Leadership

Greater Missouri Celebrating Women Leaders

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

When Our Stories Are Banned

Banned_BooksBooks are a form of political action. Books are knowledge. Books are reflection. Books change your mind. – Toni Morrison

Books tell our stories. And when our stories are banned, our truths are hidden from one another and our ability to understand each other’s life experiences and perspectives is blocked. It is a violation of the foundation of a free society, our first amendment, freedom of speech. Yet every year, new books are banned and challenged in schools and libraries around the world. In fact, the American Library Association’s Office of Intellectual Freedom tracked 156 challenges to books, materials, and services in 2020 alone. While some of banned titles have been on various lists for years, like To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee, Toni Morrison’s Beloved or Maya Angelou’s I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings, many others are routinely challenged. The majority of censured or banned books are generally children’s books and fiction books. However, no list of banned or challenged books would be complete without a smattering of nonfiction titles, usually contested due to themes of political ideology, racial inequalities, and high school appropriateness.

The American Library Association’s “Freedom to Read Statement” points out that a number of private groups and public authorities throughout the country continuously attack our freedom to read by working to remove or limit access to reading materials. The actions are not singular, but by censoring content in schools, labeling controversial views, distributing lists of books they deem objectionable, and purging libraries, they give rise to a view that, “our national tradition of free expression is no longer valid; that censorship and suppression are needed to counter threats to safety or national security, as well as to avoid the subversion of politics and the corruption of morals.”

Just as our political and community landscapes have changed, the reasons for challenging titles has shifted too. In the early 90’s it was often titles with “objectionable” language and sexual content that topped the lists. However, James LaRue, director of the ALA’s Office for Intellectual Freedom was quoted in TIME Magazine as saying that there’s been a shift toward seeking to ban books “focused on issues of diversity—things that are by or about people of color, or LGBT, or disabilities, or religious and cultural minorities.”

A phenomenal book was recently brought to our attention, and recent actions have shown that some believe it falls in the “controversial” category, Vanguard – How Black Women Broke Barriers, Won the Vote, and Insisted on Equality for All. The author Martha S. Jones, a historian at Johns Hopkins University, wrote in The Washington Post that the Lafayette Parish library board rejected a previously offered grant and refused to host a discussion on voting rights that included her book. Jones wrote, “What precisely troubled the board?  Vanguard foregrounds the Black women who, for 200-plus years, struggled to expand access to political rights for all. It argues that they are among the architects of American democracy.”

First of all, Vanguard isn’t stirring up controversy, it is a thoroughly researched and critically acclaimed retelling of the history of suffrage in America, and truly a must-read. It is a look at the vibrant history and struggle of the women who have come before us and paved the way for all women to move forward. Winner of the 2020 L.A. Times Book Prize for History, Vanguard is an “examination of the racism and sexism Black women endured in their pursuit of political participation and power. It also closely examines how Black women used that power to secure equality and representation for others, arguing that Black women have been wrongfully overlooked as forebears of democratic ideals in America.”

Jones offers readers a slice of history we may not (yet) be familiar with and introduces us to a number of formidable women. She shares their stories, their struggles and their wins, and helps reshape our perceptions in the process. Ibram X. Kendi says that “all Americans would be better off learning this history” and I couldn’t agree more. We don’t need to limit access to her book or discussions of topics some may find uncomfortable or “objectionable.” We need to make sure all of our stories – and the stories of those who came before us – are told.

The books that take us out of our own experience, those that educate, engage, and inspire us are often targeted and will probably continue to be banned in pockets of our country. Thankfully, in a majority of the cases, those books are still available thanks to librarians, teachers, students, community members, and the women and men that still demand access to the stories that shape us as a people, a nation, and a world. But we must all continue to speak up and demand it because as Jones says in her article, “People forget that history is not merely a recounting of past events but also a battle over who writes it, from which perspective and what those stories teach about who we are as a nation.”

