Conversations

Human Resources–The Key to an Organization’s Success

Dr. Denise Caleb, PHR, was recruited for human resources while working at Ford Motor Credit Corporation by an HR professional who thought she’d be a good talent recruiter. Dr. Caleb didn’t know what human resources was yet, but soon learned and fell in love with it, saying at the time, “I eat, breathe and sleep HR.” She pursued a human resources career path through higher education, retail pharmacy, University of Kansas Medical Center, San Juan Regional Medical Center and now as President of Human Resources Standards Institute SM (HRSI), working with organizations to help them achieve the top HRC certifications available to show they meet international standards for optimized performance and accountability.  Dr. Caleb says that the certifications are not “one and done.” There is a difference between a certificate and certification. Because certifications require continuous improvement, they are ongoing with annual check-ups and five-year recertification requirements to make sure the organization continues to live up to its world-class credentials.

COVID’s Impact on Women in the Workforce and Challenges to Re-Entry

Dr. Caleb admits that women are being disproportionately impacted by COVID, whether “by choice or by request, women did leave the workforce during COVID 19 at a higher level and rate.” She says that we have to be very careful as a workforce to make sure we recapture those levels of talent among those that want to come back to work. She urges companies to make the processes of talent acquisition happen systematically and with ease, so women can be interviewed and re-enter the workforce. She also warns women not to end up being underemployed. She wants to make sure that women get hired at the same level or higher than they left. She says that the way to ensure that is to make sure women are positioned with their seat at the table so they can contribute.

Belonging–The Secret Sauce for Empowering a Workforce

In May, HRC offered an organizational certification of international standards for diversity and inclusion, called ISO 30-415. Dr. Caleb says that it’s important to have a playbook for how to do diversity and inclusion from both an internal and external perspective. She stresses the importance of making people feel valued and that things are equal and there’s justice within our systems. Beyond diversity and inclusivity, she says it’s very important that people “feel a level of belonging because there’s definitely a distinction between the two.” As women consider whether or not to go back to work, she says that they need to think about the organization’s mission and determine if it aligns with their own. The most successful combination is a diverse team that respects, listens and learns from other perspectives. For that to happen, the organization must foster a culture of trust and belonging for all of its workforce at every level.

Listen to or watch this conversation to find out more of Dr. Caleb’s personal journey and professional views about the benefits of human resources strategies. Check out HRSI.org and HRCI.org websites to find out more about the certification process. And look up Dr. Denise Caleb on LinkedIn to learn more about her amazing credentials, degrees, certifications, and awards.

 

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Gender Equity, a $3.1 Trillion Boost to the US Economy

Katica Roy is a breadwinner mom and gender economist, who is on a mission to achieve gender equity once and for all. She says that we need to realize that gender equity is not just a social issue but a massive economic opportunity. In fact, if we close the pay gap in the US, the economy would grow by $3.1 trillion; globally, it would increase by $12 trillion. Having fought for equal pay for herself twice and won, Katica decided there must be an easier way through advanced technology. She founded Pipeline®, a SaaS platform that uses artificial intelligence and applies algorithms to show if decisions will have equitable outcomes before they’re made. Katica compares Pipeline® to Google Maps in that it gives you directions so that you can make augmented decisions about how to get from point A to point B.

Of course, there’s more involved in a company’s people decisions. Katica says that there are five decisions that companies make across their talent: mobility, pay, performance, potential and promotion. When those factors are run through the algorithms, inequalities show up according to built-in gender biases. To put it in perspective, Katica says, “The average Fortune 500 company has 60,000 employees and they make three key decisions across their talent each year, which is performance, potential and pay. So that’s 180,000 opportunities to move toward equity each and every year.” Pipeline® makes that possible. That’s why, she says, “On average, our customers improve equity by 67% in the first three months on the platform.”

