gaining status among one’s peers and emerging as a leader. However, speaking up with prohibitive voice (pointing out problems or issues that may be harming the team and should be stopped) was not,” Martin writes. “We further found that the gender of the person speaking up was an important consideration: The status bump and leader emergence that resulted from speaking up with ideas only happened for men, not for women.”
Their findings echo research that shows that people respond differently when men and women engage in similar behaviors, which suggests that women who speak up and share ideas may not see the same benefits as men. Proving yet again that there is a definite strategy behind effectively making your voice heard.
“This research is not intended to suggest that people — men or women — should speak up only with [promotive] ideas and avoid bringing up problems,” Martin writes. “After all, for teams to function, innovate, and learn, it is critically important to … to spot the things that be might holding a team back from even better outcomes.”
This research highlights the need for us to understand the different ways men and women speak. Men are very direct, use and expect one-word responses, women want the story behind the answer. Relationship building and collaboration lie behind women’s communication, while men communicate to get the job done.
My Leading Women co-author Gloria Feldt cites the work of Simon Sinek, who points out the benefit of explaining why before making a suggestion. For example, by first stating, “I have an idea for improving our overall productivity as a group,” before making their proposal, both women and men found their audiences responded better to their ideas.

My co-author Claire Damken Brown, Ph.D. is a gender communication expert and urges women to make their voices heard to build their credibility as leaders. If they do it correctly, the results can be beneficial, but it can be difficult to the get credit.  Our ideas are our intellectual capital, and in Leading Women, she relates how she felt when someone “stole” her idea in a meeting. She actually thought this just happened in textbooks, so she was stunned when it happened to her. To address the issue, she recommends that you:

  • Bring attention back to yourself
  • Buddy up with someone in advance and have them bring the attention back to you
  • Seek help from the meeting facilitator.

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.

BE the Change You Want to See in the World

entrepreneur and philanthropist

Mea Boykins


International philanthropist and entrepreneur Mea Boykins may have been born with service in her heart. She started early helping others and her passion developed quickly. While still a junior at Spelman College she founded the Student Emergency Assistance Scholarship to provide funds to two friends who faced expulsion when their money and resources ran out. To date, she has awarded five scholarships and launched a speaking career telling people how she did it. Now a 501c3, her foundation also works with disadvantaged youth and displaced individuals around the world. Mea is a positive force on a global scale connecting with others to live her mission to BE the change she wants to see in the world.
Mea credits several things for propelling her into her life of service. First, her small town upbringing in Opelousas, Louisiana, where opportunities were few and education wasn’t valued, exposed her to people living in impoverished circumstances. However, it also exposed her to a broad range of church-going experiences. Mea was curious and attended churches with everyone she knew. Whether they were Jehovah’s Witnesses, Catholic, Mormon or Pentecostal, she tagged along. The result: she became deeply spiritual and opened her heart to other people.
Moving to New Orleans in her teens to live with her father transformed her life. She enrolled in a private Catholic school, where she was the only black student. The emphasis there was on community service and she participated by helping the elderly. She also traveled to Paris for the first time, where she learned French. Her well-established taste for travel and experiencing different cultures deepened during her time at Spelman College. Although a liberal arts college for people of color, Spelman’s students represented 49 states and 15 countries, including the Caribbean Islands. The heritages represented are rich and varied. Mea followed that education with two master’s degrees: one from Kings College in London in Child Psychology and a second in International Studies in San Francisco during which she also studied in Spain and Asia.

“You can never do too much. There is always more.”

When Dr. Nancy asked Mea, “What makes you different? You saw a great need and reached out to solve it. Why don’t more people do that?”, Mea answered, “Because of all the hardships I had to overcome, I realized that my life’s purpose was bigger than me.” When she would face an obstacle, she felt that God put it there for her to overcome, not just for herself, but so she could help others overcome it also. She is empathetic, but warns that you also have to be balanced, stay focused and do the inner work within yourself, so you can be happy and whole and continue to be a vessel and servant to do God’s work. She stays focused on her spiritual path and her purpose in life.

Most People in the World Are Good

Having lived in five countries and developed positive relationships with people from dozens of others, Mea is firm in her belief that people really do want to get along. She says that only a few have hate in their heart, but they get a lot of attention. She also credits the imbalance of wealth as a root for world-wide problems with the top 3% not doing what they should to help equalize it.
In April Mea founded a company: Global Management and Marketing, LLC, providing project management, event planning, sponsorship, proposal writing, marketing, branding, social media management and web development.  Beginning with global clients that she met while traveling, she is already starting to spread her wings in this new business venture. She is also directing  strategic relations for Noirbnb, a travel company for millennials of color that identifies accommodations people can rent and unique venues for fun experiences. She says they are looking for organizations and rentals that fit their target market and travelers to take advantage of what they offer.
Check out Mia’s website and listen to this interview to hear more of her inspiring journey to live her life’s purpose and BE the change she wants to see in the world.

