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deem objectionable, and purging libraries, they give rise to a view that, “our national tradition of free expression is no longer valid; that censorship and suppression are needed to counter threats to safety or national security, as well as to avoid the subversion of politics and the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 ( 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,

StrongHER Together: The Girls Inc. Experience

At Girls Inc., they inspire all girls to be strong, smart and bold.

That mission drives their staff, volunteers and coaches to help unlock the potential of everyone who walks through their doors. They like to think of it as providing the “Girls Inc. Experience,” one that encourages all girls to feel safe so they can express themselves to caring people while engaging in programs that teach them how to navigate gender, economic, and social barriers, and grow up healthyeducated, and independent.

But what does it mean to turn inspiration into action? It’s one thing to “talk the talk” and say they inspire all girls, but how do they “walk the walk” and deliver on that promise? To answer that, the Girls Inc. Experience can be summed up with three P’s: the places, the programs and the people.

The Places

Anyone who walks into the Teen Center, the Goleta Valley Center campus in Santa Barbara or at one of the more than 1,500 sites in 350 cities across the United States and Canada feels welcomed, at ease, and safe. That is not an accident; their places were intentionally designed to support girls in community with one another to enhance sharing activities and learning. As a result, girls feel safe and inspired to contribute their talents and ideas with staff and their peers. The Girls Inc. Experience begins in a safe environment that cultivates creativity without judgment.

The Programs

Girls Inc. programs are specifically designed to meet the needs of girls today. They are fun, interesting, and they inspire wonder. More than just another academic-type class outside of schools, the Girls Inc. programs – games, cooking sessions, art projects, STEMinist – expose girls to new experiences and ideas and allow them to open their minds and hearts to learn about the world around them.

The People

The reason why the Girls Inc. places are so welcoming, and the programs are so engaging is because of the people. Supportive mentors, who look like the girls they serve, empower all girls in their programs to be strong, smart and bold. They are often leaders in their own communities and families, providing role models for how girls can become responsible adult women leaders. Check out the video from Santa Barbara to get to know the girls, staff and leadership and sample the Girls, Inc. experience.

The people create a unique pro-girl environment where girls learn to value their whole selves, discover and develop their inherent strengths, and receive the support they need to navigate the challenges they face. In all, the Girls Inc. Experience develops strong, smart and bold girls through engaging programs lead by trained professionals that focus on one girl at a time. Girls Inc. is proud to cultivate the girls of today into the leaders of tomorrow knowing that each girl has the capacity to change the world.

Join Girls Inc. for their FREE virtual event, StrongHER Together: Finding Strength Through Sport. The event open to everyone – and in addition to keynote speakers Melissa McConville and Dr. Sara Tanza, co-founders of the annual She.Is.Beautiful 5K and 10K in Santa Barbara – organizers will share the stories of their strong, smart and bold Girls Inc. stars who will become tomorrow’s advocates, scientists, and leaders. The event will inspire attendees to be smart, strong, and bold in all areas of our lives too!

The Pay Gap Persists

Pay Gap Persists

The pandemic has been devastating for women’s progress, and we will feel the effects of job loss and COVID-related career pauses and exits for years to come. Now as we mark the close of Women’s History Month and the recent Equal Pay Day, it’s important to note that the pay gap persists. March 24 was Equal Pay Day, but only for some women. White women in the U.S. that work full-time, year-round are paid 82 cents for every dollar paid to men. But Black women will have to work until Aug. 3 to earn what men made in 2020, and Latina women will have to work until Oct. 21.

Francesca Donner and Emma Goldberg recently reported in The New York Times that in 25 years, the pay gap has shrunk by eight cents. Eight cents. As in a nickel and three pennies. They also report if current trends continue, “the gender wage gap is expected to close in a mere 38 years. For Black and Hispanic women, the deadline is a whole century away.”

That may be optimistic as the gap could even get wider. Lisa Rabasca Roepe writes in Ms. Magazine that economists predict COVID will widen the gender wage gap by five percentage points—setting women’s wages back 10 years – so that the average female worker will earn 76 cents for every dollar the average male worker makes. The article quotes Rachel Thomas, co-founder and CEO of LeanIn.Org, as not being surprised and as saying, “There is no way we went through 2020, where we saw disproportionate job losses for women, particular Black and Latina women, without the wage gap getting larger.”

What Can We Do?

Closing the wage gap demands an investment of time and resources. The good news is, the pay gap is a topic of discussion and people are paying attention.

