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Gratitude, Especially in 2020

Gratitude_in_2020In a typical year, today would see millions of us taking to the roads, or the skies, to gather with our nearest and dearest. However, 2020 is not a typical year. Instead of holiday togetherness, many trips have been cancelled and plans scuttled in efforts to protect one another and stop the spread of COVID-19. It’s a fact – we are all missing out on a lot of time with one another. But even though we may not be able to physically be together this year, we can still connect. With a phone call, Zoom meeting, or even a socially distanced picnic, we can still be with those we love and spend part of the holiday with them – albeit at a distance. We can talk, laugh, and share stories, and think about what we have to be grateful for. Crisis, such as the one we’re currently dealing with, brings out the best in us. It reminds us to stop and think about what truly matters – our friends, family, pets, work, healthcare workers, you name it – and that focus is something we need to take forward with us.

Don’t allow the disruption that is 2020 define the holiday. Instead, pause, reframe and think about what you’re grateful for. There are so many things in the world that can cause us to feel outrage or sadness or despair. And while those initial feelings are earnest and sometimes justified, they shouldn’t always dictate our response. Take three seconds to pause, think, and breathe, and then allow a clear and present mind to choose the most appropriate way to respond to what’s going on around you.

While Thanksgiving brings the concept of gratitude to the forefront, it’s important to realize that gratitude is actually something that can serve us well through the remainder of 2020 and beyond. While it may seem ridiculous to think about gratitude in the midst of a pandemic, it really is worth the effort. Robert A. Emmons, professor of psychology at UC Davis says, “Clinical trials indicate that the practice of gratitude can have dramatic and lasting effects in a person’s life. It can lower blood pressure, improve immune function and facilitate more efficient sleep.” What better way to combat a virus than to improve our immune function?

Emmons also reports that people who keep a gratitude journal have a reduced dietary fat intake — as much as 25 percent lower. Stress hormones like cortisol are 23 percent lower in grateful people. And having a daily gratitude practice could actually reduce the effects of aging to the brain. Being thankful has such a profound effect because so many positive feelings go along with it.

Gratitude, especially in 2020, can also help you:

Experience fewer aches and pains. According to a 2012 study, grateful people report feeling healthier than other people. Not surprisingly, grateful people are also more likely to take care of their health and exercise more often, which is likely to further contribute to longevity.

Help you sleep better. Writing in a gratitude journal for 15 minutes before bed has been shown to help you worry less and sleep longer and better. Another study found that gratitude predicted better sleep quality and duration and less sleepiness during the day. Researchers explained that when falling asleep, grateful people are less likely to think negative and worrying thoughts that impair sleep and more likely to think about positive things, thereby enhancing sleep quality.

Keep your heart healthy. One study involved 186 men and women, who already had some damage to their heart, either through years of sustained high blood pressure or as a result of heart attack or even an infection of the heart itself. Researchers had participants fill out a questionnaire to rate how grateful they felt for the people, places or things in their lives. It turned out the more grateful people were, the healthier they were. When blood tests were then conducted to measure inflammation or plaque buildup in the arteries, researchers found lower levels among those who were grateful — an indication of better heart health.

And perhaps the best thing about gratitude is that it doesn’t have to be approved by anyone. Feel free to use it as needed. No amount is too much. It is proven completely safe and effective for making you feel better about life in general, even the holiday season of 2020. Someday life will return to normal. It may be a new kind of normal, but we can help it evolve to a more hopeful tomorrow if we pause, reframe, and be grateful for what is, and most importantly, what is to come!

 

 

Women’s Races Set Records and Push Closer to 50-50

Womens_Races_Set_RecordsIn the midst of a prolonged and chaotic election cycle, we paused to celebrate the election of Kamala Harris, the first woman, the first woman of color, the first Black person and the first South Asian to be elected vice president of the United States. We also took time to step back and look at the races beyond this historic win that pushed women’s progress closer to 50-50. Women across the country made several gains and moved the dial on representation. The Center for American Women and Politics reported that 134 women (25%) will serve in the 117th Congress, beating the 2019 record of 127 (23.7%). Of those women, 48 (9%) represent women of color, and 22 are non-incumbent winners.

While we have a long way to go to reach 50-50, these gains are still significant, and each win is worth celebrating.