9 Leadership Power Tools to Advance Your Career

Take_The_LeadImagine your ideal leadership role where you – and the you who you’ve always known you were meant to be – can fully thrive – using a combination of only nine tools. Well, imagine no more…Take The Lead’s 9 Leadership Power Tools to Advance Your Career [online course] is back!

Take The Lead prepares, develops, inspires and propels all women of all diversities and intersectionalities to take their fair and equal share of leadership positions across all sectors by 2025. The 9 Leadership Power Tools course teaches participants nine very specific, female-oriented tactics that allows you to find and channel your inner strength and power.

Gloria Feldt, author of No Excuses: 9 Ways Women Can Change How We Think About Power and cofounder and president of Take The Lead, says that the 9 Leadership Power Tools course is not your typical leadership program, but is “more introspective because I believe the best leaders know themselves well. They know their value in the workplace and their personal values. So they can embrace their power with authenticity, confidence, and joy. They also get the skills to thrive in the workplace culture as it is while changing it to be more inclusive and equitable.”

Participants can expect to gain proven, real-world, and actionable tools – and the accompanying mindset – to accomplish your goals and thrive in any profession, at any career level. You will also learn to break out of negative patterns in order to elevate your intentions. Then, hone the practical skills needed to be a highly successful leader, aligning your career and values, and leave behind the Imposter Syndrome and take the lead, boosting your confidence, authenticity, intentionality and joy.

“You will reframe power and embrace power you never realized you have,” Gloria says. “That in turn will release your energy to choose power over fear and identify exactly how you want to use it so you can lead and live without limits.”

The course includes 13 modules covering all 9 Leadership Power Tools and skill-building exercises, a Strategic Leadership Action plan that can be immediately implemented, access to the #SisterCourage Community, a private community of other ambitious and like-minded women, and a Leadership Certificate proving you have the skills, intention and courage to lead change.

If you enroll today you also get several bonuses including 10 follow up “Power Sheets” emailed to you monthly to support your inspiration and motivation to achieve your goals, the opportunity to go deeper into the power tools with the 9 Ways Power Journal based on the bestselling book by Gloria, No Excuses: 9 Ways Women Can Change How We Think, full access to the Kajabi community where Gloria Feldt herself will answer your questions weekly, bonus downloads and videos to enrich your learning, and the opportunity for discounts on additional coaching.

Click HERE to learn more or to reserve your spot today.

Black History Month – Celebrating Women Who Lead

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Every Vote Counts!

Every Vote CountsBy Friday, October 23, more than 50 million Americans had already cast their ballots in the 2020 election. Those ballots represent 36.5% of all the votes cast in the 2016 presidential election, and election day (in case it’s not marked in RED on your calendar) is November 3. Many of these voters were women, casting their ballots for women up and down the ticket, and many other women plan to join them in the coming days. In fact, the Brookings Institute calls 2020 “The Year of the Woman Voter” and writes that this year’s election is being driven by the increasingly overwhelming determination of a significant number of women from every demographic.

Rebecca Sive, author of Vote Her In: Your Guide to Electing Our First Woman President, writes that the best way to counter the forces of misogyny is through political action. She also states that women’s mobilization to the polls started with the 2017 Women’s March and grew throughout the year as women decided to run for office in historic numbers and to take matters into their own hands, which includes marching again.

“When I attended the 2017 Chicago Women’s March, I experienced a movement that was 250,000 people strong, in which almost every person carried a sign expressing a fervent desire for a different world—a world where women have equal opportunities and are treated equally in every setting. Marchers wanted regime change. They still do,” Rebecca writes. “All you need to do to be a part of this regime change is believe that women deserve the same rights and opportunities as men and support this declaration of independence, of women, by women, and for women, to secure life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness for all.”

Women do deserve the same rights. We are the supermajority, and on November 3 we have the opportunity to make our voices heard and choose representation that looks like us – female! We can elect women from local offices, like the school board to the second highest office in the land. This is our chance to vote for women like us who know what it’s like to juggle the demands of a career with the needs of a family, women who know that you deserve equal pay, who value affordable healthcare, childcare and workplace protections, and women who are empowered and who can help you make your voice heard.