Make Happiness Your Default Setting

In the world today, happiness can be elusive. There are injustices, wars, need, greed, divisiveness, and more at play on a global scale. And that doesn’t even begin to touch the struggles of daily life. While all of these issues affect women and men, it seems to impact women more. In fact, one of the best documented gender gaps is the mood disorder — depression. Women are about twice as likely as men to develop major depression.
However, a new study finds that many women get happier in later life, particularly in the years between 50 and 70. The study, believed to be one of the first of its kind, measured “Qualities of happiness” which included optimism, self-esteem, social support, social interest, freedom, energy, cheerfulness, and thought clarity. University of Melbourne researchers also found that both negative mood and depressive symptoms decreased significantly over that time.
Study author and psychologist Katherine Campbell says the findings suggest that mood improves as women transition from midlife to late-life. “The women in this study reported feeling more patient, less tense, and they tended to be less withdrawn as they entered their sixties,” she says.
“Women feel more in control of their lives and are still physically capable of enjoying their hobbies and traveling. They are often more financially stable and have less responsibility for children. They are free to enjoy the fruits of their hard work and are able to prioritize their own needs and wants.”
That’s great news because happiness is important, not only because it feels good, but also because it’s actually good for you. According to study published by the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health, women who have a positive outlook, or are happy, have a much lower risk of dying from serious illnesses, especially cardiovascular diseases. The study finds that a higher degree of optimism coincided with a lower mortality risk from cancer, heart disease, stroke, respiratory disease, and infection.
For those women who have not necessarily hit their “Golden Years” of happiness, or are off to a slow start, there are several things Martin P. Seligman says you can do to make happiness your default setting. First, he suggests that we learn to be miserable or happy internally, not through material or external rewards, but by building good character. The rewards are not extrinsic but intrinsic, stemming from inner satisfaction rather than satisfaction from the outer world. Seligman’s school has identified 24 character strengths that we can develop to guide us to happiness in our lives. Their study of over 5,000 men and women revealed four core traits that were most important. They called these “heart strengths”: gratitude, hope, zest and the ability to love and be loved. Put simply: “Relationships with other people are what makes us the happiest.”
In addition to working on creating or improving our relationships, we can also work to embrace a “path” to happiness. Seligman suggests:

  • The “pleasant life” path involves finding activities and things that give you pleasure. You enjoy lots of fun, good times and play.
  • The “engaged life” path allows you to lose yourself in some passion or activity. You look up and the time has flown. That is joy.
  • The “meaningful life” path requires having a purpose in your life. Giving of yourself as a volunteer provides a reason to get up each day. You’re doing more than just taking up space and oxygen.

Choosing a path and working towards happiness not only makes a difference in our health, it can make a difference in how we relate to ourselves and others. My Leading Women co-author Kristin Andress writes that, “When you focus on mastering your mind, and thus your perceptions and perspective, you discover different paths in the landscape of your possibilities.”
Framing and reframing your experiences can prevent you from slipping into a state of anxiety or depression. The ability to catch yourself when you get that sinking feeling lies in being aware that it is happening, and choosing to pause and select a new perspective. This is much more than seeing the glass half full or making lemons into lemonade. It is a matter of deciding how you will integrate your way of “being” into your life and lifestyle. The power to reflect on your perspective and reframe it gives you an opening to see the world, other people, and yourself in different ways. Typically, it is also a much more peaceful and satisfying way to live.
As negative stories continue to dominate the news and genuine happiness seems to become the exception, not the rule, it really is the perfect time to take control of our power and perception, learn to master optimism, and create happier, healthier lives. We can also reach out and connect with other women and help them find a way to take control of their lives and find happiness in the everyday too. We are all sisters; when we connect we not only become happier people, we truly can change the world!
 

