Guest Post

Reproductive Justice Must Be the Goal for Our Reproductive Decisions

Guest post by Asha Dahya

Where were you on June 24, 2022? Do you remember how you felt when you heard the news that Roe v Wade had been overturned by the US Supreme Court? What kind of emotions did you feel when you realized we had taken 50 steps backward on bodily autonomy and reproductive rights?

I was shocked, but not surprised. Angry, but also determined.

You see, I am a former conservative Christian who identified as “pro life” or anti-abortion, who had never personally done any research, or even cared about the issue of abortion at all. I just knew to repeat what I had been taught in my church environment, without giving a second thought to the actual ramifications of wanting to overturn Roe v Wade. It has long been the goal of the conservative Christian movement to overturn Roe. So it was not a huge surprise when it happened, because that is exactly why my former church friends voted for Donald Trump. He made no secret of wooing the Evangelical vote, dangling the promised carrot that he would elect “Pro Life Supreme Court Justices who would overturn Roe v Wade.” In 2022, their decades-long mission was accomplished.

But what DID they actually accomplish? Now that I am years removed from that conservative environment, a mom of two young kids, and having dedicated my filmmaking and advocacy work to reproductive rights, I can see very clearly that the only thing we are going to see is more injustice.

Having been on both “sides” of the proverbial fence, I firmly believe that the labels pro choice and pro life are not adequate. Pro life feels hypocritical at best, and pro choice does not go far enough. It’s hard to have the privilege of choice when so much injustice blocks our autonomy.

We’re all familiar with the term reproductive rights, which is a specific movement pointing to the legal and political gains with regard to abortion and birth control. And to be clear, the gains we have seen and continue to see are important and must continue. (Remember the five states that overwhelmingly voted to protect abortion rights in the recent mid-terms in various ballot measures?) But now that Roe v Wade is gone, we have to reach for much bigger goals.

That brings me to Reproductive Justice, a goal and a movement, which, as Monica Simpson, the executive director of SisterSong Women of Color Reproductive Justice Collective, described in the New York Times in April, should be the “mountaintop.” SisterSong defines Reproductive Justice as the human right to maintain personal bodily autonomy, have children, not have children, and parent the children we have in safe and sustainable communities.

The Reproductive Justice movement may not be as familiar to some as the term Reproductive Rights. But it defines the larger issue, which as we are seeing more and more in a post-Roe America, is much greater than access to abortion and birth control, as important and vital as those things are.

In 1994, a group of Black women leaders gathered together for a conference to discuss the fact that reproductive freedom cannot be reduced to one single issue. “People of color don’t have the privilege of focusing on only one issue — everything is connected. Reproductive Justice has always been more than just being ‘pro-choice.’ To be pro-choice you must have the privilege of having choices,” writes Monica Simpson in the New York Times.

One of the original leaders and founding mothers of the Reproductive Justice movement, Loretta Ross explained, “Reproductive Justice addresses the social reality of inequality, specifically, the inequality of opportunities that we have to control our reproductive destiny.”

Reproductive Justice Briefing Book: A Primer on Reproductive Justice and Social Change

So what does it look like to live in a country where justice is not yet attainable for many on their reproductive journey? Here are some of the intersecting issues and stories that I hope will illustrate what it means to pursue a justice-driven agenda.

Reproductive Justice means access to clean drinking water. Right now, residents in Jackson, Mississippi, do not have access to a regular supply of clean drinking tap water. This is a growing crisis in some of America’s most underserved cities. For mothers and children not to have access to clean drinking water in some cities in the United States in 2022 simply because of their zip code is an injustice that impacts every aspect of their health and lives. Clean water is an essential human right according to the UN, and with a number of predominantly Indigenous, low income, Black and Brown communities across the US seeing their access to clean water disappearing because of the lack of funding for adequate infrastructure, we should be paying more attention to this issue that comes with myriad diseases that affects a child’s development. Simply put, this should be a bipartisan issue that underscores the “pro life” moniker, yet this is not an issue that movement even advocates for.    

