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Standing With the Women of Afghanistan

Stand_With_Afghan_WomenIn Afghanistan, the withdrawal of U.S. and allied troops last month, signaled an end to much of the progress that women in the country had made, and many of the rights they had come to enjoy. While Taliban leadership assured citizens that they would allow women to work and pursue education, the hard-handed Taliban rule of the 90’s, left many Afghans afraid that those pledges would not be fulfilled. If the past couple of weeks are any indication, those fears are well founded.

Today there are no women in the Taliban’s newly named interim cabinet, and the country’s Ministry of Women’s Affairs was abolished. And although women can continue to study in universities, classrooms will now be gender-segregated, Islamic dress is compulsory, and subjects being taught are under review. All of this despite the fact that over the past twenty years millions of Afghan girls and women were able to attend school, hold a job and help shape their destiny for the first time. After years of not being able to leave their homes without a male chaperone, their educational opportunities allowed them to become judges, teachers, journalists, police officers, and government ministers. However, the Taliban recently told working women to stay at home, admitting they were not safe in the presence of the militant group’s soldiers, which means Afghan women are now effectively locked out of participation and leadership in the communities they helped form.

As if that were not enough, Afghan women and girls have been banned from playing sports as the deputy head of the Taliban’s cultural commission, Ahmadullah Wasiq, said women’s sport was considered neither appropriate nor necessary. According to NPR, ads showing women’s faces have also been blacked out and Taliban members have been erasing street art and murals that often conveyed public service messages.

How have the women of Afghanistan responded to these actions (and many more)? Loudly. Last week, dozens of Afghan women demonstrated in the western city of Herat to demand their rights to employment and education. This week Hannah Bloch writes at NPR.com that “Day after day, Afghan women have taken to the streets in groups large and small to protest against Taliban rule, the regime’s new curbs on their rights and Pakistan’s influence in Afghanistan.” In Kabul, they demanded equal rights, and women in government and others demanded “azadi” or freedom. In response, the Taliban have at times used force — wielding whips, beating women with batons, pointing guns and firing weapons into the air.

This situation is only days old and events are continuing to unfold at a horrifying pace. Gloria Steinem reached out and asked supporters to join her in an Emergency Response for Afghan Women. Donor Direct Action, which she co-convened with South African Judge Navi Pillay, supports a front-line women’s group in Afghanistan that has protected Afghan women and children since 1999. She and Jessica Neuwirth recently spoke with the leadership of this group and said, “It was heartbreaking to hear first-hand from Kabul about the scale of this crisis and the utter lack of resources to respond. These women are fearless and inspiring, and they need our help. That is why I am convening this Emergency Response for Afghan women.” Women for Women International is providing emergency support for Afghan women, The Georgetown Institute for Women, Peace and Security is taking action to help protect Afghan women and human rights leaders, as well as many, many other organizations.

Write letters, donate if you can, raise awareness and lend your voice. We need to stand together with the women of Afghanistan and help them any way we can.

Ready. Inspire. Act. Making a Difference in Massachusetts

By RIA, Inc.

Throughout history, buying sex has been packaged in many ways. We call it prostitution, trafficking of humans, solicitation, sex work, and a myriad of other descriptions. Regardless of how we frame it, the underlying reality is that absolutely no one goes unscathed in a culture that feeds off the bodies of people for sex.

As direct service providers, survivors and allies in Massachusetts, Ready. Inspire. Act. Inc. (RIA) cares deeply about the language used to describe “buying sex” and asks that you form your opinion by listening closely to the people with lived experiences in prostitution and the commercial sex trade, both victims and survivors – female, transgender, male.

A majority of voices say that what they have experienced is not a profession. It is survival. It is isolation. They testify to experiences that kept them from being able to fully care for their children or themselves. These voices share experiences of being raped and violated, often more times than they can remember or count. These voices say they would never choose for their daughters or sons to have sex to survive. These voices demand that their lives be free of abuse, disregard, and loss.

These voices are right before us, if only we choose to listen, engage, and hear their reality. When we refuse to hear the stories of those whose bodies are seen as a commodity for sex, we refuse to see people as human. From this place, we can easily rationalize all forms of gender-based violence, oppression and injustice. It is this modern-day slavery, the denial of humanity that continues to keep us all bound.

What will it take for us as a culture to see all people as worthy of respect and dignity, rather than as a means for our personal gain, pleasure or profit? Are we willing to see our own humanity reflected in another? Are we okay to justify and forgive the oppression of one for the benefit of the other? We ask you to respond with us as we lean into this collective reflection. When we wrestle with the truth mirrored in this reflection, we all indeed become free.

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RIA operates with a mission to stand with and support people with experience in the commercial sex trade, and its associated exploitation, trafficking and prostitution, by providing a range of community-based services. Offering clinical care and case management, peer advocacy and mentorship, workshops, training and groups, the Massachusetts based nonprofit is made up of a team of survivors and allies, standing as one in vision and mission to deliver skilled and compassionate care that elevates the people they serve. The organization had 5,185 care encounters and completed 47 new program intakes in 2020 alone and is committed to expanding programmatic outcome measurements and more in the years to come. To learn more about RIA, or their upcoming inaugural gala, go to ReadyInspireAct.org.