Gender Ignorance Is Costing Us Money

Katica says our systems are not gender neutral; they’re gender ignorant. Biases about women in the workforce keep women earning less. Katica says that it’s called “mommy tracking,” which is the perception that moms getting paid for their labor are less committed to their jobs when the opposite is true. They are the most productive over the life of their careers while getting paid the least. There is a myth that it’s secondary income and is only used for things like purses and shoes. The research found, “that the breadwinner mom pay gap is the largest gender pay gap for any cohort of women in the workforce ($0.66 for white women and $0.44 on the dollar for Black women).” In addition, Katica says that Black women support the majority of all Black children and have for over 30 years. She goes on to say that the financial circumstances of the moms directly affect the children and their future economic impact as adults. An investment in equity today is an investment in the equity of tomorrow’s workforce and the economy they create.

How COVID Affected Women Workers

Besides dealing with all of the aspects of working from home, schools closing, childcare issues, etc., Katica points out there are several reasons one million women are missing from the workforce. “First, women made up the majority of the labor force in the industries and occupations that were most impacted by COVID.” However, she says that because of the crisis, “we leaped forward five years in terms of digital acceleration.” The jobs that existed at the beginning of the pandemic are not necessarily the jobs that exist now. There is also no concerted effort to ensure the full participation of women in the labor force. Women tend to be the last in and first out when employers lay off workers, and the measures to control inflation have also hurt women. Katica points out that the “inflation rate for goods and services…is twice that of goods and services targeted for men.” She calls it a “credit risk” to be a woman because everything from car loans to mortgages cost women more.

How the Widening Gap Affects Us All

Listen to this amazing conversation to hear Katica’s personal story and learn more eye-opening facts, like when the gap starts that reduces female CEOs to 8% of Fortune 500 Companies, how to alleviate it, and how even that affects women’s future potential for political offices. Learn more about Pipeline® on their website, pipelineequity.com, and read Katica’s blogs as well as the Q&A section on her website, katicaroy.com.

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How a Racist Insult Inspired the Very Asian Foundation

Michelle Li is an award-winning journalist and news anchor in St. Louis, Missouri. She was born in South Korea, adopted as a baby, and became a documented immigrant in the U. S. She didn’t follow any traditions for New Year’s Day — from the U.S. or Korea — so, when she was given a story about foods eaten on New Year’s (pork for progress, greens for wealth and cornbread for coins), she added that she ate rice cake soup (Duk Guk) with a dumpling because that’s what a lot of Korean people do. She got a few compliments from people related to Koreans and the moment felt very inclusive. Then she received one voice mail criticizing her for being “Very Asian.” The woman said that Michelle should keep her Korean to herself. Michelle was stunned. This was a 20-second story with a one-sentence adlib. She was shocked anyone was even watching on New Year’s Day.

Michelle said, “I shared myself listening to the voice mail and it went crazy viral. People started using #VeryAsian to share their family pictures, cultural traditions….and backgrounds.” She heard from adoptees, half-Asians, quarter-Japanese, which she says is important for her as the mother of a mixed-race son. She tells him that there are variations of being very Asian and instead of being half this or part that, you need to be a whole person. When #VeryAsian went viral, they raised money for the Asian American Journalists Association, which fights for equity in newsrooms and keeps track of bad headlines. Ultimately, Michelle, and fellow journalist, Gia Vang co-founded the Very Asian Foundation to encompass the whole world–Asian-Canadians, Asian-Australians, and Asian-Americans–“to advocate for our full humanity” and “celebrate that we have a right to be who we are.”

Suicide Is #1 Cause of Death for Asian-American Youth.

Michelle said that the belief of the COVID origination and political rhetoric that followed gave people permission, not only to say hateful things to Asians, but also emboldened them to act in unthinkable ways. She notes one teenage boy in Texas who was stabbed in the face at the grocery store. The result was that teens were making suicide plans during the pandemic and the CDC reported that suicide is the number one cause of death for Asian-American youth. In response a small group of students in St. Louis created a book list for school libraries for Asian-American students and distributed it to ten schools. No schools adopted the list, but something needed to be done to protect the children from becoming victims. Michelle’s gift is listening and responding with positive action, and she received the cry for help loud and clear.