Reproductive Justice means tackling the maternal mortality crisis. America is the only industrialized nation in the world where our maternal mortality rates are rising, and data shows 50% of these deaths are preventable. It should come as no surprise that the majority of these deaths are Black women. Right now there is a proposed bill called the Kira Johnson Act, sponsored by Georgia Senator Raphael Warnock and California Senator Alex Padilla. This bill would provide crucial funding and bias training to ensure these deaths stop happening. Kira Johnson, a 39-year-old Black mother, for whom the legislation is named, lost her life after a scheduled c-section while giving birth to her second child in Los Angeles.

Reproductive Justice is a criminal justice issue. Today in America (a country that already boasts the highest prison population on the planet), the rates of women being imprisoned are rising faster than men. According to recent data, 58% of women in prisons are mothers, as are 80% of women in jails. Many are incarcerated simply because they cannot afford bail. The majority of these mothers are the primary caretakers of their children which they then become separated from. Most of these women are incarcerated for drug and property offenses, often stemming from poverty and/or substance use disorders. We need to see this entire for-profit system overhauled so that mothers get the help they need to raise their children in safety, rather than being locked away for systemic issues that victimize them.

Reproductive Justice means stopping the decline in maternal health clinics and doctors, which has been happening rapidly with the fall of Roe v Wade. According to a recent report by the March of Dimes, nearly half of the counties in Texas are maternity care deserts with no birth center, no obstetricians and no hospital offering obstetric care. Doctors in states like Texas which have become hostile to abortion rights, are leaving for other states in order to prevent the potential loss of license or being prosecuted for helping mothers in need – even in the case of a miscarriage or an ectopic pregnancy when an abortion procedure becomes a lifesaving measure.  

Reproductive justice means having a national paid family leave policy, which the US Senate could have (and yes, should have) passed in the Build Back Better Act earlier this year. However, because of partisan politics, we remain the only industrialized nation in the world not to have a federal paid leave policy, which disproportionately impacts mothers who are still the primary caretakers of children across America. Why does this matter? Because one in four American moms return to work within two weeks of giving birth, breaking that crucial time of bonding between mother and child that carries so much weight in the development of a newborn. Studies show that for every extra week of guaranteed maternity leave for birth mothers, this correlates with a two to three percent decline in infant deaths. That last sentence alone should make this a banner issue for the pro life movement, but alas it is not. 

And yes, Reproductive Justice means access to abortion and birth control. I am in post production on a short documentary called Someone You Know – 3 women, 3 decisions, 1 hostile landscape, which profiles the stories of three women who had later abortions, documenting the numerous barriers they faced. Each of them shared their experiences with candor, showing how even in the most heartbreaking situations past the first trimester, when a wanted pregnancy goes wrong, the climate of abortion restrictions and stigma end up hurting the most vulnerable among us, and in some cases takes pregnant women to the precipice of death before medical intervention becomes a possibility. When women and girls have the freedom, dignity and ability to plan their lives, families and pregnancies, we see healthier babies, supported mothers, and a life cycle that reminds us of the need for bodily autonomy beyond a political talking point. 

Recalling my former conservative Christian days, when I look at this brief list of Reproductive Justice issues I see something that is far more “pro life” than any anti-abortion agenda. As a mother who had the privilege of having good healthcare access, ample time to bond with both of my babies after giving birth, a supportive partner, clean drinking water as well as healthy food available to me, how can I not want the same for everyone else? How can anyone in their deepest, most heartfelt state look at these issues and see it as a partisan list, as opposed to inherent human rights?

As we head into the holiday season, a time when many stories of need are amplified, when generosity is the highest, and families are able to benefit from programs that take advantage of the holiday “spirit,” I hope the information in this article stays with you well into the new year. I am still on a journey myself, and I want to continually advocate for Reproductive Justice throughout all the work I do.


