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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.

Black History Month – Celebrating Women Who Lead

Black_History_MoonthBlack History Month provides a time for celebrating and learning about the triumph and struggles of the Black women and men who came before us–those who have made a difference, and those who continue to lead and inspire. With the entire month focused on the contributions of Black Americans, February provides the perfect opportunity to celebrate the Black women who have done – and continue to do – extraordinary things and highlight the inequities in the system we all must work to overcome.

Black women have historically not been valued for their work, but it’s their work that has shaped our country. If rampant systemic racism isn’t enough to contend with, the Center for American Progress reports that, “Black Women’s labor participation rate is higher than the rate for all other women, yet Black women remain less likely than their white counterparts to occupy higher-level jobs that offer better benefits, greater mobility, and economic stability. Collectively, the economic disparities facing Black women reveal a stark reality – too often, Black women’s work is devalued and does not reap the same rewards afforded other workers.”

Despite the odds stacked against them, Black women continue to lead and break barriers that benefit us all. Here are just some of the amazing women we need to celebrate this month and every month, and empower other women to follow their lead.

Vice President Kamala Harris – the first female vice president and the first woman of Black and South Asian descent to be vice president. She is a former San Francisco district attorney and was elected as the first Black woman to serve as California’s attorney general. When she was elected a United States senator in 2016, she became only the second Black woman in the chamber’s history.

Tarana Burke – is a civil rights activist who founded the #MeToo campaign in 2006 when she used the phrase to illustrate the pervasive nature of sexual violence. Eleven years later, it found global recognition after tweet by actress Alyssa Milano. She has been recognized as one of the “Silence Breakers” and was named as Time’s Person of the Year in 2017. She continues to fight for survivors and point out the rampant sexual violence that permeates all of society’s systems and structures.

Shirley Chisholm – the first Black woman to be elected to Congress in 1968. She was also the major-party Black candidate to run for president in 1972. Throughout her career in politics and education, she fought for child welfare, black women’s reproductive rights, and more.

Coretta Scott King – one of the most important and influential civil rights activists of our time, she fought tirelessly for African-American equality. She did not slow down after her husband, Martin Luther King, Jr. was assassinated, but instead continued to speak out on behalf of racial and economic justice, women’s and children’s rights, gay and lesbian dignity, religious freedom, the needs of the poor and homeless, full-employment, healthcare, educational opportunities, nuclear disarmament and environmental justice.

Flo Kennedy –  was an American lawyer, feminist, civil rights advocate, lecturer and activist. A founding member of the National Organization of Women and one of the first black female lawyers to graduate from Columbia Law School, she helped found the Feminist Party in 1971, which later nominated Representative Shirley Chisholm for president.

Mary McLeod Bethune – a leading educator and civil rights activist, she believed education was the key to racial advancement. A champion of racial and gender equality, she founded many organizations and led voter registration drives after women gained the vote in 1920. In 1924, she was elected president of the National Association of Colored Women’s Clubs, and in 1935, she became the founding president of the National Council of Negro Women. She also founded the college that is now known as Bethune-Cookman University in Florida.

The accomplishments of these women and so many more that have often been omitted from the history books should serve to inspire and ignite all of us to march forward toward equality lifting as we go. As Dr. Nancy says, “We will not move forward until we all move forward together.” That means we need to learn the stories of Black women, and all women of color; we need to celebrate their contributions, so that together we can create a world that is just,  and benefits us all equally.

Kamala Harris Makes History

Kamala_Harris_Makes_HistoryOn Saturday, November 7, U.S. Senator Kamala Harris made history when she became the first woman, the first woman of color, the first Black person and the first South Asian to be elected Vice President of the United States. In a moving victory speech, she recognized the historic, glass-breaking moment and thanked the women who came before her – including her immigrant mother – who paved the path for her to serve in the White House alongside President-Elect Joe Biden.