The May Book Project

Since her skill is highlighting stories as a journalist, Michelle looked for ways to do that with the foundation. After #VeryAsian went viral in January, she was meeting with student groups from coast-to-coast. The students were talking about “how many young people felt invisible in their schools and how that made them feel with the dual existence of being hyper visible in their communities.” She said that when a teenager opens up to tell you they have suicide plans, you need to listen. She gathered scholars who knew about young people’s literature and created a vetted book list for young people of Asian descent. Michelle says that it’s important not to have only mythical folklore stories, but real modern-day stories with protagonists who just happen to be Asian. Since May is Asian-American Heritage Month, (including Asian-Americans, Pacific Islanders, Native Hawaiians), they titled it The May Book Project. She said the scholars also created “a rubric for librarians to give them an academic approach to building diverse libraries.” She said they were very careful about creating the list since many schools are banning books. The free resource the May Book Project offers to school libraries is also being promoted by student ambassadors who are doing book drives and asking their libraries to buy books from the list.

Michelle is also writing a series of cookbooks for children. Her first book, A Very Asian Guide to Korean Food, will be released soon from Gloo Books.

Listen to or watch Michelle’s interview for more of her story and how we need to celebrate who we are. Check out the Very Asian Foundation website to learn more, see Michelle’s voice mail story and buy a Very Asian t-shirt.

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Film Trilogy to Show the Importance of Believing Women

Barclay DeVeau is lucky to be alive, and we are lucky she survived and that she is determined to turn her story into a call to action that inspires women to make their voices heard. Barclay is an award-winning filmmaker dedicated to raising the visibility of women in front of and behind the camera. While it’s appalling that she nearly had to die to fuel her new film project, the event has brought friends and supporters around her to help her write and produce a series of three short films to show how very dangerous it can be to ignore a woman when she’s sounding an alarm and asking for help. The Cassandra Project (named for the Trojan Princess who had the gift of prophecy but was cursed by disbelief) reaches the core of Barclay’s experience of being disbelieved and dismissed when she was very sick and needed help. It also combines two other women’s experiences to offer a trilogy of films highlighting the importance of listening to women and believing and helping them no matter what.

Barclay’s Story–A Sci-Fi Horror Film

Barclay’s own near-death story is being told as a sci-fi horror film because, as she says, that’s what it was. In late 2020, Barclay became physically ill with strange symptoms in different parts of her body. She went to the doctor, then to many doctors – of many specialties. She says that she was begging them almost daily to help her, but she was “dismissed, disregarded, disbelieved…” and three of the doctors even recommended that she see a psychiatrist. This went on until she was so ill, she had a seizure and was rushed to the emergency room. At that point, they induced a coma for nine days and finally discovered a rare bacterial infection that caused a swollen brain with bacterial meningitis and encephalitis, had entered her heart, and sparked Mast Cell Activation Syndrome, a rare autoimmune disease. In all seven of her body’s systems were infected, and she will need several surgeries to repair her muscles and joints. Thankfully, Barclay says that now she has a team of doctors who are treating her recovery and helping her heal.

The Cassandra Project — 90% Produced by Women

When she was in film school at USC, Barclay says that there were only four women in a class of 30 and although she thinks the USC film school has reached gender parity by now, women only represent seven percent of film directors industry-wide. Barclay says, “If The Hollywood Reporter or Variety write an article about a successful female director, people think, oh–problem solved.” But she says, “That is absolutely not the case. The number is still seven percent.” That is why she is telling the stories so important to women with a team comprised of 90 percent women. She says that is totally upside-down in the film industry. And despite all of her successes, she has had to fight hard for everything she’s achieved.

There are many more differences about The Cassandra Project. Barclay has never used crowdfunding before. The traditional way to raise money is through investors, then once it’s made, go through distribution and investors are paid back. But to get The Cassandra Project off the ground, Barclay’s friends have launched a crowdfunding campaign set to end October 28, so that everyone inspired by the intention and the message of the films can be a partner. Production is set to begin in January 2023 with a release date in October. Barclay plans to get the project reviewed by several film festivals and will enter it in the Oscars in the short film category. Beyond that, her team is researching how to reach a broader audience, i.e., the medical professionals who failed her so badly and women who have had similar problems getting their voices heard and believed. The goal is to get the film seen by as many people as possible, and to motivate them to take action and turn Barclay’s life-changing experience into a positive result.