We need more women in elected positions. As you head to the polls, keep in mind that currently women represent 51% of the U.S. population, yet we make up only:

  • 25% of the U.S. Senate
  • 23% of the U.S. House of Representatives
  • 29% of statewide elected executives
  • 29% of state legislative seats

One hundred years ago we saw the passage of the 19th Amendment, guaranteeing and protecting women’s constitutional right to vote, and four years ago we had a woman running for the highest office in the land. Every single vote matters—your vote matters! NPR reports that more than a dozen races over the last 20 years have been decided by a single vote. This year we can flex our collective muscle and – with every single vote – elect women at every level to lead us, to fight for us, and to build a country with a government that works for us all.

If you have questions, the League of Women Voters has answers. Their Vote 411 is a one-stop-shop for election-related information. It provides nonpartisan information with both general and state-specific information as well as a polling place locator, which enables users to type in their address and retrieve the poll location for the voting precinct for that address.

In Honor of Ruth Bader Ginsburg – A Champion of Equality

“Women belong in all places where decisions are being made. It shouldn’t be that women are the exception.” – Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg

There aren’t words to describe the enormity of my feelings for Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, or the depth of my sadness with her passing. Thanks to her courage and commitment to justice our daughters can open a checking account, or buy a house without a male co-signer. They can have a job and not be discriminated against because of their gender. With her dissent (and call to action) in the pay discrimination case Ledbetter v. Goodyear Tire & Rubber Co., she helped women make strides toward equal pay. Ultimately, Justice Ginsburg taught our daughters to fight for what they believe in, and demonstrated – with every decision – to little girls everywhere that women can and do belong in all places where decisions are being made.

Justice Ginsburg co-founded the Women’s Rights Project at the American Civil Liberties Union in 1972, and built her legacy by chipping away at inequalities – large and small. She understood constitutional equality was an ongoing project, and later in her life said she did not fight for “women’s rights,” but for “the constitutional principle of the equal citizenship stature of men and women.”

Just hours after her death, Barack Obama aptly described that legacy, calling Ginsburg a champion of women’s rights in her battle to achieve equality and fulfill America’s potential as a nation. “For nearly three decades, as the second woman ever to sit on the highest court in the land, she was a warrior for gender equality — someone who believed that equal justice under law only had meaning if it applied to every single American.”

While she opened a number of doors for women, her work is not done. In fact, she clearly spelled out the current situation and her hope for the future, “One must acknowledge the still bleak part of the picture. Most people in poverty in the United States and the world over are women and children, women’s earnings here and abroad trail the earnings of men with comparable education and experience, our workplaces do not adequately accommodate the demands of childbearing and child rearing, and we have yet to devise effective ways to ward off sexual harassment at work and domestic violence in our homes. I am optimistic, however, that movement toward enlistment of the talent of all who compose ‘We, the people,’ will continue.”

Our responsibility, as we mourn her passing, is to follow her lead, continue her optimism, honor her memory, and continue the fight. As my friend Trudy Bourgeois said to me earlier this week, “We all need to lead from where we are.” That means today we need to look to one another, and work together to right wrongs. True gender equity still does not exist, and as we work towards it, we must be advocates for each other. We must raise our voices to speak up for the women whose voices may otherwise go unheard. We the people have work to do, and we’ll be the most effective if we do it together.

 

Power Forward and Register

Level Up – The Diversity Women’s Business Leadership Conference

There’s still time to register for the 15th Annual Diversity Women’s Business Leadership Conference, which you can attend virtually October 8-9, 2020. As in years past, this event will attract women business leaders of all races, cultures and backgrounds, and features amazing speakers, exhibitors, content, coaching and a virtual program like no other. Recognized as the premier women’s leadership conference for racial, ethnic and gender diversity, attendees can expect to hear and learn from some of the most influential thought leaders and executives across the nation and the world.