“I am thinking about her and about the generations of women, Black women, Asian, white, Latina, Native American women, who throughout our nation’s history, have paved the way for this moment tonight, women who fought and sacrificed so much for equality and liberty and justice for all. Including the Black women who are often, too often overlooked but so often proved they are the backbone of our democracy,” said the Vice President Elect. “All the women who have worked to secure and protect the right to vote for over a century 100 years ago with the 19th Amendment, 55 years ago with the Voting Rights Act and now in 2020 with a new generation of women in our country who cast their ballots and continued the fight for their fundamental right to vote and be heard. Tonight, I reflect on their struggle, their determination and the strength of their vision to see what can be unburdened by what has been. And I stand on their shoulders.”

Such powerful words and a very powerful reminder that when we celebrate moments of great advancement like this one, or smaller victories along the way, we need to honor the women who came before us and worked to make their voices heard. As we prepare to watch the first woman in our country’s history be sworn in as Vice President of the United States, it is only fitting to look back on a few of the historical moments that helped make this possible. History shows that progress is not made by one person but the collective as we draw together and pool our strengths to lift each other up.

Here are a few milestones that paved the way for Senator Harris’ rise to Vice President:

1851 – Sojourner Truth delivers “I Ain’t a Woman” speech

1869 – Susan B. Anthony and Elizabeth Cady Stanton founded the National Woman Suffrage Association

1917 – Jeannette Rankin, suffrage activist, is first woman elected to Congress

1920 – Ratification of the 19th Amendment

1963 – Equal Pay Act signed into law

1965 – The Voting Rights Act – designed to overcome legal barriers at the state and local levels that prevented Black Americans from exercising their right to vote – is passed

1971 – Gloria Steinem, Bella Abzug, and Betty Friedan form the National Women’s Political Caucus

1972 – Title IX signed into law

1981 – Sandra Day O’Connor is first woman appointed to U.S. Supreme Court

1997 – Madeline Albright is sworn in as first female Secretary of State

2007 – Congresswoman Nancy Pelosi becomes first female Speaker of the House

History will be made again on January 20 when Senator Harris is sworn in. We will – at last – have a woman in the second highest office in the land who knows what it’s like to juggle the demands of a career with the needs of a family, a woman who knows that you deserve equal pay, who values affordable healthcare, childcare and workplace protections, and a woman who is empowered and who can help you make your voice heard. As she said on November 7, “While I may be the first woman in this office, I will not be the last. Because every little girl watching tonight sees that this is a country of possibilities and to the children of our country regardless of your gender, our country has sent you a clear message: Dream with ambition, lead with conviction and see yourselves in a way that others may not simply because they’ve never seen it before.”

Senator Harris’ election shows girls around the world that they CAN do whatever they set their minds to and proves that together we are stronger, and together we can change the world.

 

 

 

2021 – Getting Women’s Progress Back on Track

Womens-Progress

 

Many of us felt a sigh of relief to tear off the last page of the 2020 calendar. After all the uncertainty, the struggles to survive, and blow after blow to the economy, our collective nerves are shot. But the new year has not brought any change in itself. It’s up to us to focus on what we hope the next 12 months will bring, to look at the inequities that became glaringly apparent in 2020, to create fresh perspectives about what really matters, and to work together to get women’s progress back on track.

COVID-19 has had a devastating effect on women and has blurred the boundaries between work and home. According to Lean In and McKinsey & Company’s Women in the Workplace 2020, “Women—especially women of color—are more likely to have been laid off or furloughed during the COVID-19 crisis, stalling their careers and jeopardizing their financial security. The pandemic has intensified challenges that women already faced. Working mothers have always worked a ‘double shift’—a full day of work, followed by hours spent caring for children and doing household labor. Now the supports that made this possible—including school and childcare—have been upended. Meanwhile, Black women already faced more barriers to advancement than most other employees. Today they’re also coping with the disproportionate impact of COVID-19 on the Black community.” The ongoing stress of racial unrest and violence, inequity in all areas of society, in addition to having to work twice as hard to get half as much has reached toxic levels, whose effects will take years to assess.