Asha Dahya is an author, TEDx speaker and founder of Asha was born in the UK, raised in Australia, and now resides in Los Angeles, California. She has spent the last 16 years creating, producing and hosting content for networks such as MTV,, Disney, ABC, Nickelodeon, Fox, Nine Network Australia and more. Considered a voice of authority in the feminist media space, she has delivered keynote addresses for organizations such as Accenture, UCLA and March for Moms. Asha has also moderated panels for UN Women, Mount Saint Mary’s University, EmpowHer Institute, Women’s Voices Now Film Festival, rePRO Film Fest, and Continuum Collective. Asha is a recipient of the Awesome Without Borders grant from the Harnisch Foundation, and the 2022 Creative Power Award grant. Through her work, Asha focuses on reproductive rights, gender equality, and the representation of women in media. She is passionate about empowering women, girls and femmes to take up space, raise their voice and share their story with the world.


Investing in Leadership Returns Global Good

Contributed by The Global Good Fund

With a $100 gift from a mentor and an idea, Carrie Rich set out to create an organization to serve as a catalyst for social good, and The Global Good Fund was born. Nine years later, The Global Good Fund has supported 188 Social Impact Fellows, raised $119 million in capital, created over 3,000 jobs, and collectively impacted 9.9 million people around the world.

The Global Good Fund believes that growing leaders is the best strategy for solving complex social problems and achieving global good. They identify high-potential entrepreneurs and accelerate their success and impact through a year-long, virtual fellowship.

Global Good Fund Fellow Spotlights

The Global Good Fund invests in young innovators solving our world’s most pressing social challenges by way of executive mentorship, leadership coaching and targeted capital. Below are just a few of their stories.

Autumn Adeigbo, founder of Autumn Adeigbo Fashion, 2013 Fellow

When Autumn became a Global Good Fund Fellow, she was living in New York City, working as a hostess by night, freelancing as a fashion stylist by day. She had designed a few collections that received top tier press attention, and was trying to find a path towards building a sustainable business. Today, Autumn is a successful Black female business owner devoted to positively impacting the lives of women across cultures by utilizing female-owned production facilities in the U.S., and providing global artisans with meaningful employment and living wages. In 2021, Autumn launched at Neiman Marcus, Bergdorf Goodman and Nordstrom, as well as specialty boutiques across the country. She closed $3 million in seed funding, allowing her to expand the team and dig into principles of diversity, while developing her skills as a leader. Autumn also receives follow-on funding from The Global Impact Fund II.

Margo Jordan, Founder + CEO, Youth Enrichments, 2018 Fellow

Margo Jordan is a venture-backed award-winning serial social entrepreneur and the Founder and CEO of Youth Enrichments. Born and raised in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, she served 10 honorable years in the United States Army. Margo’s passion for social impact compelled her to develop self-esteem-based solutions to help children reach their full potential. Starting with hosting amazing youth conferences featuring celebrity teens and tweens as guest speakers she  also built the first self-esteem-based learning center for girls, and expanded her platform internationally. To date, Margo has impacted over 20,000 children around the world. Her most recent venture, Enrichly, was born out of the global pandemic and is a self-esteem-based digital health/e-learning SaaS platform and gaming app that uses machine learning, gamification, data and onsite curriculum for k-12.

Samir Goel and Wemimo Abbey, co-founders and co-CEO’s of Esusu, 2017 and 2019 Fellows

Samir and Wemimo were named The Global Good Fund Entrepreneurs of the Year for 2022 at the organization’s Gala in May. Esusu, a financial tool that empowers communities to save better, manage their cash flow, and build credit, is one of the first Black and brown-owned start-ups to reach Unicorn status and be valued at $1 billion. Growing up living paycheck to paycheck in the slums of Lagos, Nigeria, Wemimo’s family was excluded from the traditional financial system and turned to rotational savings to pay for school fees and put food on the table. He understands firsthand the power of community savings and digitized this process to make it easy for people to use. Prior to Esusu, Samir co-founded and remains the Chair of Transfernation, a nationally recognized 501(c)3 social-profit that uses technology to ensure excess food from events gets distributed to underserved communities across New York City.

Immigrants in America often do not have robust credit profiles, and Samir and Wemimo aim to build financial resilience and provide access to those marginalized people.