Listen to or watch this conversation to find out more and hear the details of Barclay’s story. Go to https://www.thecassandraproject.net/ to find out more and to make a pledge. The clock is ticking on the deadline for crowdfunding. October 28 is only a few days away.

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Why Make Mindset Your Medicine

Dr. Shelly Bhowmik, MD MPH, healed herself with the belief that “mindset is medicine.” She used her expertise in Preventive Medicine and Lifestyle Medicine to found Platform Wellness and created the ReST method (Revive, Strive, Thrive) to empower women and people of color to experience professional growth and success without having to sacrifice their personal health and wellbeing. Dr. Shelly’s personal story is the epitome of what happens when burnout becomes life-threatening. On her website, she shows a video of how close she came to jumping in front of a New York City subway before changing her mindset and embarking on a journey of healing.

This journey began at birth for Dr. Shelly. As a South Asian woman with dark skin, she felt she was judged to be less than others, because she is a woman and for having dark skin.  This world view caused her to strive to be the best at everything she did throughout her life…until the day when it all came to a head and she began to rebuild her mindset and use it as medicine. Through her ReST method and Platform Wellness, she uses her experience and works to help others before they reach this point in their lives.

How to Recognize Burnout

Dr. Shelly says that the textbook definition of burnout, given by the World Health Organization in 2019, is “an occupational syndrome, not a disease, but it’s due to chronic workplace stress that’s not well managed.” Dr. Shelly says that for her, it meant she reacted to things on autopilot without intention and integrity. Unfortunately, when you’re on autopilot and too busy putting out fires, you may fail to recognize you are suffering from burnout until it starts to affect you physically. You may even experience . You may suffer from headaches or GI pain before you seek treatment or realize something is wrong. Dr. Shelly says that chronic stress causes inflammation and that can eventually become a disease if it isn’t addressed.

She lists three characteristics to look for that are caused by burnout:

  1. Low energy or feelings of depletion
  2. Depersonalization, which makes you have negative or critical thoughts about your work
  3. Lack of professional efficacy, which results in low productivity.

Dr. Shelly says that once she realized that she could choose how she could think about herself, it was “truly transformational.” Not only did she feel like it was her duty as a physician to make sure she communicated the message of mindset being medicine, she says, “I want to make sure I pass on that message to other women, to other people of color because…I don’t want them ending up at that same edge or extreme.”

Platform Wellness and the ReST Method

Through Platform Wellness, Dr. Shelly helps people in several ways. She works directly with corporations that benefit from offering her program to their employees and she also helps individuals through individual assessments, clinical services, coaching and her group Master Class. As a double board-certified physician, she uses a holistic approach that focuses on the biopsychosocial aspects of health and wellbeing to help improve clients’ overall quality of life.

ReST is a three-part framework and stands for Revive, Strive and Thrive. It contains a total of nine steps, but the very first step is to detect stress. It continues to amaze Dr. Shelly that with all of her training and education, she failed to recognize stress in herself. She says to look first at the symptoms you ignore most. Are you losing weight? Gaining weight? Losing your hair? Chronic stress causes different chemical reactions in your body. She says that these reactions cause an inflammatory response and with constant exposure, “your system starts to wear down. There’s wear and tear…that is different for different individuals.”

Another step is seeking support. Dr. Shelly says that “in times of stress, we rely on one another to keep us safe and healthy.” For survival we need to be in community. She points out that your community need not be your family or your coworkers. You can create your own inner circle to be part of your support system. Bottom line, she says that it’s a cultural issue within an organization and depends on their ability to “establish a culture of psychological safety…where employees feel safe going to one another without being reported to higher ups.” She admits that it takes a lot of work to shift the culture, but ultimately if we want to prevent burnout on a large scale, we have to be able to ask for help.

Listen to or watch this conversation for more information about Dr. Shelly’s views on burnout and how this is affecting the Great Resignation. Check out her website, shellybhowmik.com for more information about her 9-step coaching method–ReST Revive, Strive and Thrive TM–her FREE Master Class, and to listen to her podcasts.