All the stress, uncertainty and upheaval is causing women to make decisions that even a year ago would have been unheard of, Thousands of women are downshifting or completely exiting their careers, not because their jobs are disappearing, but because their support systems have. The Century Foundation and the Center for American Progress’ report How Covid-19 Sent Women’s Workforce Progress Backward reported, “Four times as many women as men dropped out of the labor force in September, roughly 865,000 women compared with 216,000 men. This validates predictions that the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on women—and the accompanying childcare and school crises—would be severe.” The report further states, “that the risk of mothers leaving the labor force and reducing work hours in order to assume caretaking responsibilities amounts to $64.5 billion per year in lost wages and economic activity.”

“If we had a panic button, we’d be hitting it,” Rachel Thomas, the CEO of Lean In said to TIME. “We have never seen numbers like these.”

Women’s voluntary and involuntary exits from the workforce are not only having an economic impact but will also have consequences on gender equality for decades to come. We are at a crossroads and the choices we make today about work-family policies and childcare infrastructure must address immediate and long-term needs. Organizational and government leaders need to think big picture and not only look at ways to get back on track, but also be prepared to weather future crises and really fix the disparities women have had to overcome to advance in their careers since they entered the workforce.

The current crisis presents a historical opportunity, and as Women in the Workplace 2020 points out, “If companies make significant investments in building a more flexible and empathetic workplace—and there are signs that this is starting to happen—they can retain the employees most affected by today’s crises and nurture a culture in which women have equal opportunity to achieve their potential over the long term.”

The pandemic has exposed the gross inequities many women deal with every day and has made addressing those issues and balancing the scales a top priority for 2021.  We need to collectively take action that will keep women employed and in the pipeline for advancement. And we need to think big-picture and develop plans to regain the steps we may have lost during this crisis. We are all struggling with this continued uncertainty. These are the times when we need to come together to help each other through, not allow it to overwhelm us and remember that our progress is important, not only to women, but to everyone’s recovery. By fixing the conspicuous inequities in the system that have always held women back, we can emerge from this crisis stronger than ever and do more than get women back on track. We can accelerate that track to true equity by supporting 100% of the talent and productivity available—women and men together.

 

Creative Ways to Navigate the 2020 Holidays

Navigate 2020 HolidaysI think we can all agree, 2020 has been tough. The seasonal “Merry Christmas” or “Happy Holidays” wishes seem to ring hollow, and for many the sentiments are difficult to embrace. Instead of a month of nonstop parties with friends and family, this year the holidays feel slower, filled with time to reflect on past Christmases and opportunities to create alternative ways to connect. The season is about sharing love with one another, and no matter who you have to share yours with this year, remember to share it with yourself. Take these quiet moments to be kind to you. It will be the best present you will receive–guaranteed.

Do the next best right thing – Kathy LeMay, founder, president, and CEO of Raising Change says that we should take one task on our to-do list and focus on it. Don’t rush. Don’t speed through it. Breathe. Write that personal email to someone you haven’t connected with in awhile. Take a few minutes to cut the article out of the paper. Slow down. Don’t speed up. Take your time with each correspondence, activity, and phone call. You will be more creative. You’ll feel more relaxed, and suddenly you’ll find yourself enjoying year-end activities.

Keep it simple – Stress levels can increase dramatically this time of year, especially if you have too much on your plate. Make sure you’re not setting unrealistic expectations for yourself. Remember, everything doesn’t have to be perfect, and you don’t have to do everything yourself.

Get plenty of sleep – Adequate sleep is beneficial in so many ways, and this time of year it can help you strengthen your resolve, improve your sanity and maintain your weight. Some studies also show that when you routinely clock a good night’s sleep, you’ll be more likely to make better food choices. Science also shows that sleep deprivation can lead to higher levels of the appetite-stimulating hormone, ghrelin, likely leading to a case of next-day munchies and a holiday of sugary sweet bad decisions.