Soumya Dabriwal, founder of Project Baala, 2021 Fellow

Project Baala is a social enterprise focused on tackling the main problems of menstrual hygiene in India: expense of commercial menstrual products, menstrual waste mismanagement and societal myths and taboos. Soumya, a native of India, was a student at the University of Warwick, England when she volunteered in Haryana and Ghana as a teacher. During this time, she discovered the common issues of menstrual hygiene problems in both countries. Troubled by girls missing out on school and following unhygienic practices like using cloth rags, Soumya started Project Baala while still in college. After returning to India in 2016 and visiting rural parts of the country, she understood the magnitude of the problem – only 12% of women in India have access to sanitary napkins – and Project Baala became a company. In the next three years, Project Baala is positioned to impact 1 million girls with better menstrual hygiene knowledge and menstrual product access.

You can read more amazing Global Good Fund Fellow stories in Carrie’s new book, Impact The World, a Wall Street Journal best-seller as well as at



Covid and its Effect on Career Transition for Women

Guest post by Virginia Russell

If you are a woman who left the job market during the pandemic or who is presently thinking of leaving, the following process will take you step by step through the career transition you will need to complete — whether you decide to go back to the traditional workplace or start your own business.

According to an analysis by the National Women’s Law Center of the latest U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics report, the number of women who left the labor force from February 2020 to January 2022, represented approximately 63 percent of all jobs lost.  Millions of women left the traditional job market to care for their children as schools and day care centers closed to prevent the spread of disease. Burnout from juggling all aspects of family life, including caring for sick family members, plus dissatisfaction with current practices of their employers, difficult bosses, and toxic work culture combined, causing women to leave their jobs and to think about transitioning to better paying positions and better work environments.

Other factors are contributing to women’s willingness to take risks to start something on their own, such as freelancing, gig work or starting a business. The YOLO (you only live once) movement, the realization that traditional jobs are not more secure, the availability of health insurance through the Affordable Care Act, and the ease of connections via the internet are just a few examples.

If you are ready to take the leap, work through these steps to get started on your career transition.

Phase I – Start with Self-Assessment which takes Self Awareness

Uncover your values both personal and generational (Boomer, X, Y, Z).

    • Where did they come from–parents, culture, school, religion, peers, or the media?
    • How do you spend your time and money?
    • List your five top values and prioritize them for your present situation.

Recognize your strengths and skills

    • What skills do you need now and in the future? McKinsey & Co. published a comprehensive breakdown of these skills in a June 2021 article “Defining the skills citizens will need in the future world of work.” These were broken down into four categories: Cognitive, Interpersonal, Self Leadership, and Digital. You may already have or use some of these skills in your current workplace.
    • Identify skills you have from past experiences and positions.
    • Conduct a Personal 360-degree assessment of your strengths– with feedback from someone who knows you well.
    • Utilize some of the following formal assessments that I use in my coaching practice:

Set goals – Figure out SMART goals (specific, measurable, achievable, relevant, and timely). Create a vision statement to reflect these goals.

Research potential new fields and businesses – Interview entrepreneurs or people working in those areas. For traditional workplaces check out advertised positions on websites like to understand the requirements of your target position.

Uncover what’s holding you back – What is your blind spot, your barriers (both individual and those attributed traditionally to women, i.e., fear of risk taking, getting promoted, being a perfectionist, expressing negative self talk, feeling fraud syndrome).

Figure out how to make change – Join a professional women’s organization for your target industry. Take courses in your area of interest.

Find someone to hold you accountable – Find a coach, mentor, or professional in your target industry.

Phase II – Marketing Yourself

    • Create a branding statement using what you identified in Self- Assessment for your resume, LinkedIn profile, and networking activities.
    • Network at alumni organizations, women’s professional associations, and social organizations.
    • Identify positions – from LinkedIn,, Ladders, etc.
    • Write a targeted cover letter for each specific position to which you are applying.
    • Practice interviewing.
    • Practice negotiating for salary and benefits.


If you would like to go into more depth on these steps, check out Virginia’s book “Stand Out A Woman’s Guide to Creating Your Personal Brand for Today’s Job Market” on Amazon. You can also contact her at: or

It is Dangerous to Silence Stories. . . and it is Empowering to Bring Them Back

Bridget_Cook_BurchGuest post by Bridget Cook-Burch

Do you remember history class? I know not everyone is a history geek like me in high school and at university, but I remember something that I heard that forever stuck with me: Winston Churchill said, “History is written by the victors.”