Cori Bush made history on election day as the first Black woman elected to represent Missouri in Congress. Cori was one of at least 115 women of color running for Congress this year. She toppled a political dynasty to get the nomination, and later defeated her Republican rival with more than 75% of the vote.  A progressive activist, single mother, nurse, and pastor, ABC News reports that Cori spoke openly on the campaign trail about her struggle with paying taxes and surviving paycheck to paycheck. She has also been outspoken about her experiences facing homelessness and domestic violence at points in her life. She plans to take her lived experience with her to Congress, and her acceptance speech was impassioned, empowering, and move-to-tears inspiring. Running on some of our nation’s most important issues, she said, “this is our moment.” Her win exemplifies the power of having the courage to step outside of our comfort zone, and her victory proves that we’re in this together.

Marilyn Strickland, the former Mayor of Tacoma, Washington will be the first Korean-American woman ever elected to Congress and the first Black woman to represent Washington State at the federal level.

Wins in New Mexico by Deb Haaland, a Democrat, Yvette Herrell, a Republican, and Teresa Leger Fernandez, a Democrat, mean that New Mexico’s entire House delegation will consist of women of color. Ms. Herrell is also the first Republican Native American woman elected to Congress.

Nancy Mace will be the first Republican woman to represent South Carolina in Congress.

Cynthia Lummis, a Republican former congresswoman, will be the first woman to serve in the Senate from Wyoming.

Sarah McBride, elected to the Delaware Senate, will be the first transgender woman State Senator and the nation’s highest-ranking transgender official.

Chrisina Haswood is the youngest legislator elected to the Kansas State House.

The Northern Cheyenne Nation has elected all women for the first time ever as Tribal President, Vice President, and to fill all five open seats on the Tribal Council.

The Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors will consist of all women for the first time since the board’s inception more than 150 years ago.

Women most often serve from a place of love. Cori Bush said in her acceptance speech that she loves the people who elected her and those she represents, and it is with that love that she will fight for everyone in her district. This is why it’s crucial to get more women serving in public office. That kind of dedication and perspective completely changes how we are governed. It starts in our communities and at the ballot box when we elect women at every level to lead us, to fight for us, and to build a country with a government that works for us all.

How to Place Boundaries for Work That Work

Workplace_Boundariesguest post by Brian Thomas

Do you ever feel incredibly overwhelmed by the volume of work you juggle every day? Is it difficult to find a healthy work-life balance? Finding a happy medium between taking care of work and taking care of yourself can feel impossible. This is why it is crucial to consistently take the time to reevaluate your work-life and create boundaries to help you succeed. When we don’t take care of ourselves, taking care of work becomes even more difficult. Here are a few ways you can establish some boundaries that actually work.

More of us need to speak up for ourselves. It’s easy to accept the workload that we’re given and not to voice our opinions or concerns. What you may not realize is that by not contributing your thoughts to the conversation things will likely stay the same. In today’s remote world, it has become increasingly problematic for women who find it difficult to speak up during virtual meetings. By having the courage to speak your mind, you may discover new solutions with less resistance.

Communicating your needs to your team does not have to be limited to virtual Zoom calls. Whether you are on-site or off, maintaining clear communication across all of your contacts will not only help your colleagues and clients better understand what is expected of them but help you distinctly identify priorities. Don’t allow yourself to be among the two-thirds of managers who are uncomfortable communicating with their employees. Your workflow will improve once everyone is on the same page.

Once you have established an effective form of communication with your colleagues, divvy up the responsibilities amongst your team. Taking on tasks is a good sign of initiative but knowing when you have too many tasks is just as important. If you’re a manager, divide the workload across your entire team. This delegation of responsibilities will help you to clear the mountains of tasks from your workstation, provide clear goals for your team members, and allow you to focus on more pressing duties.

In a highly competitive work environment, it’s easy to take on more than you are able. A little secret though, that can apply to life in and out of the workplace: it is okay to say “no.” No matter how simple that sounds in principle, challenge yourself to being comfortable with saying no to work responsibilities when you have reached your maximum, and most importantly, be comfortable doing so especially when situations make you feel uncomfortable. You will find it freeing to know that you are in control of your workload and professional interactions with others.

Consider developing a system for yourself and your team. When conflicts arise, this will help you plan solutions accordingly. Remember to allot time for any mistakes or review periods before project deadlines. Anticipating the unexpected will allow you to be more productive and versatile. When you create your new schedule, make sure you set aside time for yourself. Paid time off will not schedule itself so be sure that you make time to handle tasks outside of work and restore yourself with rest and relaxation too.