Get some fresh air – Go into your calendar and schedule yourself 10 minutes of fresh air 3 days this week. Whether it’s going outside and feeling the cold air or the warm sun, going for a walk with no destination, or finding a favorite tree to look at, take 30 minutes this week. You won’t miss the time by taking three 10-minute breaks. You will get a fresh, energized perspective. Blood will flow better to your brain. You’ll return calmer and more refreshed. You’ll look at the list, do the next best right thing and say to yourself, “Oh, I have got this.”

Even though COVID has cancelled many gatherings, with some thought and proper planning we can still connect with our extended family and friends this year – from a distance – and honor holiday traditions in different, more creative and satisfying ways.

Do some holiday baking – Sure you can connect by video and just talk, but if there are cookies you usually bake with your daughter, or sweet breads with your mom – do it – virtually. You can order ingredients for delivery for yourself and the others, set a start time, and connect via video. The chatter, the laughter and the moments will still happen, it’s just the hugs you’ll need to postpone.

Have a meal – Whether it’s typical holiday fare or pizza in pajamas, you can still have a family meal. You can connect virtually with those you usually enjoy the day with, have your own choice of food and still enjoy the familiar conversations and laughter between family and friends.

Open gifts – Chances are even though you’re not together, gifts have been purchased, sent, and placed under the tree. Set a time and connect virtually so you can share the love behind each moment, and further connect during this unprecedented time.

Ultimately this season you need to take a break, take a breath, and nurture yourself and your loved ones. Crisis, such as the one we’re currently dealing with, brings out the best in us. It reminds us to stop and think about what truly matters. While the holidays look different this year, if we take time to take care of ourselves and safely connect with one another, we can still find plenty of ways and plenty of reasons to celebrate.

 

Convoy of Hope Women’s Empowerment Program Is Changing Lives

Convoy of HopeEvery woman deserves to be empowered. To have strength and dignity. To know she is valuable. – Doree Donaldson, Vice President – Convoy:Women

Every morning, Matilda opens her shop in Tanzania, and confidently looks forward to a successful day of business. But things haven’t always been easy for Matilda and her son, Junior. In fact, it wasn’t too long ago that the two of them were going to sleep hungry. That all changed when Convoy of Hope started a feeding program at Junior’s school and enrolled Matilda into the Women’s Empowerment program.

“The Women’s Empowerment program taught me how to run a business,” Matilda said. “When I think about the hardships I’ve been through, I don’t want to see anyone else cry about their life. Because of the way Convoy empowered me, I was able to help another woman in need.”

Matilda’s story is one of many. Offering hope for every woman, in just 10 years Convoy of Hope’s Women’s Empowerment program has reached and empowered 19,400 women and girls in 10 countries, with 9,043 impacted in 2019 alone! Through each participant’s success stories, supporters of the program are witnessing firsthand how together, we can change the world.

Empowering Women and Girls

A report by UN Women shows how drastically this help is needed:

The majority of the 1.5 billion people living on 1 dollar a day or less are women. In addition, the gap between women and men caught in the cycle of poverty has continued to widen in the past decade, a phenomenon commonly referred to as ’the feminization of poverty’. Women living in poverty are often denied access to critical resources such as credit, land and inheritance. Their labour goes unrewarded and unrecognized. Their health care and nutritional needs are not given priority, they lack sufficient access to education and support services, and their participation in decision-making at home and in the community are minimal. Caught in the cycle of poverty, women lack access to resources and services to change their situation.

Convoy:WomenThe Women’s Empowerment program realizes that when we help a woman, we help  their families, and that communities of women reinvest up to 90% of their earnings back into their households and apply it toward nutrition, food, healthcare, school, and income-generating activities. This helps break the cycle of intergenerational poverty.