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Beyond Midnight–The Moment That Can Make or Break You

Bobby Kimbrough’s book, Beyond Midnight, is a book we should all read. If you haven’t faced yourself alone in the dark, admitted your own vulnerabilities and charted a path forward “beyond midnight,” you can’t imagine the lessons life has to teach you. Stay tuned. Life will happen in totally unexpected ways. Bobby has learned many of them and shares his wisdom in his motivational keynote speeches, his leadership as the sheriff one of the largest counties in North Carolina, his three books, community activism as founder of Branded for Knowledge, and this conversation with Dr. Nancy.

Bobby believes that there are defining moments in your life that can make or break you, that change you in ways you never dreamed possible. He says, ” Once you’ve been humiliated, it’s a humbling place. And then the isolation causes you to see some things in the darkness that you don’t see in the light and hear some things in the silence.” That’s when you have the opportunity to become fearless and learn that “your decisions will create your conditions.” Bobby decided to survive, help his seven sons survive and thrive, and to accept help from unexpected places.

Bobby’s Personal Midnight

Bobby’s wife and mother to his seven sons died suddenly when he was at the top of his game. He describes their marriage as being in that “sweet spot.” He was a special agent for the DEA; she was a nurse, and they were living the dream. With her death, he lost everything. The house they had designed and built together was foreclosed on, and he found himself broke and helping his sons deal with a loss that shattered all of their hearts. As he wrote in Beyond Midnight: Finding Strength in the Struggle, he found himself in a dark place where he was not thinking clearly. Once you hit bottom, it’s hard to find your way out and Bobby says that you have to be careful about the information you feed yourself. He did a lot of reading and found faith and guidance from cheerleaders who showed him how to believe in himself. He says that if you look at world leaders, many of them have experienced their own midnights. Bobby’s midnight made him feel “battle-tested” and taught him to relate to the suffering of others. It also gave him the confidence to admit his vulnerabilities and to use the experience and his God-given strengths to help others.

Bobby’s Insight into Women, Presence and Power

Bobby says that our culture still doesn’t recognize the power of women, and that is especially true among women themselves. He said everyone is powerful, no matter what gender, race or sexual orientation you are. Bobby says that as an individual you are powerful. He received a great free education at Quantico and one of the most important things he learned was about “your command presence.” He said that it’s “how you enter a room, how you exit that room, what you say in that room….and how you have the ability to affect the atmosphere.” He explained, “When you start affecting the atmosphere, you start affecting the outcome. Women have the same ability to do that with their presence, their voices and how they use it.” He says that when a woman enters a room full of men, the atmosphere in that room changes. “Now if she connects her presence with her bandwidth and her agenda and understands who she is, that’s a powerful thing.”

Listen to or watch this conversation for more insights into Bobby’s lessons from Beyond Midnight. Buy his books, Beyond Midnight: Finding Strength in the Struggle, Surviving the Stop: Change the Atmosphere, Change the Outcome and Beyond Midnight: Helping You Make It to Daybreak, and connect with him on Facebook @BobbyFKimbroughJr or via e-mail through the Forsyth County Sherriff’s Office in North Carolina.

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Income Equality and the Fourth Wave of Feminism

Cindy Couyoumjian is not waiting 139 years for women to reach income equality. She says the time is now to use “your God-given gifts with men and get your power and agency back in the world because money is power and power is change.” Cindy has worked in the financial industry for over 36 years, has achieved seven securities registrations, founded Cinergy Financial and invented a multifaceted investment method called REALM to maximize gain and minimize risk when she saw the old 60/40 stock/bond model fail to benefit the people who used it. She has also written two books, Redefining Financial Literacy: Unlocking the Hidden Forces of Your Financial Future, and the newly released book, The Rise of Women and Wealth: Our Fight for Freedom, Equality, and Control of Our Financial Future. She says that she wrote The Rise of Women and Wealth to help women gain confidence to take control of their money.

Even though women own about 51% of the wealth today, many still turn over control to their husbands. Cindy says the tide is shifting. When she started her business, only one in five women were financial advisers, and wives completely depended on their spouses to control the money. A few years later about a third of her female clients wanted to be included in the decision making, and now it’s grown to about two-thirds, with many leaving their husbands at home. However, she says that we still have a long way to go, especially given the assets women now control and are predicted to control in another 10 years.