What did that matter? Not just that “to the victors go the spoils.” No, for centuries, only the victors of great and terrible battles and wars had the wherewithal and the resources–as well as the coercive forces possible–to manipulate the way history was both written and read.

As time has passed, luckily, we have talented archaeologists who find pieces of our history that might have been forgotten pieces of other sides of the story, but even the evidence they discover only tells a tiny fraction of the story. While some lucky cultures have been able to keep their ways of life, beliefs, and customs intact, despite what has been thrown at them, no one culture has gone completely untouched by war.

We have an entire set of cultures in our own backyard that have been immensely impacted and almost destroyed. The multi-faceted and multi-cultured Native Americans. Tribes across the continent endured heart-wrenching loss during imperialism and colonialism. I grew up in a town that thought they had a good plan with an “Indian School.” The attempt was to assimilate them into white culture so they would be tamed and be able to live and become employed like whites. It didn’t work.

Instead, for a time at this school and around the nation, Native Americans were strictly outlawed to share their stories of their peoples, most of their dances (any considered dangerous) and many of their songs–since songs are stories in musical form. Stories were stolen from them, which was how they taught their children their way of life for centuries. This one selfish act – out of fear of losing control – almost wiped out an entire culture of people!

Stories are not only what gave breath to Native American culture, but they give meaning, perspective, and wisdom to all who listen. Have you ever read or listened to a story that blew your mind? Suddenly you had incredible new knowledge gained by simply reading or listening? Stories and histories have the power to give voice to the voiceless, change hearts and minds, and so very much more.

Healthy society thrives on stories!

Think about it. Without stories, we would not have the technology, the science, or any revolutionary acts to transform the world into what it is today. Take the story of Rosa Parks, for instance. Her story inspired millions of Americans of every color into a revolution, but without it, would there be the change that there is now?

Unfortunately, there are voices and stories that are being stifled and silenced in our very midst, even in the twenty-first century. In today’s headlines, it’s tragic seeing the atrocities being committed in Ukraine, yes, but did you recently see how Vladimir Putin blocked his own people from using Facebook in an attempt to stifle alternative views to his regarding what is happening in the war? There also are journalists being pulled out of Russia and the Ukraine in fear of being put into prison. Putin is attempting to take away his people’s ability to tell their own stories–and therefore their own truth.

This does a great disservice. For one thing, we begin to equate every Russian with Putin’s face and personality, instead of the millions, billions of varied faces, personalities and stories from across that vast region of the globe. We forget that they are unique, have children, are raising them and inspiring them as best they can with their own stories, but now have to keep many of those stories secret, or quiet just to survive.

We now know how dangerous it is when the ability to tell a story is taken away. As generations of survivors of one pandemic, war, revolution, or another, we know that taking away the simple freedom to speak truth could impede or even threaten all of humanity’s survival.

History used to always be written by the victors, but we are now more capable than ever to eradicate that old way of writing history, and instead read, listen and allow all perspectives to be heard and remembered. There are things being done now even outside and inside of Russia because people know it is vital to have more than one perspective.

I was fascinated and cheered to find that the BBC is broadcasting shortwave radio into Russia and Ukraine like they used to do during WWII! Many family members, friends and journalists are doing what they can to make sure that Russia has a way to communicate with the outside world. Other social media platforms are being threatened, but what I see is that this is an awakening. . . an engaging of community to recognize just how valuable freedom of speech is to all those affected by the forced silencing.

Please know that your stories have value.

AND so do the tales of strangers living oceans away.

I invite you to use your voice and writing skills to continue those stories. In my eyes, stories are a tool to be used to inspire and change the world . . . one reader’s or listener’s ear at a time.

And one last question for you:

Do you have a stifled or silenced story that deserves to be written?

Check out our website for all kinds of free, affordable and valuable resources so that no voice is silenced.

post originally published at

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.


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

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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