Their Approach

To empower women and girls, the Women’s Empowerment program takes a three-pronged approach. Convoy’s Economic Empowerment program equips women with financial education, vocational training, cooperative saving groups, and even start-up capital. After receiving training and the distribution of capital for small business start-ups, women participate in income-generating activities as they launch their own small business. Those activities are coupled with self-esteem building activities and education in basic literacy and numeracy, family health and nutrition, family planning, and the prevention of communicable disease.

The Family Health Empowerment program provides women with educational sessions where they are trained in nutrition, health and hygiene, literacy, small-scale community agriculture, and craftsmanship/cooking. Participants who display consistent attendance receive a month’s worth of food to help supplement their diet at home. This provides additional incentive for women to come and learn, and helps Convoy address the nutritional deficiencies of children who are not enrolled in school. Caretakers, especially those who are pregnant, are provided with vitamins for both themselves and their children.

Convoy’s Girls’ Empowerment program rounds out their offerings for women and girls and brings educational programs to schools and communities. Sessions include contextually appropriate topics such as self-esteem, gender-based violence, and harmful cultural beliefs and practices.

“Convoy of Hope equips women with financial education, vocational training, cooperative saving groups and even start-up capital. Women can then participate in income generating activities as they launch their own small businesses,” Dr. Nancy said. “With these tools, and with micro-loans, these women can start their own businesses and give better lives to their children.”

Convoy of Hope is changing the lives of women and children, lifting women up out of poverty and providing them the tools they need to support their families, their communities and the world. To learn more about Convoy of Hope’s Women’s Empowerment program, and how you can join Convoy:Women and help them #LiftWomenUp, go to www.convoyofhope.org/we.

 

3 Ways to Foster Gender Equality for Female Musicians

Eileen_CareyGuest post by Eileen Carey, singer/songwriter

I can still recall the conversation like it was yesterday. I was in my late 20s and just begun my music career when I excitedly shared my newfound status as a musician with a famous Nashville music executive whom I admired. I was crushed when he replied, “Sorry, honey, but you’re too old.”

More than a decade later, I’ve amassed several #1 singles and more airplay and awards than I ever dreamed of. I feel truly blessed with my success, and remain grateful to my family, my friends, and, most important, to my fans, for helping make it happen.

Still, I’m beyond distraught for the continued lukewarm response of the Music Row country radio charts. Breaking through has been far more difficult for me than if I were a male country pop singer. Country music is not alone in failing to embrace the progress of women in music. It’s everywhere—in every aspect of the music industry and throughout our culture.

Need proof? Check out these numbers from Rolling Stone :

“In 2019, 22.5% of the top songs were made by female artists. The numbers dip further in the behind-the-scenes of the industry. In 2019, 14.4% of songwriters were female. The same narrative – if not a worse one – emerges in other parts of the industry: women comprised just 5% of producers in 2019.”

The numbers are sobering.  A 2019 report put out by USC Annenberg School for Communication and Journalism shows that female music professionals identify the same barriers as other professions: objectification, stereotyping, and their status as a statistical minority. The bottom line? The biggest obstacle we face as women in music is the way our industry thinks of us. USC Annenberg professor and expert researcher Dr. Stacy L. Smith sums it up perfectly, “The perception of women is highly stereotypical, sexualized, and without skill. Until those core beliefs are altered, women will continue to face a roadblock as they navigate their careers.

So how do we change the out-of-date beliefs held by so many folks in the music industry and elsewhere?

If you want something done correctly, you gotta do it yourself. Women gaining equality in the music industry is no different. It’s not going to happen unless we join together to make it happen.  There are three ways we can foster equality for female musicians in the industry we all love so much:

  1. Push for quotas within the music industry.

Although quotas tend to polarize people I’m inspired by how much good could come from them. If institutions within the music industry require that specific numbers of females make up radio airplay playlists, festival lineups, or even executive seats at record labels, we can prove how easy it is to fill these positions with well-deserving women.