Dr. Nancy will be on hand and will be joined by Trudy Bourgeois, Founder and CEO, Center for Workforce Excellence, during the general session to discuss “supporting one another across differences.” Together they will explore privilege, and how white women have been the biggest beneficiaries of affirmative action while Black women have been left behind. Their conversation will reveal the ways we can boldly reach across differences as allies for other women.

This conference is incredible each year, and this year’s virtual event makes attendance easier than ever. Check out last week’s interview with Dr. Sheila Robinson for more information.

Power Forward We've Got the PowerWe look forward to “seeing” you there, and together we’ll Power Forward!

Here’s a recap of last year’s conference:

Since its inception, Diversity Woman Magazine has recognized the importance of leadership development and empowerment for diverse women. Aiming to educate and support diverse and multicultural women leaders and to facilitate their continued growth and success, the organization more than delivered through their annual Business Leadership Conference in November.

Attracting diverse and multicultural business leaders from the world’s largest corporations and entrepreneurs from successful women-owned businesses, the Conference not only served as the perfect place for women to make connections, it also provided plenty of information for women to further their development. Boasting notable speakers and powerhouse panels, attendees were able to gain wisdom and insight from some of the most influential women leaders in the nation.

Take The Lead’s Co-Founder and President Gloria Feldt provided a flash talk on the Conference’s first day. With “Intentional Woman: Be BOLD and Carry OUT!” Gloria told attendees that the real secret to reaching their full leadership potential while helping all women get their fair and equal share of leadership roles starts with “I.” But it’s far from selfish. It is all about embracing the power of your own intention. Of taking those elements of female socialization that have traditionally held women back and turning them into assets, superpowers even.

Level Up – The Diversity Women’s Business Leadership ConferenceAdditional presentations and panels guided attendees on strategies for advancing in business, such as “Bold Moves for a Disruptive World” and “Three Rules for Winning in Corporate America”, and Leadership Coaching helped attendees do everything from navigating a project to developing their personal brand.

The Women Connect4Good Foundation was a diamond level sponsor of this year’s event, and Dr. Nancy was on hand to host the Conference’s Opening Reception and along with Dr. Sheila Robinson, Founder of Diversity Women’s Business Leadership Conference, delivered opening remarks on day two – helping attendees get supercharged for a day of powerful learning and inspiration.

Dr. Nancy recalled the first time she attended the Diversity Women Business Conference, and said it was the most amazing experience she’d ever had. It was the first time she truly understood the words inclusive and sisterhood. In order to deepen that understanding, Dr. Nancy had to look first of all at privilege, and how with privilege comes responsibility.

In her latest book, In This Together, we quote Michael Kimmel who said in a TED Talk, “Privilege is invisible to those who have it.” His point was that we have unconscious biases that prevent us from recognizing our own privilege. In fact, we are privileged if we don’t even see our race or gender when we look in the mirror.

This week’s podcast guest, Trudy Bourgeois, founder of The Center for Workforce Excellence said it best when she told Dr. Nancy, “You don’t know what you don’t know.” She said that if we are to create equality for all women, we have to name our biases and talk about them. Her recent book tells how we can transform our work environments by admitting our biases and engaging in tough, uncomfortable conversations. It’s called EQUALITY: Courageous Conversations about Women, Men, AND Race in the Workplace to Spark a Diversity and Inclusion Breakthrough.

Trudy and Dr. Nancy met a few years ago at the Diversity Women’s Business Leadership Conference, and Trudy point-blank confronted Dr. Nancy with the question, “What’s wrong with you white women?” Trudy’s question had to do with the advantages that white women have had and squandered. Now, Dr. Nancy believes what’s wrong is, “We’re afraid to step outside the lines for fear of retribution ourselves. While we have to be twice as educated and work twice as hard to get half as much as our male counterparts, we realize it is our responsibility to make sure that no woman has to work twice as hard to get half as far as her white sisters.”

