Careers

Women’s Leadership Challenge Creates Transformative Change

Samantha Karlin Samantha Karlin’s passion to help women become phenomenal leaders drove her to develop the Women’s Leadership Challenge to give women the tools to create transformative change. Samantha is an entrepreneur at heart and excels when it comes to finding a need and meeting it with results-driven solutions. As the host of Samanthropolitics and CEO of Empower Global, she has built a career around analyzing women’s needs and consistently meeting them with whatever it takes, whether it be for information or inspiration–providing training on everything from inclusive and feminist leadership to diversity and inclusion.

During the height of the initial COVID wave, Samantha took time to really look around and listen. Paying attention to the isolation people were feeling and how many were struggling, she realized there was a need among women for meaningful connections and community. At the same time, she saw that women’s progress toward leadership was going backwards; a trend that continues today. She also realized the only solution that can reverse that is more women leaders.

“I believe we need women leaders who don’t reinforce the patriarchy, women leaders who lead in innovative, creative, courageous ways that are true to who they are.” Samantha said, “It’s not just about having more women leaders; it’s having women leaders who are committed to change. It takes women at the top who are not afraid to speak out.”

Through her company, Empower Global, Samantha created and launched the Women’s Leadership Challenge to call out to women around the world who have similar commitments and need help to lead in ways to create transformational change. The Women’s Leadership Challenge gives participants the skills practiced by the great feminist leaders of today – Jacinda Ardern, Christine LaGarde, Stacey Abrams, and Angela Merkel among others. It also equips them with the tools they need to counter imposter syndrome and self-doubt and discover what is most unique about them as a leader. Each session also explores gender-specific challenges and delivers strategies to help women navigate them and change the system. Overall, participants gain the courage to advocate for themselves and others, learn to speak truth to power, utilize their strengths, and become agents for change.

“When women graduate from the program, they absolutely and truly believe in themselves as leaders and have crafted their leadership mission and vision,” Samantha said. “They are committed to creating workplaces where women and marginalized voices are able to rise, while supercharging their own career growth simultaneously. They are ready to lead, to move forward, and to be vocal.”

Each Challenge class, or cohort, is limited to just 8-10 participants, some virtual – generally international – and some in person, limited so far to the Washington, DC area. Samantha usually has one of each going at the same time, and while she has generally done four per year, this year may result in five or six due to increased demand. The Challenge consists of 14 sessions covering everything from “Deconstructing Your Inner Patriarchy” to “Speaking Truth to Power” and “Building Your Own Damn Table.” There is also a bonus session for final presentations. Samantha routinely brings in speakers during the sessions – social entrepreneurs like Rachel Kiddell-Monroe, founder and executive director of See Change Initiative; and Hasina Kharbhih – who’s Impulse NGO was selected as one of the top three models in the world for its innovative development and practice, and has transformed the way Southeast Asia confronts human trafficking; women in Senior Executive Service positions in government like Jennifer Miller, acting Assistant Secretary of the Airforce; heads of DEI like Dr. Naomi Mercer, Senior Vice President, Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion at the American Bankers Association; and entrepreneurs like Tory Graf, CEO of Trillium Creative Solutions.

“I really like to have people across borders. You gain perspective on the lives of women far different than yours, from other countries, industries, races, and religions, increasing your ability to lead diverse teams,” Samantha said. “By taking this course, women join a global community of women leaders who will encourage them, support them, and supercharge their growth.”

The Empower Network

The Challenge does not end for participants once they complete the curriculum, graduates transition to The Empower Network where they can continue networking, connecting in referral circles, a soon-so-be launched women’s leadership mastermind, and even virtual and in-person parties. While women have had the time to bond with others in their own cohort, once they reach The Network, they are also intentionally paired with other members of the Empower community for one-on-one networking meetings based on what they want to achieve in their lives. These meetings expand their world views, foster collaboration opportunities. While the program is still young, Samantha envisions growth and partnerships throughout multiple cohorts happening as a result.

Samantha described the course as intensive with amazing results. She said, “Women are getting salary raises, promotions, winning leadership awards, becoming CEOs, starting their own businesses, shifting policy. I’ve seen so many amazing results from the women who go through this program.”

For example, Samantha is especially proud of one Challenge graduate who is putting together a humanitarian action network to change the humanitarian aid industry to be more human focused and gender equitable. The graduate has put together a task force of women from across the different cohorts who are all in the humanitarian aid space.

“Another woman was doing work with indigenous communities, and I had a feeling about two other women who would be interested so I matched them all at different times,” Samantha added. “Now they are all working together on a sustainable finance initiative for indigenous communities.”

Samantha plans to continue to grow the Challenge, do more with her alumni community, and expand the program further with additional trainers focused on specific geographic regions. She is also in discussion with several corporate clients about bringing the Challenge to their workplace and is working to secure additional fiscal sponsorships so she can continue to offer partial scholarships. If your company would be interested in sponsoring the program and reserving a few spots for female leaders and rising stars, reach out to info@empowerglobal.net for sponsorship options.