Starting in 2014, companies on the Toronto Stock Exchange had to disclose the number of women in senior roles and their plans to improve diversity. After introduction of the so-called “comply or explain” approach, women’s presence on public boards increased considerably. At the time the regulation went into effect, 67% of the 100 largest public companies in Canada had at least one female director. As of May this year, 96% had such representation, with about half of those companies seating three or more women in director roles. (Fortune newsletter)

Lessons can be learned from other industries. The system of “comply or explain” is being used in public boards to require women and diverse members be added to their leadership. The result is that women are being added in Canada and various markets in the U.S. and the state of California—just by requiring that they report their membership by gender and comply with quota rules to be listed.  In music as in other industries, some folks will claim that women are given placement based solely on gender. But these naysayers only create another barrier if you allow it.

The inequalities are astounding. In music festivals, for example, festival attendees don’t know who writes songs, but they sure as heck know who is headlining their favorite festival. If organizers of some of the industry’s largest music festivals were required to feature as many women as men, the step towards fostering equality in our industry would be enormous. For example, consider this: the headliners at this year’s Coachella festival were all men. Not a single female artist was presented. Fans and musicians alike need to demand to see their favorite female artists. If we reach out, speak up and vote with our power on ticket sales, festival organizers would listen.

I am drop dead serious when I say that we should encourage festivals with all the tools at our disposal to achieve a 50/50 gender balance by the summer of 2022. Everyone involved in the music industry would benefit—performers and fans alike.

  1. Actively support organizations that promote equality for women musicians.

I am downright giddy when I see how many organizations have formed solely to address the issue of gender equality in music. Check these out:

  • She Is the Music–an independent, global network organization working to increase the number of women working in music – songwriters, engineers, producers, artists and industry professionals.
  • Key Change–a movement to represent the under-represented, working together tobreak down the barriers that are silencing talent, and to achieve better gender balance and inclusivity for gender minorities on stage and behind the scenes.
  • Women In The Mix–launched in 2019 to ignite industry-wide commitment to solving this severe inequality, The Initiative asks that at least two women are considered in the selection process every time a music producer or engineer is hired. It also asks working producers to agree to take issues of gender diversity within music’s technical fields into account when deciding who to mentor and hire for further development.
  • Gender Amplified–is a non-profit organization that aims to celebrate women in music production, raise their visibility and develop a pipeline for girls and young women to get involved behind the scenes as music producers.

Organizations such as these deserve our full support. We should do everything we can to promote them. Remember: when these influential organizations thrive, women in music are sure to thrive as well. Not only should we return the favor by having the back of SITM and similar groups, but we should also create new initiatives that can push for gender equality in music. It’s going to take a myriad of groups and approaches to drive women to the forefront of the music industry. Just as the music requires multiple talents and resources to produce, achieving gender equality throughout requires the same. With more organizations working with and for us, we’ll be better organized far more successful with an equal share of the industry we all support with our talent and skills.

  1. Accept the personal challenge of making progress happen sooner, rather than later.

Things aren’t going to improve for women in music unless each of us does her part. This means that we all have to take it upon ourselves to push for the change we want to see. We must consistently remind people of what we want, and why,and to demand gender equality from record labels, management companies, radio stations, award programs, music venues, and anywhere else that can help bring about the change we deserve.

It’s ridiculous that women are not yet treated as equals in the field of music. And I’m more than equal to accept the challenge to demand change now!

I call on you to make it a priority to shift the inclusion of women into their rightful place in every scale of the industry. It’s up to all of us, to accept the challenge and  to demand, then work for the change we want to happen. I know individual people and companies must commit to change, but If we female musicians (and the fans who support us) unite and amplify our voices, we will absolutely foster the musical gender equality we want much faster than anyone could have imagined.

I’m beyond ready for that to happen.

Aren’t you?

Gratitude, Especially in 2020

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

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

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

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

Gratitude, especially in 2020, can also help you:

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

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

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

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

 

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

How to Place Boundaries for Work That Work

Workplace_Boundariesguest post by Brian Thomas

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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