At the end of your work day, there is one last important thing for you to do: leave your work at work. Granted, this has become increasingly difficult now that many of us are working from our own homes, but it is vital for your well-being and sanity to maintain a separation between work and home life. Create a space for yourself strictly designated for your work. When you are done for the day, leave your at-home work area and do not return to it until you are working again. This requires the discipline of sticking with your schedule and within the boundaries you’ve set for yourself. Being able to ignore the temptation to check an e-mail you’re expecting or communicate an idea you just thought of is a very important skill to help you keep your responsibilities in check and your work separate.

Time management, scheduling, and separating work from your personal life are all difficult tasks that are essential to your success and your mental health. Be sure you take the time necessary to create and maintain boundaries for yourself. Your work, your health, and your success depend on it.

Brian Thomas is a tech and business content writer for Enlightened Digital. When he’s not keeping up on industry news, he’s long-distance cycling or watching a Philly game at his local brewery.

Every Vote Counts!

Every Vote CountsBy Friday, October 23, more than 50 million Americans had already cast their ballots in the 2020 election. Those ballots represent 36.5% of all the votes cast in the 2016 presidential election, and election day (in case it’s not marked in RED on your calendar) is November 3. Many of these voters were women, casting their ballots for women up and down the ticket, and many other women plan to join them in the coming days. In fact, the Brookings Institute calls 2020 “The Year of the Woman Voter” and writes that this year’s election is being driven by the increasingly overwhelming determination of a significant number of women from every demographic.

Rebecca Sive, author of Vote Her In: Your Guide to Electing Our First Woman President, writes that the best way to counter the forces of misogyny is through political action. She also states that women’s mobilization to the polls started with the 2017 Women’s March and grew throughout the year as women decided to run for office in historic numbers and to take matters into their own hands, which includes marching again.

“When I attended the 2017 Chicago Women’s March, I experienced a movement that was 250,000 people strong, in which almost every person carried a sign expressing a fervent desire for a different world—a world where women have equal opportunities and are treated equally in every setting. Marchers wanted regime change. They still do,” Rebecca writes. “All you need to do to be a part of this regime change is believe that women deserve the same rights and opportunities as men and support this declaration of independence, of women, by women, and for women, to secure life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness for all.”

Women do deserve the same rights. We are the supermajority, and on November 3 we have the opportunity to make our voices heard and choose representation that looks like us – female! We can elect women from local offices, like the school board to the second highest office in the land. This is our chance to vote for women like us who know what it’s like to juggle the demands of a career with the needs of a family, women who know that you deserve equal pay, who value affordable healthcare, childcare and workplace protections, and women who are empowered and who can help you make your voice heard.

We need more women in elected positions. As you head to the polls, keep in mind that currently women represent 51% of the U.S. population, yet we make up only:

  • 25% of the U.S. Senate
  • 23% of the U.S. House of Representatives
  • 29% of statewide elected executives
  • 29% of state legislative seats

One hundred years ago we saw the passage of the 19th Amendment, guaranteeing and protecting women’s constitutional right to vote, and four years ago we had a woman running for the highest office in the land. Every single vote matters—your vote matters! NPR reports that more than a dozen races over the last 20 years have been decided by a single vote. This year we can flex our collective muscle and – with every single vote – elect women at every level to lead us, to fight for us, and to build a country with a government that works for us all.

If you have questions, the League of Women Voters has answers. Their Vote 411 is a one-stop-shop for election-related information. It provides nonpartisan information with both general and state-specific information as well as a polling place locator, which enables users to type in their address and retrieve the poll location for the voting precinct for that address.

In Honor of Ruth Bader Ginsburg – A Champion of Equality

“Women belong in all places where decisions are being made. It shouldn’t be that women are the exception.” – Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg

There aren’t words to describe the enormity of my feelings for Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, or the depth of my sadness with her passing. Thanks to her courage and commitment to justice our daughters can open a checking account, or buy a house without a male co-signer. They can have a job and not be discriminated against because of their gender. With her dissent (and call to action) in the pay discrimination case Ledbetter v. Goodyear Tire & Rubber Co., she helped women make strides toward equal pay. Ultimately, Justice Ginsburg taught our daughters to fight for what they believe in, and demonstrated – with every decision – to little girls everywhere that women can and do belong in all places where decisions are being made.

Justice Ginsburg co-founded the Women’s Rights Project at the American Civil Liberties Union in 1972, and built her legacy by chipping away at inequalities – large and small. She understood constitutional equality was an ongoing project, and later in her life said she did not fight for “women’s rights,” but for “the constitutional principle of the equal citizenship stature of men and women.”