A Hybrid Return to Work May Be the Best Approach

Hybrid_Return_to_WorkAfter a year and a half hiatus, many offices were on track to open up in the coming months. While the current rise of the Delta variant of the COVID-19 virus has scuttled some of those return to the office plans, many companies are pushing ahead and getting ready to welcome their workforce, ready or not, and get things back to normal. However, the new normal for many may not include long commutes, dry cleaning bills, desk drive-bys, and meetings for meetings’ sake. Instead, it may include a newfound work-life balance, the flexibility that many have come to depend on and the decreased need for childcare, not to mention increased personal time, money and time savings, and an improved quality of life.

According to recent surveys by Deloitte and McKinsey, as many as 1 in 4 corporate women have said they are considering downshifting their careers or leaving the workforce altogether. Deloitte also found that nearly 3 in 5 women planned to leave their employers in two years or less, and they cited a lack of work-life balance as their top reason for wanting out.

That lack of balance is further supported in a new study by Perceptyx, an employee listening and people analytics platform, which found that compared to six months ago, 48% of women are less likely to want to return to their physical workplace full-time. The study also reported that women are not alone. In fact, roughly 24% of both women and men would prefer to adopt a hybrid working arrangement after COVID-19. Men, however, intend to spend 3-4 days per week in the physical workplace, whereas women intend to spend only 2-3 days per week. In addition, recent Gallup data shows that 10 million Americans are projected to be seriously considering the move to freelance to hold on to their newfound flexibility.

If the pandemic has taught us anything, it’s that work from home is not only possible, it’s preferable for many of us. Productivity stayed high, and in many instances improved. In fact, one study estimates the work-from-home boom will lift productivity in the U.S. economy by 5%, mostly because of savings in commuting time. That means, when it comes to returning to work, it doesn’t have to be all or nothing. A hybrid approach may be exactly what’s needed to appeal to those on the fence and serve as a way for employers to stop talent loss and improve their bottom lines. In a recent survey of 1,000 adults conducted in February by the workplace technology company Envoy, 48 percent of those surveyed said they wanted a hybrid schedule, of in-person and remote work, with 41 percent saying they were even willing to take a small pay cut to make that happen.

While the hybrid approach may serve to keep some women in the workplace or entice those that have left to return, it could also have an impact on women’s progress. Susan Lund, a partner at McKinsey and leader of the McKinsey Global Institute recently told NPR that, “for companies going down this hybrid approach, there are a lot of pitfalls to watch out for. And one is that you end up with a two-tier workforce, that the people – it’s always the same people in the room making the decisions and other people are on Zoom or video conference, and that those on video conference end up being passed over for promotion, not considered for different opportunities because they’re not there. So companies are being thoughtful. The ones who are pursuing some kind of hybrid approach are thinking through these issues. And how do we avoid that to keep a level playing field?”

SHRM reports that Prudential Financial, Citigroup, Google and many others have been paying attention to what their employees want, and are not only looking at the hybrid model, but also looking at other work-practice changes meant to support a healthier work-life balance. These changes, especially coupled with access to paid leave and childcare, can go a long way towards keeping women in the workplace full-time, rather than dropping to part-time or leaving the workforce entirely.

A successful hybrid model is, however, a balancing act, and will require a lot of attention and communication, especially in the initial stages. Tsedal Neeley, a professor of business administration at Harvard Business School and the author of Remove Work Revolution: Succeeding from Anywhere, is optimistic, and recently discussed the many issues that are coming up as the nature of work changes with Recode and said, “Guidelines and the policies will settle. Competencies around flexible workplaces will rise. Individual managers will level up to figure out how to lead a distributed workforce. People will be more agile with using digital tools, so things like tech exhaustion will go away. After people experience the hybrid format, they will settle into a rhythm that really works for them. And I think that we’ll see more remote than in-person days.”

Ultimately, we need to make work work for women and make a return doable. Those who plan to continue working from home, whether in a hybrid or full-time capacity, must be proactive and regularly connect with management, as well as sponsors and mentors. They also need to establish clear performance expectations and understand measures necessary in the new-normal to achieve advancement and promotions. Collectively taking action on every level is crucial to get and keep women employed and in the pipeline for advancement, and if a hybrid model is how we make that happen, we need to look for ways to define and embrace it. Study after study shows that having more women in the workforce is good for women’s equality and their company’s bottom line. It’s time for women and our male allies to come together like never before and find solutions that will redefine the workplace now, and after this crisis passes.

Greater Missouri Celebrating Women Leaders

On Wednesday, July 21, women leaders from across the state of Missouri came together to celebrate women at the Greater Missouri Leadership Challenge’s Women of the Year Awards. The in-person/virtual event is the highlight of the Greater Missouri Leadership Foundation’s annual calendar, and a way for those connected to the organization and the community at large to celebrate women leaders and honor outstanding Greater Missouri Women. The Greater Missouri Woman of the Year Award recognizes a prominent female in Missouri who exemplifies the definition of the Greater Missouri Woman who is, “recognized as accomplished in her field.” This extraordinary professional woman has reached a level of success, which is demonstrated by her leadership, civic contributions and ability to inspire and support others.