Chelsea Handler has said that when it comes to privilege, it’s about taking responsibility, about having those difficult conversations and doing something actionable about it. Dr. Nancy agrees and says we all have to learn how to be better. “We can do that in part when we realize that racial and gender bias impacts every aspect of work, and that includes our own path to leadership and how we lead once we get there. We are our own worst enemies because of the biases we have towards other women, and the biases we have towards ourselves. We’ve got these measurements and comparisons, and we need to recognize them and realize, nobody is winning. We need to learn to recognize that we have biases, and we all have them.”

Dr. Nancy also pointed out the fact that it’s really all about relationships. Women build relationships. We are good at it, and we can use this strength to help ourselves and our companies succeed. Study after study shows that when women hold top positions, an organization does better. She said that in order to build relationships that work for all of us, we need to realize that our differences can be challenges, but they can also be opportunities.

“I think that when we talk about how we are different we begin to understand each other better and better and realize that we’re more alike than different. We all want the same things.” Dr. Nancy said. “We also need to remember, no more US and Them. We truly are in this together and that means ALL of us, all colors, races, and our male allies too.”

Dr. Nancy concluded her opening remarks on the topic of support. After all, when we support each other, anything is possible. “This conference is a perfect example of what happens when we support each other.”

“We need to realize that we are ALL in this together and we’ll get there faster when we work together – side by side—to make the world a better place. I think that’s why we’re here is to have better lives and to make it better for other people.”

Dr. Nancy is already making plans to attend next year’s Diversity Women’s Business Leadership Conference, October 7, 8 and 9, 2020, and urges other women to do the same. Attendees will have the chance to spend time with some major players – real leaders who understand just what it takes for organizations of all sizes to be successful as well as discover great opportunities to learn from and share with one another and create new and rewarding relationships. To learn more about Diversity Women and next year’s conference, go to DiversityWoman.com.

 

Unlocking the Power of Gender Diversity

Jenelle CobbIt’s a fact, diversity matters – from the front lines of the workplace to a company’s bottom line. According to a recent McKinsey & Company report, the link between diversity and company financial performance has never been stronger, yet while gender and ethnic diversity are clearly correlated with profitability, “Women and minorities remain underrepresented.” That diversity is key on the executive level too, and McKinsey’s research finds that “gender diversity on executive teams is strongly correlated with profitability and value creation.”

Unlocking the power of diversity for men and women, and overcoming barriers to leadership requires Jenelle Cobb’s special understanding of diversity dynamics. A former software executive turned entrepreneur and business coach, Jenelle works with business leaders as a coach and mentor with a focus on conscious leadership, empowering her clients to accelerate their impact, ignite their teams and make a difference in the health and well-being of everyone involved.

How does unlocking the power of diversity help men, and women? Jenelle said her experiences as a female in very male dominated industry led her to believe that most men don’t know what to do. It’s not that they’re not supportive, but no one has given them a language pattern or a set of standards or behaviors of which to aspire to, or to model.

Encouraging the dialog, and helping her clients leverage the power of their differences across their teams has shown her that diversity can help teams succeed and enable women to do their best work. Jenelle said, “I really care about the gender differences in the workplace and have realized that now I actually get to help men be part of the solution for this rather than blame or shame them.”

With two stepdaughters recently graduating and entering the workforce, Jenelle feels an increased urgency to create a better workplace culture and support everyone’s best work. That’s why she, and her stepdaughter Nikki, decided to put together the Gender Diversity Master Class. “In the Master Class we’ll be talking about diversity and inclusion, creating a more trusting work culture; we’ll talk about empowerment for women, leadership skills in general, and then lastly about male sponsors and allies, calling them out now more specifically than ever,” she said.

“I’ve learned a lot during the Master Class, and one thing was that everyone gets to be an ally. It’s not just men, and it’s not just certain types of men, it’s women and men together,” Jenelle added. “Whether you identify as male or as female, you have a role to play in your work life, as an ally, as a sponsor to someone else.”