Just hours after her death, Barack Obama aptly described that legacy, calling Ginsburg a champion of women’s rights in her battle to achieve equality and fulfill America’s potential as a nation. “For nearly three decades, as the second woman ever to sit on the highest court in the land, she was a warrior for gender equality — someone who believed that equal justice under law only had meaning if it applied to every single American.”

While she opened a number of doors for women, her work is not done. In fact, she clearly spelled out the current situation and her hope for the future, “One must acknowledge the still bleak part of the picture. Most people in poverty in the United States and the world over are women and children, women’s earnings here and abroad trail the earnings of men with comparable education and experience, our workplaces do not adequately accommodate the demands of childbearing and child rearing, and we have yet to devise effective ways to ward off sexual harassment at work and domestic violence in our homes. I am optimistic, however, that movement toward enlistment of the talent of all who compose ‘We, the people,’ will continue.”

Our responsibility, as we mourn her passing, is to follow her lead, continue her optimism, honor her memory, and continue the fight. As my friend Trudy Bourgeois said to me earlier this week, “We all need to lead from where we are.” That means today we need to look to one another, and work together to right wrongs. True gender equity still does not exist, and as we work towards it, we must be advocates for each other. We must raise our voices to speak up for the women whose voices may otherwise go unheard. We the people have work to do, and we’ll be the most effective if we do it together.

 

Power Forward and Register

Level Up – The Diversity Women’s Business Leadership Conference

There’s still time to register for the 15th Annual Diversity Women’s Business Leadership Conference, which you can attend virtually October 8-9, 2020. As in years past, this event will attract women business leaders of all races, cultures and backgrounds, and features amazing speakers, exhibitors, content, coaching and a virtual program like no other. Recognized as the premier women’s leadership conference for racial, ethnic and gender diversity, attendees can expect to hear and learn from some of the most influential thought leaders and executives across the nation and the world.

Dr. Nancy will be on hand and will be joined by Trudy Bourgeois, Founder and CEO, Center for Workforce Excellence, during the general session to discuss “supporting one another across differences.” Together they will explore privilege, and how white women have been the biggest beneficiaries of affirmative action while Black women have been left behind. Their conversation will reveal the ways we can boldly reach across differences as allies for other women.

This conference is incredible each year, and this year’s virtual event makes attendance easier than ever. Check out last week’s interview with Dr. Sheila Robinson for more information.

Power Forward We've Got the PowerWe look forward to “seeing” you there, and together we’ll Power Forward!

Here’s a recap of last year’s conference:

Since its inception, Diversity Woman Magazine has recognized the importance of leadership development and empowerment for diverse women. Aiming to educate and support diverse and multicultural women leaders and to facilitate their continued growth and success, the organization more than delivered through their annual Business Leadership Conference in November.

Attracting diverse and multicultural business leaders from the world’s largest corporations and entrepreneurs from successful women-owned businesses, the Conference not only served as the perfect place for women to make connections, it also provided plenty of information for women to further their development. Boasting notable speakers and powerhouse panels, attendees were able to gain wisdom and insight from some of the most influential women leaders in the nation.

Take The Lead’s Co-Founder and President Gloria Feldt provided a flash talk on the Conference’s first day. With “Intentional Woman: Be BOLD and Carry OUT!” Gloria told attendees that the real secret to reaching their full leadership potential while helping all women get their fair and equal share of leadership roles starts with “I.” But it’s far from selfish. It is all about embracing the power of your own intention. Of taking those elements of female socialization that have traditionally held women back and turning them into assets, superpowers even.

Level Up – The Diversity Women’s Business Leadership ConferenceAdditional presentations and panels guided attendees on strategies for advancing in business, such as “Bold Moves for a Disruptive World” and “Three Rules for Winning in Corporate America”, and Leadership Coaching helped attendees do everything from navigating a project to developing their personal brand.

The Women Connect4Good Foundation was a diamond level sponsor of this year’s event, and Dr. Nancy was on hand to host the Conference’s Opening Reception and along with Dr. Sheila Robinson, Founder of Diversity Women’s Business Leadership Conference, delivered opening remarks on day two – helping attendees get supercharged for a day of powerful learning and inspiration.

Dr. Nancy recalled the first time she attended the Diversity Women Business Conference, and said it was the most amazing experience she’d ever had. It was the first time she truly understood the words inclusive and sisterhood. In order to deepen that understanding, Dr. Nancy had to look first of all at privilege, and how with privilege comes responsibility.

In her latest book, In This Together, we quote Michael Kimmel who said in a TED Talk, “Privilege is invisible to those who have it.” His point was that we have unconscious biases that prevent us from recognizing our own privilege. In fact, we are privileged if we don’t even see our race or gender when we look in the mirror.