For 32 years, the Greater Missouri Leadership Foundation has trained and championed well over a thousand women, providing them with increased leadership, civic, and educational opportunities, becoming the premier leadership experience for exceptional women across the state, with a long and established track record of support.

This year’s honorees include Susan Block, lawyer and former circuit judge, who was named 2021 Community Leader of the Year; Dr. Kimberly Beatty, Chancellor, Metropolitan Community College, named 2021 Inspirational Leader of the Year; Anne Precythe, Director, Missouri Department of Corrections, named 2021 Civic Leader of the Year; and Suzanne Rothwell, Vice President of the Advancement Division, Columbia College, who was named 2021 Alumna Leader of the Year.

“Women’s Leadership is what is called for at this moment in America. As all of our honorees know, leadership is increasingly complicated and challenging. It requires both head and heart, compassion and creativity, skill and perseverance,” Executive Director Katie Steele Danner said during the event’s welcome. “Leaders are called upon to teach, consult, and coach those on the front-lines of the private and public sector – to strengthen their competencies and enhance their skills to adapt to a wide spectrum of scenarios. Including the challenges presented by a world-wide pandemic. Kudos to these women we honor today – in fact to all of you joining us today – for your perseverance in navigating these unprecedented times.”

Through their Leadership Challenge, the Foundation welcomes a limited number of outstanding women leaders into their program This select group of women leaders, chosen by the organization’s board of directors, reflect a balance of ethnic, cultural, geographic, career and philanthropic experiences and represent a diverse cross-section of women from Missouri and its contiguous states. The participants meet for four, three-day sessions combining continuing education in leadership development, information and major discussion of state policy issues, and exposure to the philosophies and thoughts of the state’s business, cultural, educational and political leaders. With the wealth of talented women in the state, Greater Missouri Leadership Challenge provides an enriching experience for both the participants and the state and provides new channels of communication to broaden the participation of women in addressing the critical issues facing Missouri.

The Greater Missouri Leadership Challenge’s theory of change is focused on four main assumptions:

  • The presence of women in leadership positions has a predictive effect on next-generation leadership among women.
  • Women with expansive social networks are more likely to experience career advancement.
  • Diversity in the workplace leads to increased creativity, problem solving, and profitability.
  • Mentoring in the workplace leads to a wide range of favorable career outcomes.

As Dr. Nancy stated during her welcome remarks, “These assumptions matter, and are the basis of the work that we do through Women Connect4Good. Today, we are all perfectly positioned to become leaders in the communities we call home, in the workplace, and in the world.”

By working together, we can help one another step into our power, increase our impact, and build an environment where every person is valued, respected, and equally compensated. As many noted during the celebratory event, we achieve more influence and create greater change when we act together.

To find out more about the Greater Missouri Leadership Foundation, or to apply for their 2022 Challenge Class, go to https://greatermo.org.

UN Women Convenes to Coordinate Support for Gender Equality

Gender EqualityThis year’s UN Women Generation Equality Forum in Paris marks the most significant international convening for gender equality since the 1995 Women’s Conference in Beijing. According to UN Women’s Executive Director Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka, the three-day Forum focused on tackling and funding all areas “where women have been ‘short-changed’ in terms of forced marriage, gender-based violence, leaving school, experiencing the devastating impacts of climate change, trying to crack glass ceilings, losing out on innovation and technology, and ensuring their sexual and reproductive rights and health.”

The primarily virtual event, co-hosted by Emmanuel Macron, President of France and Mexico’s President, Andrés Manuel López Obrador, saw commitments to implement major policy reforms and programs to advance gender equity on a global scale. A total of $40 billion+ in new investments to benefit women and girls, with government commitments expected to total $17 billion, as well as a $2.1 billion commitment from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation to advance women’s leadership, reproductive health, and economic empowerment, and a $420 million investment from the Ford Foundation to tackle threats to women’s rights caused by COVID-19. The World Bank also committed to a major investment for programs in 12 African States to tackle gender inequalities. Mlambo-Ngcuka said in an interview with the Associated Press that these major contributions will transform UN Women “into a true coordinator of the women’s agenda in the world.”

The $2.1b pledge from the Gates Foundation includes $650m for economic empowerment initiatives, $1.4b for family planning and health and $100m to accelerate women’s inclusion in leadership roles, the organization said. The Gates Foundation said its commitment is meant “to advance women’s economic empowerment, strengthen women and girls’ health and family planning, and accelerate women’s leadership.”

“The world has been fighting for gender equality for decades, but progress has been slow. Now is the chance to reignite a movement and deliver real change,” Melinda French Gates, co-chair of the Gates Foundation, said in the statement. “The beauty of our fight for gender equality is that every human being will gain from it. We must seize this moment to build a better, more equal future.”