The Rise of Women and Wealth

Cindy wrote The Rise of Women and Wealth to “inspire women to have a better life, financial freedom, to stand on your own two feet, and collaborate with your husband or do it yourself.” Her second reason was to help women overcome psychological barriers to managing money. She believes if women know the history of why they feel insecure about it, they will step up and take control. In the first part of her new book, she tracks the growth of the patriarchy – beginning with the demise of hunting-gathering cultures and the advent of agriculture – when women were made to feel inferior and began to believe they weren’t “smart enough” to understand how to manage wealth. Land was passed down from father to son and women were completely left out of generational wealth.

She explains that women’s fear of handling money comes from not knowing. Even professional women tell her that they aren’t “smart enough.” With financial literacy, women can overcome their biggest obstacle and accept the responsibility that Cindy says they must assume today because they are living longer and need to provide for their senior years. They are also more educated, make more money and actually have wealth that they can use as a tool for their families and communities. She believes that the opportunity to create generational wealth will motivate women to get engaged because mothers want to leave a legacy for their children and grandchildren.

The Financial Revolution-The Fourth Wave of Feminism

Part of Cindy’s method to build confidence in women so they can control their wealth is to tell the stories of the women on whose shoulders we stand. After sharing the facts about the courageous women through the first three stages of feminism, she thinks the fourth wave started around 2012, when “someone came out and declared it women empowerment.” But she found no empowerment with her degree and career as a female financial planner in a nearly all male industry. She says that she wanted to dig deeper and that’s when she discovered how much wealth women actually had available for investing and the trillions they were destined to have. This lit new fire under her purpose to help women step into their financial destiny. She says that she believes we’re coming full circle with women ascending back into equally shared power with men.

Listen to or watch this conversation for more of Cindy’s story and her perspectives on how women can reach income equality. Check out her website: https://cinergyfinancial.com/, and buy and read her books Redefining Financial Literacy: Unlocking the Hidden Forces of Your Financial Future, and The Rise of Women and Wealth: Our Fight for Freedom, Equality, and Control of Our Financial Future to increase your own financial literacy and revise your own relationship with wealth and how you can use it to create change.

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Having the Courage to Face Conflict Constructively

Marlene Chism is the leading authority on identifying and stopping workplace drama that hampers productivity, and she is known for helping leaders get results through others. As an advanced practitioner in narrative coaching, Marlene works with leaders to start conversations that address the elephant in the room to get results, drive growth and reduce costly mistakes. She has produced five educational video series on topics like anger management, working with high conflict people and having difficult conversations. She has also written five books, including her most recent, From Conflict to Courage: How to Stop Avoiding and Start Leading.

With conflict on so many fronts today, Marlene’s new book speaks to everyone, whether they perceive themselves as leaders or not. Developing a capacity to deal with conflict in our “us versus them” world can help all of us at the workplace, at home, on social media, and everywhere else that we need to develop positive relationships to navigate our world. And she addresses that theme in a universal language that helps the reader look at conflict as a teacher – with an opportunity to learn what we and others want, and how to get that by having the courage to confront conflict rather than avoid it.

Making the Identity Shift from Good Employee to Manager

Marlene says that “it’s just very rare that leaders get the training to be a leader.” They become leaders because of seniority, or because they were good at their job or great at sales. What happens when they become managers is they are rarely given the training to do that job, and since they are accustomed to winning and being successful, they feel insecure about going to their manager to ask for help. She says that a mentor in their field would be an even better resource for new leaders – someone to support them, listen to their issues and provide the voice of experience. Unfortunately, Marlene says that communication between levels of an organization is frequently non-existent.

Mismanaging Conflict: Avoiding, Appeasing, Aggression

Marlene says that in From Conflict to Courage, she lists three ways leaders mismanage conflict: avoiding, appeasing and aggression. She gives an example of moving an employee to another area to separate him/her from the conflict. Instead of dealing with the problem, she says, “those people feel disenfranchised,” which can cause “all kinds of political issues. It creates a lack of inclusion and creates something that it wasn’t intended to create.” Marlene says that the problem isn’t actually the conflict. “The problem is people don’t have the capacity to deal with it.”