This week’s podcast guest, Trudy Bourgeois, founder of The Center for Workforce Excellence said it best when she told Dr. Nancy, “You don’t know what you don’t know.” She said that if we are to create equality for all women, we have to name our biases and talk about them. Her recent book tells how we can transform our work environments by admitting our biases and engaging in tough, uncomfortable conversations. It’s called EQUALITY: Courageous Conversations about Women, Men, AND Race in the Workplace to Spark a Diversity and Inclusion Breakthrough.

Trudy and Dr. Nancy met a few years ago at the Diversity Women’s Business Leadership Conference, and Trudy point-blank confronted Dr. Nancy with the question, “What’s wrong with you white women?” Trudy’s question had to do with the advantages that white women have had and squandered. Now, Dr. Nancy believes what’s wrong is, “We’re afraid to step outside the lines for fear of retribution ourselves. While we have to be twice as educated and work twice as hard to get half as much as our male counterparts, we realize it is our responsibility to make sure that no woman has to work twice as hard to get half as far as her white sisters.”

Chelsea Handler has said that when it comes to privilege, it’s about taking responsibility, about having those difficult conversations and doing something actionable about it. Dr. Nancy agrees and says we all have to learn how to be better. “We can do that in part when we realize that racial and gender bias impacts every aspect of work, and that includes our own path to leadership and how we lead once we get there. We are our own worst enemies because of the biases we have towards other women, and the biases we have towards ourselves. We’ve got these measurements and comparisons, and we need to recognize them and realize, nobody is winning. We need to learn to recognize that we have biases, and we all have them.”

Dr. Nancy also pointed out the fact that it’s really all about relationships. Women build relationships. We are good at it, and we can use this strength to help ourselves and our companies succeed. Study after study shows that when women hold top positions, an organization does better. She said that in order to build relationships that work for all of us, we need to realize that our differences can be challenges, but they can also be opportunities.

“I think that when we talk about how we are different we begin to understand each other better and better and realize that we’re more alike than different. We all want the same things.” Dr. Nancy said. “We also need to remember, no more US and Them. We truly are in this together and that means ALL of us, all colors, races, and our male allies too.”

Dr. Nancy concluded her opening remarks on the topic of support. After all, when we support each other, anything is possible. “This conference is a perfect example of what happens when we support each other.”

“We need to realize that we are ALL in this together and we’ll get there faster when we work together – side by side—to make the world a better place. I think that’s why we’re here is to have better lives and to make it better for other people.”

Dr. Nancy is already making plans to attend next year’s Diversity Women’s Business Leadership Conference, October 7, 8 and 9, 2020, and urges other women to do the same. Attendees will have the chance to spend time with some major players – real leaders who understand just what it takes for organizations of all sizes to be successful as well as discover great opportunities to learn from and share with one another and create new and rewarding relationships. To learn more about Diversity Women and next year’s conference, go to DiversityWoman.com.

 

It’s Time to Use Your Voice and Vote

US Vote Pins

White women in America, listen up. Do you know that you represent the largest voting bloc in the United States? That means you have both the most influential feminine voice and you are also the most powerful electorate. There is strength in numbers, and you have an opportunity to push the change that we need in our country right now. But despite your strength in numbers, collectively, political activism, even at a micro-level is not your strong suit.

That needs to change because there’s an important election coming up. Women made a difference in 2016 and they can create phenomenal change this time around too. So it’s time to ask yourself: Are your children well-fed, safe and receiving the education they need? Do you have equal pay and the successful path you expected in your career? How are your extended family members doing? Have you been tested yet? Could you be, if you need to be? Do you have representation that understands your struggles and concerns?

It’s time to face facts. Unless you answered absolutely yes to most of these questions and wouldn’t change a thing about your life today, it’s time to accept your responsibility to yourself, your family and your community. You have an opportunity to push the change that we need in our country right now.

Yet even in the midst of an important election season, an alarming number of you admittedly steer clear of conversations about politics with friends, family and strangers – 74% according to Jenna Arnold, author of Raising Our Hands: How White Women Can Stop Avoiding Hard Conversations, Start Accepting Responsibility, and Find Our Place on the New Frontlines. Nearly three-quarters of you get by with a demurring, “I don’t like politics.” Probably few of us do like politics. It doesn’t bring out the best in people. But it does create our system of checks and balances that keeps us living in a free society. And that means we must participate, use our voices to support what we want and vote.