Pass the Paycheck Fairness Act. In “A Proclamation on National Equal Pay Day, 2021” President Biden says that doing so will mean an important step towards the goal of ending pay discrimination. “It will ban employers from seeking salary history — removing a common false justification for under-paying women and people of color — and it will hold employers accountable who engage in systemic discrimination.  The bill will also work to ensure transparency and reporting of disparities in wages, because the problem will never be fixed if workers are kept in the dark about the fact that they are not being paid fairly.  Relying on individuals to uncover unfair pay practices on their own will not get the job done; when pay data is available, workers can better advocate for fair pay and employers can fix inequities.”

Provide Paid Family and Medical Leave. President Biden also states that we need to, “make schedules more predictable and childcare more affordable, and build pipelines for training that enable women to access higher-paying jobs.  This commitment also means increasing pay for childcare workers, preschool teachers, home health aides, and others in the care economy.” Much of this needs to be part of our post-COVID rebuilding efforts as much of the care economy has been disrupted during the pandemic.

Raise the Minimum Wage. Women make up two-thirds of the nearly 20 million workers in the low-wage jobs such as childcare, home care and grocery store cashier, all what the pandemic has defined as essential workers. Most of these positions still earn minimum wage, which Congress has only increased three times in the past forty years. In states that have increased the minimum wage, the gender pay gap has begun to close. For instance, in California where the minimum wage is $14 an hour, women now earn 88 cents for every dollar a man earns. Roepe also reported that a Congressional Budget Office estimate finds that that gradually raising the minimum wage to $15 would lift 1.3 million Americans out of poverty, including 600,000 children.

The challenge is to continue the conversation until these steps can become policy and the law of the land. As we begin to rebuild from the devastation of COVID, equal pay for all women of every ethnicity needs to be a top priority. Equal Pay Day is a reminder that we have work to do. We need to take steps to make change for everyone, point out the injustices, and do what we can personally and politically to make sure that women all races get the equal pay they deserve.











Learning the Stories of the Women Who Paved the Way

women_in_historyMarch is Women’s History Month and is the perfect time for learning the stories of the women who paved the way. The powerful leaders and the pioneers, the passionate advocates, the homemakers, the trailblazers, and the dedicated forces for change – all of these women made a difference essential to our freedoms and rights today and to our path forward.

However, women have consistently been overlooked in historical narratives and popular history. Both words and actions that have shaped our understanding of history have long been male dominated. Education lacks exposure to women’s history. Anna White reported in Smithsonian Magazine, that despite the strides women have made in countless arenas, “the canon of American history, at least as it is taught in public schools, still has much room for reexamination and advancement.”

White wrote that according to Smithsonian’s calculations, “737 specific historical figures—559 men and 178 women, or approximately 1 woman for every 3 men—are mentioned in the standards in place as of 2017. Aside from the individuals explicitly named, many references to women feel like an afterthought, grouped in with other minorities….”

Where Are the Women?

In 2017, the National Women’s History Museum analyzed the K-12 educational standards in social studies and published their findings in Where Are the Women? Examining the status of women’s history in the standard required for state level social studies, the report found that, “women’s experiences and stories are not well integrated into US state history standards. The lack of representation and context in state-level materials presupposes that women’s history is even less represented at the classroom level. This implies that women’s history is not important.”

Where Women’s Stories Are Told

Women’s history is important, and March is the perfect time to tap into resources, share the stories of trailblazing women, and examine historical topics from a woman’s perspective. In honor of Women’s History Month, the National Women’s History Museum created their 2021 Women’s History Month Resource Toolkit, which is filled with links to biographies, events, and programming to celebrate this important month.

The Museum’s offerings aren’t limited to Women’s History Month though. As the largest online cultural institution dedicated to US women’s history, it operates with the mission to tell the stories of women who have transformed our nation. With public programs and events, educational resources, virtual exhibits, a study collection, library, and more, the Museum is sharing the powerful history of women in America.

As the Museum states, “Women’s contributions and accomplishments have largely been overlooked and consequently omitted from mainstream culture.” They are working to fill that void, as are many educators, writers, historians and others who also believe inclusive history is good history in Women’s History Month and beyond.


9 Leadership Power Tools to Advance Your Career

Take_The_LeadImagine your ideal leadership role where you – and the you who you’ve always known you were meant to be – can fully thrive – using a combination of only nine tools. Well, imagine no more…Take The Lead’s 9 Leadership Power Tools to Advance Your Career [online course] is back!

Take The Lead prepares, develops, inspires and propels all women of all diversities and intersectionalities to take their fair and equal share of leadership positions across all sectors by 2025. The 9 Leadership Power Tools course teaches participants nine very specific, female-oriented tactics that allows you to find and channel your inner strength and power.