Mlambo-Ngcuka pointed out how the investments are especially needed now because of COVID-19’s disproportionate impact on women. She also explained that UN Women will maintain a critical role driving the Forum’s 5-year action journey, overseeing the implementation of commitments to ensure accountability and progress over the next five years.

“The Generation Equality Forum marks a positive, historic shift in power and perspective. Together we have mobilized across different sectors of society, from south to north, to become a formidable force, ready to open a new chapter in gender equality,” Mlambo-Ngcuka added. “The Forum’s ecosystem of partners – and the investments, commitments and energy they are bringing to confront the greatest barriers to gender equality – will ensure faster progress for the world’s women and girls than we have seen before.”

Opening a new chapter in gender equality indeed matters, and it doesn’t take billion-dollar pledges to take part and assist these world leaders in their quest. As Mlambo-Ngcuka noted, “Those with a world view of radical impatience are converging to create big, well-resourced changes.”

This is a time of radical impatience, as inequalities have persisted far too long. We have the opportunity to come together to support the changes earmarked by the global participants of the Equality Forum by creating shifts in our own homes, communities, and workplaces. We simply need to support one another and lift women up.  We all win when women help women, and now is the time to recognize women’s history of creating successful movements for change, support one another through what lies ahead, and do our part to make 2021 the year that women and men from around the world come together to accelerate the advancement of gender equality.

 

 

 

When Our Stories Are Banned

Banned_BooksBooks are a form of political action. Books are knowledge. Books are reflection. Books change your mind. – Toni Morrison

Books tell our stories. And when our stories are banned, our truths are hidden from one another and our ability to understand each other’s life experiences and perspectives is blocked. It is a violation of the foundation of a free society, our first amendment, freedom of speech. Yet every year, new books are banned and challenged in schools and libraries around the world. In fact, the American Library Association’s Office of Intellectual Freedom tracked 156 challenges to books, materials, and services in 2020 alone. While some of banned titles have been on various lists for years, like To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee, Toni Morrison’s Beloved or Maya Angelou’s I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings, many others are routinely challenged. The majority of censured or banned books are generally children’s books and fiction books. However, no list of banned or challenged books would be complete without a smattering of nonfiction titles, usually contested due to themes of political ideology, racial inequalities, and high school appropriateness.

The American Library Association’s “Freedom to Read Statement” points out that a number of private groups and public authorities throughout the country continuously attack our freedom to read by working to remove or limit access to reading materials. The actions are not singular, but by censoring content in schools, labeling controversial views, distributing lists of books they deem objectionable, and purging libraries, they give rise to a view that, “our national tradition of free expression is no longer valid; that censorship and suppression are needed to counter threats to safety or national security, as well as to avoid the subversion of politics and the corruption of morals.”

Just as our political and community landscapes have changed, the reasons for challenging titles has shifted too. In the early 90’s it was often titles with “objectionable” language and sexual content that topped the lists. However, James LaRue, director of the ALA’s Office for Intellectual Freedom was quoted in TIME Magazine as saying that there’s been a shift toward seeking to ban books “focused on issues of diversity—things that are by or about people of color, or LGBT, or disabilities, or religious and cultural minorities.”

A phenomenal book was recently brought to our attention, and recent actions have shown that some believe it falls in the “controversial” category, Vanguard – How Black Women Broke Barriers, Won the Vote, and Insisted on Equality for All. The author Martha S. Jones, a historian at Johns Hopkins University, wrote in The Washington Post that the Lafayette Parish library board rejected a previously offered grant and refused to host a discussion on voting rights that included her book. Jones wrote, “What precisely troubled the board?  Vanguard foregrounds the Black women who, for 200-plus years, struggled to expand access to political rights for all. It argues that they are among the architects of American democracy.”

First of all, Vanguard isn’t stirring up controversy, it is a thoroughly researched and critically acclaimed retelling of the history of suffrage in America, and truly a must-read. It is a look at the vibrant history and struggle of the women who have come before us and paved the way for all women to move forward. Winner of the 2020 L.A. Times Book Prize for History, Vanguard is an “examination of the racism and sexism Black women endured in their pursuit of political participation and power. It also closely examines how Black women used that power to secure equality and representation for others, arguing that Black women have been wrongfully overlooked as forebears of democratic ideals in America.”

Jones offers readers a slice of history we may not (yet) be familiar with and introduces us to a number of formidable women. She shares their stories, their struggles and their wins, and helps reshape our perceptions in the process. Ibram X. Kendi says that “all Americans would be better off learning this history” and I couldn’t agree more. We don’t need to limit access to her book or discussions of topics some may find uncomfortable or “objectionable.” We need to make sure all of our stories – and the stories of those who came before us – are told.

The books that take us out of our own experience, those that educate, engage, and inspire us are often targeted and will probably continue to be banned in pockets of our country. Thankfully, in a majority of the cases, those books are still available thanks to librarians, teachers, students, community members, and the women and men that still demand access to the stories that shape us as a people, a nation, and a world. But we must all continue to speak up and demand it because as Jones says in her article, “People forget that history is not merely a recounting of past events but also a battle over who writes it, from which perspective and what those stories teach about who we are as a nation.”