Allies can make a big difference in terms of progress. As Dr. Nancy points out in her book, In This Together, “Asking men to help can create significant gains. In 2017 BCG released a sweeping workplace gender diversity study, ‘Getting the Most from Your Diversity Dollars’ that involved more than 17,500 participants in twenty-one countries. Exhibit 5 in the report indicates that 96 percent of respondents reported progress in companies where men were actively involved in gender diversity, compared to only 30 percent at companies where men didn’t actively promote diversity. That’s a huge difference!”

Jenelle agrees and finds that when you leverage the power of all of the differences – not just gender and ethnicity, but skillsets, points of view, work experience, backgrounds, and experiences, you are able to create a better solution or product in the marketplace. “There are more ideas behind it. It’s not a central idea that gets refined to a pencil point; it’s a collection of pens and pencils that all get looked at and discussed. When we start to leverage each individual’s own unique strengths instead of the strength of a single person or point of view, the product and solution just gets phenomenally better. A diverse leadership team delivers better on the bottom line.”

To access Jenelle’s FREE Gender Diversity Master Class, learn how to leverage the power of differences across your team, and empower women to do their best work, register HERE.

Girl Up Initiative Uganda is Changing Lives

Black Woman SmilingMany young girls living in the urban slums of Kampala, Uganda, struggle with a lack of educational and economic opportunities. In a culture where a male’s education is prioritized, a disproportionate number of girls do not complete school, are often forced marry early, feel like they don’t matter, and lack the skills needed to contribute to their families, which lowers their self-esteem and self-confidence.

Monica Nyiraguhabwa was one of those young women struggling to complete her education until a chance encounter with Kimberly Wolf, a young American woman passionate about girls’ rights and leadership, changed everything. While their backgrounds and circumstances were different, they both related to the challenges that come with growing up as a girl in today’s world and the power of having someone believe in them.

Together, they dreamed up the idea of Girl Up Initiative Uganda (GUIU) after visiting Monica’s community and identifying the need to advance educational and economic opportunities for young women and adolescent girls in these slum areas. They named it “Girl Up” because they wanted the name of the organization to reflect their commitment to lifting girls out of a life of poverty and gender inequality. Just as boys are taught to “man up,” the two wanted girls to be taught to “girl up” and realize their power and strength as girls.

What started out as an idea with $100 seed money has grown into a movement in just eight short years. Each year, the number of girls and young women that GUIU helps increases as the organization grows. This year, Girl Up intends to directly help 15,000 girls and young women and equip them with the skills, knowledge, tools, and provide mentorship and support to develop their self-confidence and voice to thrive as leaders in their schools and communities.

“We aim to contribute to systematic change in the community by ensuring that girls are recognized as active agents of change,” Monica said. “By empowering girls, both individually and collectively, to challenge the patriarchal social order, they become spokespersons for girls’ rights and become drivers of systemic gendered change in the community.”

Girl Up Initiative Uganda is changing livesGirl Up has directly helped over 70,000 girls and young women through various programs since 2012 and encourages the girls and young women to share their learnings and acquired knowledge with others who do not benefit from the programs. The girls are also eager to use the leadership skills and confidence they have gained through the program to mentor other girls. Girl Up estimates that each girl will reach an additional five girls, creating positive ripple effects throughout their schools and communities.

Its mission is to create a gender equal world by equipping girls and young women with the confidence, mentorship, skills, and knowledge to reach their full potential. The organization currently has Coaches (facilitators) who not only train girls, but act as positive role models for at-risk girls. Programs include:

The Adolescent Girls ProgramGirl Up Initiative Uganda is changing lives

GUIU has run the Adolescent Girls Program (AGP) as its flagship program to advance the educational opportunities for adolescent girls aged 9-15 living in urban slum areas in Kampala since 2013. An in-school program, AGP focuses on building adolescent girls’ capacities for individual empowerment and social survival, especially in patriarchal environments that do not value and respect the rights of girls and women. It consists of a cluster of synergistic activities to ensure that girls receive the skills, knowledge, tools, mentorship, and support to develop their self-confidence and voice to thrive as leaders in their schools and communities.