Everyone was raised to handle their inner turmoil differently. So Marlene says that managers can’t be effective leaders unless they overcome some of that. Also, we have to change our definition of conflict. Marlene says that conflict means different things to different people: divorce, losing your job, politics, and there are fears around what conflict has always been: wars, fighting, disharmony. She says that early in the book she offers a different definition and diagrams it with arrows facing in opposite directions to change the definition to one of opposing drives, desires and demands. Instead of thinking about the other person as evil or having a malicious intent, Marlene says to get curious about what their demands and drives are, because once you know that, you might find that you’re on the same page after all.

From Factory Floor to Gifted Speaker, Author, and Consultant

Marlene has an inspiring story of how she emerged from being a blue-collar factory worker to a sought-after speaker without any understanding of how to begin. Listen to or watch this conversation to hear the steps of her journey and learn more about her new book, From Conflict to Courage: How to Stop Avoiding and Start Leading, which is also available as an audiobook on Audible. Check out her website, marlenechism.com, and you can reach out to her there, or on LinkedIn.

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Being Fierce Advocates for Each Other Is How Women Lead

Julie Castro Abrams founded How Women Lead as a social justice organization to help women go where their voices can be heard and make a difference–as members of boards, founders of their own businesses, and through networking with other women senior leaders. Today How Women Lead comprises over 14,000 women CEOs who are committed to being fierce advocates for each other and love working together to make an impact. Julie says that their work falls under the heading “social justice” because it’s all about achieving equality for women, especially women of color. Julie worked in microfinance for 20 years where she could provide a microloan for $50,000 but had to put the brakes on if women needed venture funding. In fact, only 2% of women startups receive venture capital. How Women Lead’s investment component, How Women Invest, is the only venture capital firm that invests exclusively in women startups. Considering that women start businesses to solve problems for themselves and their families, it doesn’t make sense not to provide funding to help them succeed. During what is being called the Great Resignation, women are looking for something new with more flexibility and reward for their special talents. If the venture capital were available, many more would step out to create that product and build that business, where they can choose their own future.

Lifting Women Out of Poverty

Julie started out in social work, which became social justice work when she built a philosophy around how to alleviate poverty. She calls her approach “strength-based” because she feels that helping people develop a stronger self-image through entrepreneurship will have longer lasting results. She gives the example of a woman who is a violence survivor or has grown up in really tough circumstances. If she has an idea for a company and is able to receive help to create it, she becomes a CEO and sees herself as a leader and that “changes how everybody else around you interacts with you.” Take that one step further and when a board opportunity arises, being the CEO of her own business gives her the advantage of being invited to become a member of the board. Julie says women are advancing to board positions more all the time. She says that California is a prime example where, in just 10 years, the number of women on boards has risen from 10% to 30%.

Building a Counter-Culture

Julie feels that she is building a culture to support women that is counter to the way she was raised. A Midwestern Catholic girl, she believed girls and women were supposed to be quiet and not stand out. “It’s not delicate.” Yet she played sports and experienced the benefits of being on a team, setting goals and realizing that you can’t win all the games. She works to oppose many of the negative ideas in accepted culture. Women being mean to other women and telling stories to make others not like them is definitely on the wrong side of helping women lead.

The framework of the counter-culture promoted by How Women Lead has four elements:

  1. Be fierce advocates for each other
  2. Actively make introductions and connect women (like Women Connect4Good)
  3. Speak out to reinforce and amplify another woman’s voice
  4. Be unabashedly visible

Most of us were raised with a culture that taught us to believe women are behind-the-scenes people. It’s not feminine to stand out. Julie says to remember that you are an example for your daughters and other people’s daughters. She urges women to stand out, own your power and use your voice. Finally, she says to come up with your own counter-culture framework and build your own set of beliefs to guide you toward making a positive impact.