Why We Must Help Women Get Back to Work

Back_to_WorkIt should be obvious why we must help women get back to work. The past 16 months have illuminated women’s fragile hold on the delicate balance of income-producing work and unpaid work at home. COVID-19’s devastating effect on the world has especially impacted women. In the US, women lost more than 5 million jobs between the start of the pandemic and November 2020. V, formerly Eve Ensler, writes in The Guardian, “Because much of women’s work requires physical contact with the public – restaurants, stores, childcare, healthcare settings – theirs were some of the first to go.”

The pandemic has intensified women’s existing challenges exposing the systemic inequalities that threaten not only women in the workplace, but our continued ability to thrive. V also writes that “Covid has revealed the fact that we live with two incompatible ideas when it comes to women. The first is that women are essential to every aspect of life and our survival as a species. The second is that women can easily be violated, sacrificed and erased.”

Many governmental and private organizations are scrambling for optimal ways to respond to the pandemic’s damaging effects on women. As the pandemic restrictions ease up and people begin to return to work, many women remain on the sidelines. In fact, there are 1.8 million fewer women in the labor force today than before COVID, and with widespread labor shortages, labor economists are worried.

Stephanie Aaronson, a senior fellow with the Brookings Institution recently told NPR that the reason for so many women remaining unemployed is due to a complex mix of factors. “Some of those could start to subside as the economy recovers, and jobs come back, and schools reopen, and the health situation improves.”

“But a return to pre-pandemic levels could take a long time, in part because women tend to stick with the decisions they’ve made.” Aaronson says. “A mother who decided to stay home with her children in the pandemic may end up out of the workforce for years.”

That’s not good for the economy or the future advancement of women. According to the National Women’s Law Center, it will take 28 straight months of job gains to get women back to where they were in the labor force before the pandemic started. The US Chamber of Commerce recently reported that “there were a record 8.1 million job openings in the U.S. in March 2021 and about half as many available workers for every open job across the country as there have been over the past 20 years.” The Chamber calls the crisis “the most critical and widespread challenge facing businesses.” And its President and CEO, Suzanne Clark said that “keeping our economy going requires we fill these jobs.”

Minneapolis Federal Reserve President Neel Kashkari recently told CNN getting people – especially women – back into the labor force is key to keep the recovery going. “We have to find a way to bring [women] back to work. This is about our economic potential. It is certainly about fairness about women and families. But it is also about our economic potential as a nation.”

The question now is, how can we best support women and help them get back to work? While access to affordable childcare, paid parental leave, and flexibility may be the obvious answers, there is more we can do within the workplace to change the corporate culture and make a return more manageable and appealing to women. Jewelle Bickford, Sandra Beach Lin and Ellen Kullman, founders of the Paradigm for Parity Coalition, recently wrote in Entrepreneur that many of the problems we’re facing now are tied to trends that existed long before COVID-19, from disproportionate home care responsibilities to greater representation in low-wage employment, to long-standing gender inequalities in corporate leadership.

To reverse those trends and make a return doable for women, Bickford, Beach Lin and Kullman recommend we should engage in unconscious bias training to understand, own and address both conscious and unconscious biases that prevent women from succeeding. They also recommend that we increase the number of women in senior roles – which makes perfect sense because when women advance, they tend to take other women with them. The writers also recommend identifying women of potential and providing them with sponsors, mentors, and the tools they need to advance and succeed.

Ultimately, we need to collectively take action on every level to get and keep women employed and in the pipeline for advancement. And we need to think big-picture and develop plans to regain the progress we have lost during this crisis. By fixing the conspicuous inequities in the system that have always held women back, we can emerge from this crisis stronger than ever and finally get women back to work in leadership positions that don’t get erased during the next disaster.  Equity for women creates prosperity and stable system that is able to weather future crises in ways that protect us all—men and women—together.

 

Why Men and Women Must Work Together for Gender Parity

Gender_ParityPrior to the pandemic, women made up more than half of the workforce and were on track to reach gender parity.  However, today women are leaving the U.S. workforce in record numbers – with more than 5.5 million women leaving since the pandemic began. In fact, female unemployment hit double digits this past year for the first time since 1948, and women’s participation in the labor force is the lowest it’s been since 1988. That rolls back progress and threatens to undo over 30 years of advancement toward gender parity.

The Women’s Fund of Rhode Island (WFRI) points out that women have received the brunt of the economic crisis caused by the COVID-19 pandemic and resulted in a “shecession,” which has led to impacts on food and housing security, historic job losses, and childcare shortages. Women carry the majority of the pandemic’s economic burden by far and have lost ground on closing the gender wage and wealth gaps. The Global Gender Gap Report 2020 states that parity will not occur for nearly 100 years.

What’s important to note is that we will not suffer the fallout from this “shecession” alone, and we will not regain our momentum alone either. It’s time to call on our male allies to work with us for gender parity.