Cohorts are forming now. To learn more about The Women’s Leadership Challenge or to register for an upcoming cohort, go to WomensLeadershipChallenge.com.

 

Burnout Behind Job Exodus for Many Women

BurnoutDuring last week’s Diversity Women’s Business Leadership Conference, the topic shifted to women leaving the workplace first during the pandemic, and now as part of the great resignation – which isn’t over yet as nearly two-thirds of workers are hunting for a new job, and nearly nine out of ten company executives are seeing higher than normal turnover in their organizations. Looking at reasons for the exodus, Michele Meyer-Shipp, who most recently served as the first highest ranking woman at Major League Baseball in the role of Chief People & Culture Officer, felt that for many women the cause was simple – burnout.

She’s definitely on to something. A recent report from Limeade, a software firm that surveyed 1,000 full-time U.S. workers, found that in fact burnout (40%) is the main reason respondents left their job, followed by organizational changes (34%), lack of flexibility and not feeling valued (20%), and insufficient benefits (19%). A June survey of 2,800 workers from global staffing firm Robert Half further backed that up and found that more than four in ten employees (44%) say they are more burned out on the job today compared to a year ago. And last but not least, a study by Asana of 13,000 knowledge workers across eight countries found that 71 percent had experienced burnout in the past year.

As if living through a global pandemic weren’t enough, the workplace shifted as the world adapted to shutdowns, surges, and all other associated pandemic issues. Being in the office, at home, back in the office, or a hybrid of both further taxed an already stressed system and women oftentimes bore the brunt of those never-ending changes. Meyer-Shipp was quick to point out that while no one size fits all, a lot (a LOT) of women are burned out as a result. “As people started to leave the workplace, women were picking up extra workloads and carrying the weight for their teams, their departments, their organizations and literally got to that point where it’s like, ‘enough’. It’s like, ‘seriously people like I’m not doing this anymore.’ I think we had a lot of that.”

Granted, many women and men were burned out before the pandemic, but during those first months they had time to think, time to re-assess, and time to plot a move forward that didn’t include the stress that was increasingly associated with their jobs.

Before you blame the employee for burnout because of their resilience, backbone, yoga practice – or lack thereof – you have to realize that they have little to do with the root causes of the condition. According to the foremost expert on burnout, Christina Maslach, social psychologist and professor emerita of psychology at the University of California, Berkeley, we are attacking the problem from the wrong angle. “Categorizing burnout as a disease was an attempt by the WHO (World Health Organization) to provide definitions for what is wrong with people, instead of what is wrong with companies. When we just look at the person, what that means is, ‘Hey we’ve got to treat that person.’ ‘You can’t work here because you’re the problem.’ ‘We have to get rid of that person.’ Then, it becomes that person’s problem, not the responsibility of the organization that employs them.”

However, a Gallup survey actually found that the top reasons for burnout are unfair treatment, unmanageable workloads, a lack of role clarity, a lack of communication and support, and unreasonable time pressures – all of which have been exacerbated by the pandemic. That furthers Maslach’s assertions that the root causes of burnout do not lie with the individual, but with the workplace as a whole. Current events such as the great resignation are not happening as a result of people not wanting to work, but instead prove that they’re burned out and need more workplace support.

Emphasizing the need for honesty and transparency from managers and employees, Brandon Greiner, vice president of operations for MedExpress, says, “An important first step in keeping stress in check is for managers to regularly check in with employees and encourage them to provide honest feedback regarding their workload, work environment and responsibilities.”

Lindsay Lagreid, senior advisor at Limeade, takes that further by saying that managers need to also start asking better questions. “Asking ‘How ya doing?’ and accepting answers like ‘I’m fine’ or ‘hanging in there’ aren’t going to cut it anymore. Instead, try more specific questions like:
*Have you been able to complete your projects on time? If not, why do you think that is?

*Do you have the resources you need to get your work done? If not, what else would you need?

*What can I do to make your job easier?”

We are still navigating unprecedented times and burnout, like so many other issues this pandemic has brought to the forefront, needs to be recognized and explored. That means we need to talk about it, look for ways to address it, and ultimately define ways to prevent it from happening in the first place. Keep in mind the fact that collectively taking action on this issue at every level is crucial to get and keep women employed and in the pipeline for advancement. Ultimately, this is a time of reinvention and change, and in order to hold on to top performing women and men, the workplace not only needs to recognize the issue, but make some changes of its own.

Diversity Woman Media is Empowering Women to Lead!

Diversity_WomanIf there’s one thing that Dr. Sheila Robinson believes, it’s that every woman is a leader–EVERY woman. We lead in our families, with our children, and in our communities. Women also lead in the workplace, and now more than ever we need to empower them to do just that, and give them the tools and support they need to step up and redefine corporate America. That’s why she chose “Empowered to Lead” as the theme for this year’s national 16th annual Diversity Woman Media Business Leadership Conference.