Julie’s Advice

Julie says, “I want every single woman that’s listening to this conversation to…think of five to ten women in your community that you respect and encourage them…to join a corporate board).” Also, if you work for a company, ask someone in a leadership position how many women are on their board. She says, “Just asking the question helps. It’s a drumbeat.” If they don’t know the answer, they’ll ask someone else. Next, she says that she wants “10,000 women to start investing in venture for the first time.” She adds that it doesn’t have to be her fund, but any fund that supports women business founders. She says that “venture is killing it right now.” She advises that you need to consider it as an “asset class” where your influence and returns can be significant.

Listen to or watch this conversation for more of Julie’s advice. And visit How Women Lead.com to learn more about opportunities for professional growth and connecting with women who build trust by being fierce advocates for each other.

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Gender Disinformation–a Threat to Women Becoming Leaders

Lucina Di Meco calls herself a recovering political activist and has been promoting women’s rights for the last twenty years, working with a wide range of international social profits, foundations, and United Nations agencies. She co-founded #She Persisted after the groundbreaking study, #ShePersisted. Women, Politics & Power in the New Media World, to pursue and eventually stop gendered disinformation on social media. The study consisted of interviews with 85 women leaders in 30 countries and found that women around the world suffered online abuse and disinformation exponentially over men. When she initially did the study gender disinformation wasn’t even a recognized term. She said that she felt like she had made progress when in 2021, she heard Maria Ressa – the journalist who won the Nobel Peace Prize – call gender disinformation one of the greatest threats to democracy in her acceptance speech. Since awareness is the first step to solving a problem, Lucina felt validated having a world renowned journalist on such a public, international stage use the term and truly recognize its consequences.

Lucina calls her journey one of discovery. She became a women’s rights activist after taking a course on gender equality. She realized that many of the challenges she faced personally were common to women around the world. In addition, while serving the Italian Democratic Party – representing Italians living abroad – she found that since politics is so male dominated, women’s skills like empathy and decision-making are discounted and seen as weaknesses.

A Woman Leader Is Almost a Contradiction in Terms.

When Dr. Nancy brought up the misogynist attacks that discredited Hillary Clinton, Lucina called Hillary a “textbook case for the harms, in particular disinformation for women in politics because so many absurd stories were thrown at her, even if every one of them were disproved, it didn’t matter.” She said that there were enough to reinforce existing attitudes and distrust toward women in politics. She added that women leaders are so new in many countries (even ours) that “a woman leader is almost a contradiction in terms.” She said that “it’s a new paradigm we need to establish. And any…threat to the establishment…is enough to bring us back to old biases…that maybe women are not good enough.”

No Freedom of Speech for Women Who Are Harassed Online

Social media compounds the problem. Lucina explains that “social media platforms are designed to optimize profit at the expense of social cohesion and even women’s rights.” She says that every time you run the data, it shows that women are attacked more than men. It’s not only misogyny; it’s designed to incentivize rewards, ” hate rewards, outrage rewards, all kinds of negative content and outrageous images.” Women leaders in many fields are targeted with the goal of undermining and silencing them, ultimately eliminating them as political opponents. And it’s working. Many young women who could be great leaders and work for policies that support families and communities are backing out, refusing to be targeted and endanger their own safety or that of their families.

What is the Solution?

#She Persisted has a three-pronged strategy. Lucina says the first is to raise awareness that there is a problem and understand that the impact of that problem is preventing talented women from entering politics. Second, she says women have to work to fix the problem. “There is no way that we would have the kind of social media we have today had it not been designed by a small group of young white men.” Dr. Nancy adds that it’s being paid for by, “old white men who want to sell more products and services.” Third, Lucina says “is to advocate for better digital platform standards.” She adds that companies don’t even stand by their own standards, saying that hate speech is not allowed, when in fact it’s prevalent everywhere.

Lucina says that we also need to work with women in politics to build their “digital resilience” so they can respond to disinformation attacks and work for policies they think are important. We all need to get involved. Women working together with the men who care is the way we’ve historically made change, and this is no different.

Lucina encourages everyone to go to https://she-persisted.org/ and find what you’re comfortable doing – whether it’s raising awareness, starting a social media campaign or something else that interests you. #She Persisted is also a nonprofit (social profit), so you can donate a tax-deductible gift.

Listen to or watch this conversation to learn more about how gendered disinformation is used to threaten women leaders in many fields around the world.

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