What keeps you silent? Were you taught to avoid discussions about politics and religion? Do you worry that you don’t know enough and might make the wrong choice? Or perhaps, you’ve been shut down in the past when you’ve raised your political opinion, and hate to be criticized and made to feel small for your beliefs.

Certainly today’s divisive political environment fueled by social media is exacerbating the problem. The toxic brew of fake news, uninformed opinions and polarizing content is wearing people down. In fact, according to the Pew Research Center, nearly half of Americans have stopped discussing politics with at least one person in their lives.

Whatever reasons, it remains disturbing that an overwhelming majority of the largest most powerful voting bloc in the country chooses to be silent on issues that impact their lives, their health, their wealth and the well-being of their families, not to mention important issues that support the success of a free society.

Even if you’ve been shy about advocacy, speaking your mind about anything at all for fear of not being liked, the one place you can and should raise your voice is at the ballot box. Your vote is yours and no one else’s. It’s the one place you can speak your mind without criticism and it’s your right and responsibility to use it.

This year has been the ultimate litmus test of the strength of our democracy, the facility of our government, the responsibilities of our leaders and the integrity of our society. By all accounts we are failing. A recent Gallup poll found that across party lines, Americans’ satisfaction with the direction of our country has taken a dramatic nose dive. Overall, satisfaction is down 25% since January, with only 20% of the population feeling that the United States is on the right path.

It’s obvious that we need change. And part of the change we need is more women in elected positions. Women lead best in times of crisis.

Women represent 51% of the U.S. population, yet we make up only:

  • 25% of the U.S. Senate
  • 23% of the U.S. House of Representatives
  • 29% of statewide elected executives
  • 29% of state legislative seats

Yet, more women are running for office now than ever. It’s past time for women to be represented in equal numbers in government. Women leaders back the issues that support our families. The 2020 election is just eight weeks away. It’s time for you to stand with women of color and use your voice and your voting power for the greater good of all women and the issues that are important to us.

If you’re not registered to vote, get registered now. And on November 3, come together with other women, use your voice to vote for the change you want to see in our country at every level of government.

 

 

Celebrate and Exercise Your Right to Vote!

VOTE

So, women 18 to 118, when it is time to vote please do so in your self-interest. It’s what men have been doing for years, which is why the world looks so much like them but don’t forget we are the largest voting body in this country. Let’s make it look more like us. – Michelle Williams

On August 26, 1920, the U.S. Secretary of State certified that the 19th Amendment to the Constitution had been ratified by the required 36 states, and it became law, marking the largest expansion of democracy in the history of our country. “The right of citizens of the United States to vote shall not be denied or abridged by the United States or by any State on account of sex.”

As we celebrate the passage of the passage of the 19th Amendment, guaranteeing and protecting women’s constitutional right to vote, it’s hard to believe that our presence at the polls wasn’t possible until one hundred years ago, and for Black women, it wasn’t until the passage of the Voting Rights Act of 1965 that their right to vote was finally secured. We’re also stepping into another active political season, and women nationwide are deciding who and what to vote for.

Elections impact every aspect of our lives, and it’s important that we all weigh in. While presidential or other national elections – like the current season – usually get a significant voter turnout, state and local elections are typically decided by a much smaller group of voters. In fact, a Portland State University study found that fewer than 15 percent of eligible voters were turning out to vote for mayors, council members, and other local offices. Low turnout means that important local issues are determined by a limited group of voters, meaning every single vote matters even more.

This year we have the opportunity not only to shape the way our communities and our country are run, we have the opportunity to make sure the electorate looks like us – female! We can elect women from local offices, like the school board to the second highest office in the land. This is our chance to vote for women like us who know what it’s like to juggle the demands of a career with the needs of a family, women who know that you deserve equal pay, who value affordable healthcare, childcare and workplace protections, and women who are empowered and who can help you make your voice heard.

But it’s not going to be easy. While the 19th Amendment continues to prohibit states from denying the vote based upon gender, there still will be struggles. National Geographic reports that today is much like it was in 1920. A woman’s access to the polls is determined by where she lives—and that, because of a long history of housing segregation, that often correlates with her race. “A resurgence of voter ID laws, the shuttering of certain polling places, and the purge of voter rolls in some states following a 2013 Supreme Court ruling that rolled back provisions of the Voting Rights Act of 1965 have deprived both men and women of color of the right to vote.”