Sheila founded Diversity Woman Media and currently serves as its publisher and CEO. Diversity Woman is nationally recognized as a leading multi- platform enterprise with program offerings that advance all dimensions of diversity, equity, and inclusion. Through publishing two magazines, and producing regular Leadership Development Academy workshops and national conferences, the organization’s businesswomen’s network and membership directory provide a forum for established and aspiring women in leadership roles, including mobility of all women and marginalized professionals. They work to empower women as leaders to help them achieve their career goals through real-world experiences with sage advice, information, and mentorship.

Diversity Woman’s flagship event, the annual Business Leadership Conference, is around the corner (November 4-5), and this year’s theme personifies the organization’s focus. The opening keynote from Tara Jaye Frank – “Making a Way” – will recognize how difficult the past months have been (and still are) for many women in the workplace, and will guide participants through “what leaders of the future must believe, know, and do differently to unleash their own power while unlocking the potential of every ONE.”

Sheila_RobinsonTara’s compelling keynote will kick off two action packed days where attendees will be front and center to experience powerful speakers, a fireside chat with Sheila and Ruchika Tulshyan, panel discussions, peer discussion roundtables, breakout sessions, executive coaching, and the conveyance of the organization’s Mosaic Awards to Subha Barry, CEO of Seramount; Lorraine Hariton, President & CEO of Catalyst; Carla Harris, Vice Chairman, Managing Director and Senior Client Advisor with Morgan Stanley; and our very own Dr. Nancy O’Reilly, Founder and President of Women Connect4Good, Inc.

Once again, Diversity Woman Media’s Business Leadership Conference is attracting women business leaders of all races, cultures and backgrounds from the world’s largest corporations and entrepreneurs from successful women-owned businesses. Following last year’s event, with continued commitment to the safety of community and staff, the event will also be virtual, and promises to deliver the same innovative opportunities for engagement and networking experience with a similar outcome attendees are accustomed to experiencing in-person.

To learn more about the event, and the participating speakers and coaches, or to reserve your spot, go to the Diversity Woman website today!

 

Gloria Feldt’s Intentioning and How Women Will Take The Lead

IntentioningIn 2010 Gloria Feldt, author, and cofounder and president of Take The Lead, redefined the way women look at power in No Excuses – Nine Ways Women Can Change How We Think About Power, by putting it into a historical context and showing the ways in which women have made huge leaps forward in the past, only to pull back right when they were at the threshold. Gloria argued that there’s no excuse for women today not to own their power, whether it’s the way women are socialized, or pressured to conform, or work/life balance issues. Women are still facing unequal pay, being passed over for promotions, entering public office at a much lower rate than men, and often still struggle with traditional power dynamics in their interpersonal relationships. Gloria’s solution to all these places where women face inequality is the same: we must shift the way we think about power to achieve true parity with our male counterparts.

The 9 Leadership Power Tools (chapters) outlined in No Excuses serve as a guide for women from every walk of life and have helped them “change the way they think, and therefore the way they act.” Gloria’s power tools are rooted in a sophisticated concept of power. Women redefine it so they can embrace it with intention and use it effectively. This shift from the outdated, oppressive “power over” to the expansive, positive, and innovative “power to” cracks the code that has held women back from leadership parity. For more than a decade the 9 Power Tools have given countless women immediate, usable ways to navigate the world as it is while changing aspects of their world that keep them from advancing.

Fast forward 11 years, and one catastrophic pandemic later, and Gloria is once again sharing her experiences and inspiring women to embrace their personal power to lead with intention, confidence, and joy. In her latest book, Intentioning: Sex, Power, Pandemics, and How Women Will Take The Lead for (Everyone’s) GoodGloria not only unveils the next step in advancing gender parity in all spheres of business and life, she also lays out the vital next steps in the overall advancement of our economy and our civilization.

Gloria’s latest book is not written with the pandemic as a side note or brief historical fact, but instead looks at how recent events have revealed deep fault lines in our culture and the systemic inequities that have always held women back. It comes as no surprise to her that women flexed their formidable muscles when needed most, representing a disproportionate number of essential workers during the darkest days of the coronavirus global outbreak and leading the charge against racism in the U.S. That being said, this book is decidedly about the future, taking the leadership lessons learned from this disruption and creating a better world for all through the power of intention.

In addition to preparing women to lead change, be change, and sustain change, improve their impact, turn obstacles into assets, apply their power to energies, using their ambition as fuel to achieve their intentions, Intentioning also shares the stories of “Intentional Women” (including Dr. Nancy O’Reilly) teaching readers 9 Leadership Intentioning Tools, with tips for implementing them and practice exercises for each.

Through the lens of women’s stories, Intentioning delivers a fresh set of leadership tools, skills, and concepts that help all women reach their own highest intentions. Gloria purposefully creates new norms, while guiding institutions to break through the remaining barriers to gender and racial parity for everyone’s good. It’s a must-read for every woman who is ready to reach for more and help move women’s progress forward in the workplace and in the world. Learn more at www.intentioningbook.com.

 

A Hybrid Return to Work May Be the Best Approach

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Greater Missouri Celebrating Women Leaders

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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.

 

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.

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.

 

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?

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