Gloria Feldt, author of No Excuses: 9 Ways Women Can Change How We Think About Power and cofounder and president of Take The Lead, says that the 9 Leadership Power Tools course is not your typical leadership program, but is “more introspective because I believe the best leaders know themselves well. They know their value in the workplace and their personal values. So they can embrace their power with authenticity, confidence, and joy. They also get the skills to thrive in the workplace culture as it is while changing it to be more inclusive and equitable.”

Participants can expect to gain proven, real-world, and actionable tools – and the accompanying mindset – to accomplish your goals and thrive in any profession, at any career level. You will also learn to break out of negative patterns in order to elevate your intentions. Then, hone the practical skills needed to be a highly successful leader, aligning your career and values, and leave behind the Imposter Syndrome and take the lead, boosting your confidence, authenticity, intentionality and joy.

“You will reframe power and embrace power you never realized you have,” Gloria says. “That in turn will release your energy to choose power over fear and identify exactly how you want to use it so you can lead and live without limits.”

The course includes 13 modules covering all 9 Leadership Power Tools and skill-building exercises, a Strategic Leadership Action plan that can be immediately implemented, access to the #SisterCourage Community, a private community of other ambitious and like-minded women, and a Leadership Certificate proving you have the skills, intention and courage to lead change.

If you enroll today you also get several bonuses including 10 follow up “Power Sheets” emailed to you monthly to support your inspiration and motivation to achieve your goals, the opportunity to go deeper into the power tools with the 9 Ways Power Journal based on the bestselling book by Gloria, No Excuses: 9 Ways Women Can Change How We Think, full access to the Kajabi community where Gloria Feldt herself will answer your questions weekly, bonus downloads and videos to enrich your learning, and the opportunity for discounts on additional coaching.

Click HERE to learn more or to reserve your spot today.

Loss of Women’s Jobs Halting Progress Toward Equality

Loss of Women’s Jobs Halting Progress In case you didn’t notice, women’s jobs are quickly disappearing amid the confusion of the pandemic. If we don’t act soon, we will lose over 30 years of job growth, which will have lasting impact on our progress toward equality.

Here are the startling facts. Nearly three million American women have left the labor force in the past year. In January alone 275,000 women dropped out of the workforce, meaning they are no longer working or looking for work. That’s following an equally dismal December – which originally reported 140,000 jobs lost by women but was recently updated by the Bureau of Labor Statistics to reflect 196,000, with women accounting for 86.3% of the total 227,000 jobs lost. Whether voluntary or involuntary, these numbers are staggering, and put women’s labor force participation rate at the lowest it’s been since 1988.

President Biden says this exodus – coupled with closing of schools, and the mental health issues for children that could arise – constitute a “national emergency.” The impact of the pandemic is far-reaching and that means we need all hands on deck. We have to get women back to work, and give them, and their children, the supports they need.

Lean In and McKinsey & Company’s latest “Women in the Workplace” report found that last fall, “One in four women said they were considering downshifting their careers or leaving the workforce due to the pandemic’s impact, with mothers three times as likely as fathers to be responsible for the majority of housework and childcare during Covid-19.”

This full-time childcare burden is falling in many women’s laps because it always has. Women have long carried the weight of the Second Shift (the time a woman walks in the door after work until bedtime when she cares for children, fixes dinner, etc.), but now thanks to a global pandemic, it’s become a never-ending shift. That’s due in large part to the ongoing closures of schools and day care centers and the loss of other supports women have long relied on. With male spouses or partners earning more (there’s that pesky gender pay gap again), women frequently have no choice but to step away from their careers to take over childcare responsibilities. When you add the bind of women providing the majority of workforce for  essential jobs without the work from home options, who takes care of the kids? Women, especially women of color, are often on the front lines in health care, grocery stores and other essential functions, and are the sole breadwinners for their families.  It’s abundantly clear that we need systemic change to support women whose work is essential to survival both at work and at home.

A recent report from the Century Foundation and the Center for American Progress predicted that without government intervention, women’s lost wages could cost the economy $64.5 billion per year, which would prolong the current economic crisis and could, “put women back into a position of social, political, and economic inferiority.”

Emily Martin, National Women’s Law Center’s vice president for education and workplace justice said that if we want to see more working mothers stay in the workforce or re-enter the workforce, there needs to be a bailout for the childcare sector. She recently told CNBC, “The last COVID relief package had about $10 billion for childcare. And it sounds like a big number until you realize that more than $50 billion is needed to ensure that our child-care infrastructure is still there once people are able to go back to work.”

Prior to the pandemic, women made up more than half of the workforce and were on track to reach gender parity within the next decade. 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 work now and after this crisis passes.

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