Add the projected difficulty of voting during the pandemic, a record turnout expected November 3, an expected surge in COVID 19 cases, the possibility of further restrictions of polling stations and limitations of vote-by-mail, women will once again struggle to exercise the right to vote. We need to act now, plan ahead and make sure our voter registrations are current, that our polling stations will be open if we want to cast our ballots in person, or that our mail-in options will make our vote count in a timely manner. We need to reach out to our friends and family members and help them do the same. It is time to exercise your rights, choose representation that supports what’s important to you, and make sure that your voice is heard this November.

Don’t Let COVID Stop Women’s Progress-Take Action Now

Women's ProgressWomen’s progress toward equality was moving forward at a moderate pace. 2018 was widely considered to be the “Year of the Woman” marking the biggest wave of women elected to government ever, with 2,133 women sworn into America’s state legislatures, as well as holding 25 seats in the U.S. Senate and 101 seats in the House. In 2019, women ticked past 50% of the workforce in the U.S. for the first time during a non-recessionary period in American history. Riding that wave, world leaders, civil society and the private sector had set the stage for 2020 to be the biggest year yet for the advancement of women’s rights. Until the pandemic that is.

COVID-19 has been hard on women’s progress. McKinsey reports that while most people’s lives and work have been negatively affected by the crisis, their most recent analysis shows that, overall, women’s jobs and livelihoods are more vulnerable to the pandemic. According to the National Women’s Law Center, between February and April, women lost more than 12.1 million jobs, and only a third of those jobs returned in May and June. When comparing the unemployment rate for women versus men, women ages 20 and over have an unemployment rate of 11.2% compared to their male counterparts who have an unemployment rate of 10.1%. The June unemployment rate for women is 1.3 times higher than the highest unemployment rate women faced during the Great Recession and the subsequent recovery years, and 1 in 4 (25%) women working part-time wanted full-time work, but were unable to obtain it for economic reasons, such as their employer not giving them full-time hours. The outlook is even worse for Black and Latina woman as nearly 1 in 7 Black women (14.0%) ages 20 and over were unemployed in June, which is nearly 3 times higher than their pre-pandemic unemployment rate (4.8% in February), and more than 1 in 7 (15.3%) Latinas ages 20 and over were unemployed in June, over three times higher than their unemployment rate in February (4.9%)

A patchwork of back-to-school options is another potential wrench in women’s progress across the country. Boston Consulting Group’s recent study of working parents finds that 60% of parents have not found alternative childcare in the wake of school and daycare closures, and with modified return options available this fall, many additional women are leaving the workforce. Whether by choice or necessity, in terms of workforce and leadership participation, that is an action that could have ramifications for years to come.

We can’t let the events of this year stall our progress. In the study, “COVID-19 and Gender Equality: Countering the Regressive Effects,” McKinsey researchers defined three potential scenarios in the post–COVID-19 world of women at work. “The first is a gender-regressive ’do nothing’ scenario. It assumes that the higher negative impact of COVID-19 on women remains unaddressed, and it compares GDP outcomes in 2030 to the case in which women’s employment growth tracks that of men in the recovery. The second is a ’take action now’ scenario, which would improve parity relative to the gender-regressive one. The third is a ’wait to take action’ scenario continuing until the economic impact of COVID-19 subsides.”

The best option for a substantial increase in economic opportunity is to “take action now.” Policy makers would make decisions, in 2020 and beyond to significantly improve gender equality over the next decade. Researchers estimate that the global value of achieving best-in-region gender-parity improvements by 2030 could lead to $13 trillion of incremental GDP in that year and create 230 million new jobs for women globally.

Employers can also take action now. In fact, many are. One obvious action is to add flexibility to the workplace, for women and men, especially in these unprecedented times. And that doesn’t just mean remote work. It can also mean a four-day work week, or shifting work hours (especially now), and moving forward to better accommodate the difference between office hours and school hours, or the “child-care crisis between 3 and 5 p.m.”

In a community where public-school students are headed back two days a week, one healthcare system was recently quoted as saying that they have surveyed employees to find out their needs and are “aggressively pursuing creative solutions.”

“Our most precious resource is our employees, and we know the most precious thing in their lives is most often their children,” spokesperson Kaitlyn McConnell said. “As area schools release their plans for the start of the school year, CoxHealth knows that many of the system’s employees are anxious about what the next few months will mean for their children, and how the changes will affect their jobs. We also know that it’s important to keep our staff members at work and able to care for the community.”