The Big Sister Network

In 2016, GUIU launched The Big Sisters Network, as they recognized that graduates of the AGP needed continued support and opportunities to grow their leadership and influencing capacities. It now ensures that AGP alumni continue to access female- focused education and stay involved and engaged with GUIU and their fellow graduates. In 2019, GUIU realized one of its biggest organizational dreams – the Big Sister Camp – where 210 girls converged for a residential camp full of learning, laughing, and playing. It was a magical four days to honor and further develop the leadership potentials of our Big Sisters. In 2020, they plan to have another Big Sister Camp for 260 promising girl leaders.

Mazuri-trainees-in-their-clothesMazuri Designs Hub

Mazuri Designs Hub was first launched in 2015 in recognition of the limited economic opportunities for out-of-school young women in the communities GUIU works with. Uganda’s  70% youth unemployment rate leaves them financially dependent on men and struggling to support themselves and their families. Therefore, Girl Up launched a social enterprise to offer young women skills training that could provide them with a sustainable income. Today, the Mazuri Designs Hub training program offers a one-year vocational training course in fashion, design, and tailoring that is combined with entrepreneurial and personal skills training for young women, ages 16-35 years. The young women are trained by experienced tailors and given the opportunity to showcase their products at the fashion show graduation at the end of the course.  The project advances economic opportunities for the young women and has had a positive impact on their incomes. In GUIU’s 2019 post-project survey, 67% young women reported that their average weekly income had increased after participating in the program, all due to selling products they sewed.

Ni-yetu-drama-performanceNi-Yetu Youth Program

GUIU has partnered with Plan International Uganda since 2015 to implement the Ni-Yetu Youth Project in all five divisions of Kampala. The aim of the project is to empower young people, ages 13-24 years, with correct knowledge, attitude and skills for reducing gender-based violence and improving their sexual and reproductive health and rights outcomes. The Ni-Yetu Youth Project is a gender transformative project that looks at challenging negative social norms and practices that affect SRHR outcomes amongst young people. It uses youth innovative approaches such as street theatre performances, youth-friendly health camps, peer-to-peer education, music campaigns, and sports outreaches. While the project reaches out to both genders, it benefits young women specifically by changing attitudes towards gender inequality in the communities they live in. Even though girls and women constitute GUIU’s focus group, the organization understands that boys and men must also be engaged in the fight for gender equality given that they are the other half of the equation when it comes to advancing girls’ rights and ending gender-based violence.

Girl-sewing-padAs Girl Up’s programs have grown over the years, their staff has too. “We are proud of the growth of our young, female-led, Ugandan team. Girl Up now employs 20 full time Ugandan staff, 76% of which are female and 85% under the age of 30 years. Providing employment and volunteer opportunities to aspiring and dedicated young Ugandans is an essential part of our mission and the way we work,” Monica said. “These vibrant young people make up the GUIU Dream Team – we dream together, create ideas together, and make change happen together! Each team member brings their own unique skills, talents, and ideas to enable the organization to grow and transform more lives.”

“We have achieved many exciting milestones, and I have been blessed to work in a job I am extremely passionate about. My biggest highlight is seeing the growth and development of our girls as they become powerful and confident young women in my community. Many of them are now in university and secondary school, and stay in touch with me. I love to see how GUIU has impacted their lives in positive ways,” Monica said. “Because I work in the same community that has seen me grow up, they are now seeing me in this position as a woman and a leader. I love going into the community to engage with the adolescent girls and tell them my story to inspire them to re-write their stories so they can achieve their dreams.”

Monica and Kimberly have garnered some international attention for their efforts too and have appeared on NBC’s The Today Show with Michelle Obama in 2018 (see here) and were invited to meet Oprah Winfrey at her home last year. Monica has also had the opportunity to speak up for girls through the Obama Africa Fellowship, Cordes Fellowship, iLEAP Fellowship, and African Visionary Fellowship with the Segal Family Foundation.

People can help Girl Up Initiative Uganda by following and sharing updates through social media platforms (@girlupuganda on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram) and by subscribing to their newsletter at www.girlupuganda.org. You can also support GUIU’s work to change the lives of young women and girls and donate to their cause at www.girlupuganda.org/donate.