When We’re Bullied We’re All Children

stressed bullying victim
Have you noticed that when we find ourselves in the crosshairs of slights, snubs or outright attacks, we suddenly feel small and vulnerable? Our typical instinct is to go hide somewhere—like under the bed.  While that may be a child’s response, full grown women and men can come under attack from a bully at a moment’s notice. Why is that behavior so common and what makes people of any gender or age turn to bullying others?
Bullies aren’t evil, according to “5 Ways to Help Children Deal with Bullies Compassionately” from Fractus Learning. Bullies are unhappy. Bullying indicates inner turmoil. The author behind the info graphic, psychologist Chiu Lau, says that there are many reasons people behave badly. One reason is that they may feel bad about themselves, so by making others feel bad, they feel better. Some people learn that being mean to someone is a way to get what they want. Others bully because they have been bullied, so they try to protect themselves by scaring others. The list continues, but the point is there isn’t one simple answer. In general, the bully lacks something and perceives he or she will gain from acting badly. So how can children (and adults) deal effectively with bullies?
There’s a lot of advice about this. One is to understand that it may not be about you, unless you’re standing in the way of the bully’s pursuit of a coveted job, love interest, or other perceived desire. Even if the bully wants power over you, it’s still not about YOU; it’s about how it makes the bully feel. Some just want to win and feeling power over another person makes them feel powerful. But fighting back only adds fuel to the bully’s fire. Anger and aggression beget more anger and aggression. Running away also is not a positive option unless you’re in physical danger. Then it’s the best option.
Although it’s an unpleasant situation, maybe you should actually thank the workplace bully for giving you a chance to grow, suggests Marlene Chism, author of Stop Workplace Drama.  She says it gives you an opportunity to examine your personal boundaries and figure out what you’re willing to accept from another person and also why you’re avoiding confrontation. Most important, Marlene recommends that you take this opportunity to reinvent and realign. If you see yourself as a weak victim, you definitely need to change your perspective and invent a new YOU who is a powerful creator. She advises changing your communication style starting with how you communicate to yourself.
However, if you feel personal danger, you should immediately seek help. Tell someone you trust, suggests Fractus Learning. In a child’s case, it could be a favorite teacher or parent. Whoever you tell, remember there is power in sharing your stories. If a bully is bearing down hard and you fear for your job, your safety or even your life, don’t try to handle it alone. Even if you don’t have a trusted person you think might help, explaining your situation to someone else will help you understand your own feelings so you can get some perspective on the situation. Leading Women co-author, Bridget Cook-Burch talks about how changing the story you tell yourself can transform your life. In the situation she describes in her chapter in the book, she feared for her loss of livelihood when a client began to harass her. Sometimes, the threat can seem so severe that we can’t see a way out and try to avoid or ignore it. But this kind of fear only compounds itself if it’s allowed to fester inside. Bridget’s powerful story tells how to overcome the fear to reinvent and realign your life, much as Marlene suggests.
Elaborate studies have been performed to determine if bullying is cultural or inherited. Bullying not only crosses cultures and time periods, it also crosses species, according to Hogan Sherro, who analyzed it for Scientific American. Therefore, he concluded that it must be a human trait––part of the human condition–– which is used to intimidate and control the balance of power in social situations. In fact, some companies develop an entire culture based on bullying, according to Bullying Statistics. This develops because management doesn’t admit to or deal with underlying problems. The same article lists the unproductive outcomes from bullying, including stress, high turnover, absenteeism, loss of motivation, etc., all of which can result in a costly impact on the bottom line. The author urges victims to document the bullying behavior and report it to management. “Companies with good anti-bullying policies usually hold meetings from time to time to remind employees what workplace bullying is, how to report it, and the consequences for bullying,” she writes.
Whatever the social situation, it’s important to name the behavior accurately. Identifying bullying, whether it’s on Facebook, in the classroom or at work, is the first step. Then, advises Fractus Learning, treat the bully with compassion. If you’re strong enough to come out from under the bed, invent your own story and become a powerful creator, this might indeed work. The bully is unhappy and feels powerless. When you’re sincerely kind to people, they feel valued. Being an example of kindness may be difficult in the face of someone telling you that you’re ugly, but that’s what Chiu Lau (and Mother Teresa) recommend.
If kindness was simple, then everyone would be kind and no one would experience meanness and bullying,” writes Susan Swearer, Co-Director of the Bullying Research Network. She challenges us to imagine a world where kindness is the norm and then create it by teaching, modeling and rewarding kindness. Punishing bullying behavior doesn’t work. Instead, she says, “it makes better sense to focus on teaching and modeling pro-social behavior, like teaching kindness.” Pro-social behaviors include being respectful, creating gratitude activities, volunteering and giving service, and fostering working together. She outlines this teaching plan with the intention of presenting it to children.
But imagine if we grownups did the same thing in our workplaces. Suppose we encourage each other to help out when one of our workmates seems stressed or overwhelmed. What if we hold employee meetings to brainstorm ways we can reward one another for good work, support each other’s ideas, and even-out the workload? Apply that same model to any social situation—committee, community event, city council, or foundation—kindness begets kindness and toxic relationships cannot thrive in its midst. It’s not easy to always be kind when you’re under pressure, and it may be impossible in a heated moment with a bully bearing down on your neck, but it feels a lot more satisfying and rewarding when you achieve it. And when you practice it on a daily basis, thrown in with a dose of gratitude every day, you diffuse the power of any potential bully by setting out the best example of the human condition. Yes, there are just as many studies that report kindness is also part of the human condition. And these random acts also span centuries and species, just as bullying does.
Kindness is actually intuitive, reports Melissa Dahl. It’s only when we think it over, that we become selfish.  She cites studies where college students’ first inclination is to share, not hoard, and heroic acts where people risk their own lives in a matter of seconds to save the life of a stranger. Overwhelming evidence of everyday heroes blazes across the front pages of every crisis. In each case, people reach out to help a neighbor they may never have met, possibly one who shook a fist at them in traffic. So kindness is a matter of choice. YOU can choose how to react to bullying behavior. You can focus on resenting the bully or YOU can try to help a powerless person to get beyond their feelings of loss. Even though it may take practice, remember that your first instinct as a human being is to be kind.

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