Guest Post

Ready. Inspire. Act. Making a Difference in Massachusetts

By RIA, Inc.

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

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

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

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

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

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

StrongHER Together: The Girls Inc. Experience

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

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

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

The Places

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

The Programs

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

The People

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

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

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

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?

How to Place Boundaries for Work That Work

Workplace_Boundariesguest post by Brian Thomas

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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