That creative approach and many others are what’s needed right now. We need to collectively take action and keep women employed and in the pipeline for advancement. And we need to think big-picture and develop plans to regain the steps we may have lost during this crisis. We are all struggling with this continued uncertainty. These are the times when we need to come together to help each other through, not allow it to overwhelm us and remember that our progress is important, not only to women, but to everyone’s recovery. We can emerge from this crisis stronger than ever. The times beg for great leadership, and women are uniquely qualified to lead in these times. Do NOT allow COVID to stop your progress. Think of one action you can take to lift women up and create a new year of the woman now.

What the COVID Crisis Reveals about Women’s Work

Mom and daughter in front of computerInvisible women’s work just became abundantly visible amid the quarantine of the COVID crisis. While sheltered at home, Zoom calls broadcast the juggling act women perform when child-care, home-schooling and working from home all merge into the same time and place. Fluctuating back to school plans are happening as many parents are hitting the burnout stage after struggling to balance remote work and homeschooling for weeks on end. It’s hard to remain responsive to your team and meet the demands of what had previously been a 40 hour per week job and educate, entertain, cook, and care for your children. Video calls have become balancing acts, deadlines a family affair, and advancement? That’s too far down the list to even contemplate – especially as many women are often finding themselves finishing up their workday after the kids are in bed, or in the wee hours of the morning, before their day begins again.

The struggle to get it all done isn’t new, but the pandemic has shone a light on the lopsided division of household labor and highlighted the fact that our current path – even before coronavirus – is not sustainable. Monica Hesse recently wrote in The Washington Post that “we can lobby for equal wages, promoting women, and harassment-free workplaces, but progress toward true equality hinges on chores — the diapers and the dishes and the hundreds of other essential tasks that must be performed, even if we pretend they don’t exist.” She also writes that “We shouldn’t try to return to business-as-usual until we address that “usual” has been pretty sucky for working parents.”

Usually, it’s the women that are bearing the brunt of the increased household labor, and that was true before the pandemic too. There just wasn’t as much of it. Brigid Schulte, author of Overwhelmed: Work, Love, and Play When No One Has The Time says that there is a whole body of research around what’s called “the mental load” that women disproportionately bear.

“It’s all of the stuff that you have to keep in your mind. It’s just an explosion of details and logistics and planning and organizing. And it’s not like laundry that you can see when it’s done. You only know when people haven’t done it, if it falls apart or where somebody has an emotional meltdown,” Brigid said. “Part of the mental load is also this emotional labor, taking everybody’s emotional temperature, making sure everybody is feeling heard and getting their needs met. It can be absolutely exhausting. And when people don’t see it and don’t recognize it and don’t value it, it can be very demoralizing.”

The levels of emotional labor during the pandemic have skyrocketed. Employees are always parenting now, and moms are always working. Researchers at the Council on Contemporary Families found that the number of couples who reported sharing housework had grown by 58 percent during the pandemic, from 26 to 41 percent, and while that increase is notable, we’ve still got a way to go. According to Boston Consulting Group, women are tackling 15 hours more of domestic labor per week than their spouses, and a United Nations policy brief on the impact of COVID-19 on women warned that “even the limited gains made in the past decades are at risk of being rolled back.”

To keep things moving forward, we need to look at the opportunities the current state of affairs presents, discover ways we can reshape the workplace to be more supportive, and look at how that will impact families and gender equality. While labor inequalities in the household have been problematic, they’ve also oftentimes started conversations – at home and at work. In a survey recently conducted for Catalyst, 71 percent of working people said they believe COVID-19 will have a positive impact on gender equality in the workplace. In the same survey, 39 percent of people said they see their company “taking steps after the pandemic to enhance gender equity as a priority in the workplace.”

Flexibility should now become a built-in feature of how we work, for women and men, and that doesn’t just mean remote work. Alison Goldman writes in The Lily that flexibility can also mean a four-day work week, or shifting work hours (especially now), and moving forward to better accommodate the difference between office hours and school hours, or the “child-care crisis between 3 and 5 p.m.” She also quoted Manon DeFelice, founder and chief executive of Inkwell as saying, “There’s a whole spectrum of what flexibility can be, and I think it’s up to the company to decide for each role what they’re willing to allow for in terms of flexibility and what those managers are willing to allow for that flexibility.”

Whether at home or in the office, and whether our kids go back to school or not, we need to remember that are connected more than ever before, and navigating these uncharted waters together. We can still support one another in the workplace; we can drop off groceries for a neighbor if we go out, or we can share resources and entertainment ideas for our children with one another. We can lean on one another virtually and should try to use electronic means to connect with another woman every day. Community matters. And most importantly, keep in mind that we are all struggling with this continued uncertainty. These are the times when we need to come together as a community to help each other through. Remember, we’re all in this together.

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