Men are a valuable and necessary resource for helping women re-enter the workforce and providing opportunities for advancing to leadership. While a number of men become – or consider themselves to be – allies because they noticed gender inequity in their own environment and saw standing with women as the “right thing to do,” many others may be willing to help or change for the better, but are unsure of where to start.

To help men engage, WFRI is launching a 100 Men for Gender Equity campaign on Wednesday, June 9, and through a virtual launch event will provide thought-provoking discussions and suggested actions for men to take to effectively stand with women. Featuring Ted Bunch, co-founder of A Call to Men, the event will engage 100 (or more) men, to raise $100 each to work towards gender equity.

100_menWFRI also assembled a toolkit for women to share with the men in their lives, engaging them to be mindful and look for ways to share responsibilities daily at home and at work, how to lead by example, how to support legislative change, and more.

Beyond events and awareness campaigns, it’s important to remember that while women are often reluctant to ask men to become allies, it’s important to do so because men can help us create significant gains. It’s easy. As noted in Dr. Nancy’s latest book, In This Together, “Catalyst reported that men’s support for gender equality can be engaged by appealing to their sense of fairness. In addition, shifting away from a win-or-lose mentality to recognizing that everyone benefits from gender equality can lead men to become greater advocates who endorse our efforts to change unfair practices.” Especially right now.

It’s critical for women and our male allies to come together like never before and find solutions that will work now and after this crisis passes. We are in this together, which means when some of us suffer, all of us suffer, and likewise when more of us benefit, we all benefit. Helping male allies see how everyone benefits (even men) from gender parity and giving them specific actions, they can take will turn the tide on the shecession and push women back into the advancement toward parity. Men’s real, daily commitment to recreating the workplace in a way that welcomes and supports a more balanced, diverse management and workforce will liberate our concerns about gender parity and focus all of our energies to creating a sustainable and successful world.

 

The First Ever World Women’s Wellness Day Conference

Diversity Woman Media created World Women’s Wellness Day, the official health and wellness day for women on April 30, to remind women to make themselves a priority and to make sure they understand that self-care is about self-preservation. It was sanctioned by the National Day Archives, LLC., and is set to be celebrated the last Friday in April from now on. To celebrate the first ever World Women’s Wellness Day, Diversity Woman Media hosted a free “Self-Care, Health and Wellness” virtual conference for women all over the world on April 29 and 30. They also devoted the current issue of “Diversity Woman Magazine” to “Self-Care and Wellness.”

Throughout the conference, leaders, specialists and experts shared their insights with women from all backgrounds relating to how they could re-evaluate and re-shape their lives. On day one, Dr. Sheila Robinson, founder and CEO of Diversity Woman Media, welcomed the audience and set the tone by inviting attendees to focus inward on their mental, physical and emotional well-being. Then she conducted a fireside conversation with Dr. Julie Silver, whose specialty is patient care discrepancy research and teaching the next generation. She outlined the idea of women working four different shifts: work, home, volunteer work and helping with the pandemic (whether delivering food to neighbors, helping with vaccines or helping patients get access to care). Then she proceeded to share her burnout research, which found that when women are passionate about what they do, they are not as likely to burn out. Among the many points Dr. Silver made was a personal tip to engage in “prehabilitation,” and arm yourself with a high-protein diet, regular sleep and other healthy habits when you expect a stressor to come up. “Prehabilitation” may help you not get as sick with COVID or some other illness, because you prepare your body to cope in advance. She compared it to people who run marathons and pointed out how they wouldn’t dream of running 26 miles without preparing beforehand. Her final thought was to remind women that the world is not built for us; it was built for men. She used the lines at bathrooms as an example. She said it’s an engineering problem, and we have to deal with it as the awesome women we are.

Kara Golden, founder of Hint, Inc. (Hint Water) told the story of her personal journey and how trying to lose weight after having children led her to the realization that there was no healthy flavored water.  Listed as one of six disruptors in business, alongside Steve Jobs and Mark Zuckerberg by Huffington Post, Kara is now a best-selling author, who calls herself an “accidental entrepreneur.”  She advises others to do what she did. If you have an idea that would help people, “just go out and try.” Hint Water is not an overnight success. It’s a 16-year-old company. Her book, Undaunted: Overcoming Doubts and Doubters, gives you power to get out there and try, shows how to take the first steps and how not to allow walls to stop you. Kara says to always go back to the people you are helping, then push on.

The conference’s Integrated Health Panel discussed “Thriving verses Surviving: The Impact of the Current Climate on Your Mental, Emotional and Physical Health.” Jasmine Banks, blogger and mental health professional, said that women feel collective trauma and get in the habit of reacting to chaos. She advised attendees to do anything they can to interrupt it, for example, call a trusted friend, who can slow you down and give your perspective. Alethia Jackson, VP Federal Government Relations at Walgreens, advised us never to take our health for granted. Health is communal. The past year has taught us private health is public health. She also identified surviving as getting through the day, whereas thriving is intentionally finding purpose. The fourth panelist, Dr. Hermalee Patel, Internal Medicine Physician at Stanford Hospital & Clinics, described what triggers stress and typical symptoms, like stages of grief and hypersensitivity.  She advised to manage it by having a routine that’s just for yourself, even if it’s only five minutes. The panel continued to address techniques to deal with these special times and thrive instead of merely survive under the guidance of Dr. Janet Taylor, Community Psychiatrist at Centerstone.