Hey Superwoman, Where’s Your Cape?

Shakespeare turned to poetry when the plague closed the theaters in 1593, and published his popular poem, Venus and Adonis. During another closure in 1606 he churned out King Lear, Macbeth, and Antony and Cleopatra. However, Shakespeare didn’t have children sent home from shuttered schools clamoring for attention, emails stacking up waiting for responses, an employer on Slack needing an update, nor vulnerable, aging parents across town needing a grocery delivery.

If there was ever a time that called for you to marshal all of your superwoman strength, it is now.

“Normal” has been suspended for the next few weeks, yet there are more than likely no less than 10 things at any moment that need your attention, and many of the supports you may have relied on are gone. Your daughter’s dance class is cancelled – taking away an uninterrupted hour, your babysitter is also socially distancing, your corner restaurant with quick and easy takeout is closed AND you’re worried about coronavirus, your kids, your parents, your job, and the overall future of everything.

It’s not just maintaining the status quo that’s the issue. According to a recent report from the United Nations, mothers already do 2.6 times as much unpaid caregiving and domestic work than their partners. The current pandemic will only increase those demands, especially when there may be senior parents to care for as well.

Trust that you possess the skills and experience to step in, step up, and lead.

Millions of women will face expanding roles at home as Covid-19 spreads. The Guardian writes that, “Study after study has shown that even as women have stepped forward in the workforce, in married heterosexual couples, women still shoulder the bulk of household chores. (A Gallup poll from January found women were more than seven times as likely to care for their children on a daily basis as men in heterosexual married or cohabitating couples.) And 80% of single-parent families are headed by single mothers, according to 2019 US Census Bureau data.” 

While things may feel overwhelming, and yes, even scary, now is not the time to panic. It is time to work together and navigate these uncertain times. As Gloria Feldt says, “Realize that uncertainty will always be there, and engage people in moving forward anyway. Taking action is always the best antidote to fear.”

Yes, it is time to take action! As women, we are used to being on the front lines, and today we are perfectly positioned to lead the way. Many of you are now working from home where your children and families, in addition to your colleagues, may be looking to you for guidance, education, and care. In the midst of the chaos, remember to breathe, and trust that you possess the skills and experience to step in, step up, and lead. 

Dust off your cape because your skills are needed.

Make a Plan – If you all of the sudden find yourself homeschooling, or moving your office to your dining room table, you’re going to have to adapt. Remember, “normal” is not happening right now, so take some time to plan, set a routine, and try to adopt a new normal.

Stay Engaged – If you are working at home for the time being, stay responsive and connected to coworkers. Whether via phone, text, email, Zoom, Slack or other assorted software, these are likely unchartered waters and connection is more important now than ever. This is also time to take a proactive approach where you can. Whether solving problems at work, or weighing in on community issues, your engagement and yes, leadership, can have a long-lasting impact.

Lift Women Up – While we all be in our homes, we are connected. We can still support one another in the workplace, we can drop off groceries for a neighbor if we go out, or we can share resources and entertainment ideas for our children with one another. We can lean on one another virtually and should try to use electronic means to connect with another woman every day. Community matters.

Explore Resources – Do you have a pile of personal and professional development books waiting for you to find the time read them? Get started. It’s also the perfect time to catch up on podcasts, online offerings, and social streaming opportunities. There are plenty of hours to fill – make the most of them.

Relax and Enjoy – there are plenty of reasons to smile and celebrate the human spirit. Get online and watch some of the amazing arts and entertainment offerings that are being streamed during the quarantine. It’s also a good time to laugh. Trust me, those giggling babies and crazy cat videos on TikTok and YouTube are worth their weight in gold. Breathe through the anxiety and take this opportunity to catch up on life, read books, take walks, and connect with those you love.

Dust off your cape because your skills are needed. These are the times when we need to come together as a community to help each other through. Always remember, we’re all in this together, even when it’s wiser not to actually BE together. 

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