More panels and breakout sessions covered “Self-Care and Well-Being for BIPOC Fatigue and Trauma,” a live cooking session and Restorative Yoga, Meditation, Cardio Pilates, then the power of sleep, and resilience and intuitive eating throughout the day. The afternoon keynote was, “Living Beyond: Your What If: Release Your Limits and Live Your Dreams” with Dr. Shirley Davis, CSP having a conversation with Dr. Sheila Robinson. A lot of the “what ifs” consisted of fears, especially fear of failure, which Dr. Davis said only has the power that we give it. Instead, she encouraged us to ask why; who am I; why am I her, and what is my purpose. One insightful quote from Dr. Davis was, “Many people die at age 30 but don’t get buried until age 80.” To avoid that, she advised us to “jump and unfurl your wings on the way down,” and urged us to engage, courage, confidence and calculation. She said that your purpose is already there. You just have to figure out what you do well and who are you drawn to. A raffle of gifts from the sponsors and speakers ended the day.

On April 30, World Women’s Wellness Day, Melissa Wojcik led a wellness session with live yoga, followed by Dr. Michelle Robin’s keynote, “Small Shifts for Big Impact.”  Dr. Robin is a chiropractor and holistic healer, teacher, and founder of Your Wellness Connection.  Many of her “small shifts” were aimed at perspective. For example she said, “The gap between where you are and self-love is self-care.” And that self-care is not selfish, but self-full. Simple shifts like staying hydrated, getting sunlight, creating whitespace during your day filled her keynote. Perhaps her most insightful key point was, “Fill yourself up with the life you want to have so you can give from your overflow.”

Guiselle Nuñez, author of Take Charge of Your Brand, followed Melissa to share her expertise of developing your personal brand of confidence. Her first point was that if you aren’t branding yourself, others are branding doing it for you. She urged us to figure out our personal brand from who you are, what you do and what makes you special. Then to write one-three sentences describing it in a way that communicates your value to your audience, including who you serve and why you do it. She added five lessons: to clean out your mental toxins by practicing gratitude and being the watcher of your thoughts, design your spiritual gym through self-care and finding stillness, to find your brand, get a makeover and reframe yourself as a person, and to be purposeful and proactive about managing your brand every day.

Jacky Welch, President of Tiro Life Coaching ended the formal speaker session with “Key Strategies to Rebuild, Repair and Refill Your Relationship.” She suggested that we set a power word for 2021. Her power word is “intentional.” She quoted Norman Vincent Peal’s profound phrase, “When you change your thoughts, you change your world.” Then she examined aspects of what that meant, pointing out the three C’s of life: choice, chance and change. It is a choice to take a chance to make changes in your life. Jacky examined the different kinds of relationships and what they mean to us, but the most important relationship, of course, is with yourself. She pointed out that you need to give the world the best of you instead of what is left of you. Therefore, self-care and self-love should be your top priority.

This amazing first ever World Women’s Wellness Day continued with coaching sessions throughout the afternoon and a tour of the virtual booth displays of the sponsors. To find out more, visit The Diversity Woman website (https://www.diversitywoman.com/) and check out the future conference offerings in August and again in November. Diversity Woman Media has been recognized for its longtime commitment to advancing diversity and inclusion through education, solution-based editorial, and events that bring together like-minded D&I leaders and champions. Their most recent offerings of resources in health and wellness expand their appeal to fill the need of these special times when women need it most. Women Connect4Good, Inc. is proud to support their effort to lift women up.

Take The Lead Powers Up for Diversity, Equity and Inclusion

Take The Lead’s annual Power Up Conference tackled Diversity, Equity and Inclusion (DEI) virtually this year. Pointing out the fact that we had a double pandemic in 2020-2021, Gloria Feldt, co-founder and President of Take The Lead, reminded us that four million women left their jobs last year, causing a second crisis. She set the tone for the virtual conference by asserting that Take The Lead is about action, not talk, and the focus of the conference was to be what we could all do to change leadership into a culture of inclusion. Emphasizing the intersection of race and gender bias, discrimination and inequity, each speaker addressed different aspects of the inequality pandemic from company actions to personal feelings that can overcome the impact of this pandemic and create momentum toward Take The Lead’s mission to prepare, develop, inspire and propel leadership parity by 2025.

Gloria interviewed the first speaker, John Yang, President and Executive Director for Asian Americans Advancing Justice (AAAJ), who identified himself as “an accidental civil rights lawyer” because he is an immigrant and “was undocumented for a time.” Gloria’s interview with John highlighted the work of AAAJ, which has five offices in different cities. In Washington, D.C., where John Yang works, they litigate policy that might harm Asian Americans – like fighting against the requirement for checking citizenship status on the most recent census form, which didn’t get enacted. John said what we need most of all to stop violence and prejudice against Asian Americans is to change the narrative and make sure that the Asian story gets told correctly. He listed two stereotypes that Americans possess that hurt Asian Americans: 1. They are treated as foreigners and 2. They are thought to be a model minority. He explained that while most of them are doing well overall, many are suffering and they get lost in the stereotypes. Asian American women suffer from the “bamboo ceiling” that keeps them from advancing. In general, they are less likely to fight back, because if they do, they are viewed as the “Dragon Lady,” but if they don’t, they are viewed as the meek Asian woman stereotype. John said employers must recognize people’s strengths regardless of their race or background and view diversity as a “tossed salad” instead of a melting pot that blends the differences and creates one standard. Companies do better with diverse leadership and need to recognize and engage the differences that make us work better together.

Pardis Mahdavi, Dean of Social Sciences, Professor and Director of the School of Social Transformation at Arizona State University, urged everyone to become a JEDI and explained how “Justice, Equity, Diversity and Inclusion Makes Diversity Work.” JEDI thinking moves beyond traditional diversity and inclusion work by putting justice out front and making everyone in an organization responsible for becoming a JEDI, not just Human Resources or the DEI officer. Her JEDI project is an action framework that provides structure for enacting JEDI and creating an ecosystem where change can succeed and take root. Pardis outlined ways to create that ecosystem by requiring diversity statements from everyone as part of their job descriptions, job applications, and for promotions, and getting everyone in the company on the same anti-racist page through reading and discussion groups, etc. She also included checklists to keep companies accountable throughout the JEDI process with three and five year checkups to make sure they stay on track and apply it to the metrics of the companies’ success. As with the “Star Wars” Jedis, JEDI engages a force and inspires a movement with specific actions to make change to benefit everyone, change the company culture at its root and “create a society where we all thrive.”

Our own Dr. Nancy O’Reilly discussed “Racial Healing” with Felica Davis, CEO of Joyful Transformations. Felicia explained that bias and discrimination is communicated in several ways including “vibes, images, meaning, behavior, aspect, and sensory.” Years of receiving these negative messages create race-based trauma and it has a cumulative effect that gets trapped in the body and causes illnesses like diabetes, heart disease and cancer. Dr. Nancy described her own experience as a victim of gender discrimination when she pursued her college degrees and was accused of stepping out of the accepted mother-wife role with comments like, “Who do you think you are?” The experience propelled her to get her degrees and eventually found her organization, Women Connect4Good, Inc., with the specific mission of supporting other women. Both she and Felicia emphasized the need to treat your own bias-induced trauma with self-care. Felicia faced so much trauma in 2020 with the loss of her father and almost losing her husband that she took a sabbatical to heal herself. As a psychologist, Dr. Nancy advised turning off the negative messages, like TV and social media, and focusing on what is really important in your life, then practicing meditation as a neurologic component of healing. Felicia said that racial healing is for all of us. White people feel shame and denial and Black people suffer from a system that traumatizes them from birth. The key to igniting positive change is awareness and education on the effects of biases and discrimination, how these attitudes and behaviors cause trauma, and how we can combat it to heal ourselves and others. Dr. Nancy referenced the title of her recent book, In This Together, which says it all. We are ALL in this together. Focusing on our relationships with one another and respecting our unique gifts will help us heal racial trauma and create a culture of inclusion.

So “What’s Next?” A panel  that addressed the issue for “how to build DEI intentionally into work” followed, and five diversity and inclusion experts added their perspectives about the need for listening, not being deaf and blind to any one voice, and bringing everyone to the table, especially the under-represented. And most of all, Marc McKenna-Coles of Spotify said, “We need inclusion and belonging first before we can get diversity.”

Other presentations outlined specifics required to “Power Up” and ignite the intentional leader for DEI. Stefanie Francis and Jose Delgado from Hootology gave statistics to support “The Business Case for Supplier Diversity.” While most people value companies supporting diversity, few know anything about supplier diversity. However, there are a few companies that have incorporated supplier diversity and have used it to cultivate marketing in brand favorability and lift perceived value. Brielle Elise Valle, who consults for middle management, focused on the women’s plight during COVID-19, citing that loss of women in the workforce put us back at 1988 levels of employment. Her solution for reaching equality requires women to stop defaulting to responsibility. Husbands and partners are not helping enough with child-care and household work. The “stark divide between men and women” has conditioned women to believe that these tasks are their responsibility as women. Brielle invited us to read her book, Default to Responsibility, for details on how to undo this conditioning and move ourselves to equity.

Take The Lead produces the Power Up conference annually. Each year people who attend agree that these conferences excel in inspiring and informing on time-sensitive issues that can transform the way we do business, access our power to make change and define which changes will create the most momentum for equity in the workplace. Watch for the Power Up conference in 2022 and check out more offerings from Take The Lead at their website, TakeTheLeadWomen.com.

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