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2021 – Getting Women’s Progress Back on Track

Womens-Progress

 

Many of us felt a sigh of relief to tear off the last page of the 2020 calendar. After all the uncertainty, the struggles to survive, and blow after blow to the economy, our collective nerves are shot. But the new year has not brought any change in itself. It’s up to us to focus on what we hope the next 12 months will bring, to look at the inequities that became glaringly apparent in 2020, to create fresh perspectives about what really matters, and to work together to get women’s progress back on track.

COVID-19 has had a devastating effect on women and has blurred the boundaries between work and home. According to Lean In and McKinsey & Company’s Women in the Workplace 2020, “Women—especially women of color—are more likely to have been laid off or furloughed during the COVID-19 crisis, stalling their careers and jeopardizing their financial security. The pandemic has intensified challenges that women already faced. Working mothers have always worked a ‘double shift’—a full day of work, followed by hours spent caring for children and doing household labor. Now the supports that made this possible—including school and childcare—have been upended. Meanwhile, Black women already faced more barriers to advancement than most other employees. Today they’re also coping with the disproportionate impact of COVID-19 on the Black community.” The ongoing stress of racial unrest and violence, inequity in all areas of society, in addition to having to work twice as hard to get half as much has reached toxic levels, whose effects will take years to assess.

All the stress, uncertainty and upheaval is causing women to make decisions that even a year ago would have been unheard of, Thousands of women are downshifting or completely exiting their careers, not because their jobs are disappearing, but because their support systems have. The Century Foundation and the Center for American Progress’ report How Covid-19 Sent Women’s Workforce Progress Backward reported, “Four times as many women as men dropped out of the labor force in September, roughly 865,000 women compared with 216,000 men. This validates predictions that the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on women—and the accompanying childcare and school crises—would be severe.” The report further states, “that the risk of mothers leaving the labor force and reducing work hours in order to assume caretaking responsibilities amounts to $64.5 billion per year in lost wages and economic activity.”

“If we had a panic button, we’d be hitting it,” Rachel Thomas, the CEO of Lean In said to TIME. “We have never seen numbers like these.”

Women’s voluntary and involuntary exits from the workforce are not only having an economic impact but will also have consequences on gender equality for decades to come. We are at a crossroads and the choices we make today about work-family policies and childcare infrastructure must address immediate and long-term needs. Organizational and government leaders need to think big picture and not only look at ways to get back on track, but also be prepared to weather future crises and really fix the disparities women have had to overcome to advance in their careers since they entered the workforce.

The current crisis presents a historical opportunity, and as Women in the Workplace 2020 points out, “If companies make significant investments in building a more flexible and empathetic workplace—and there are signs that this is starting to happen—they can retain the employees most affected by today’s crises and nurture a culture in which women have equal opportunity to achieve their potential over the long term.”

The pandemic has exposed the gross inequities many women deal with every day and has made addressing those issues and balancing the scales a top priority for 2021.  We need to collectively take action that will keep women employed and in the pipeline for advancement. And we need to think big-picture and develop plans to regain the steps we may have lost during this crisis. We are all struggling with this continued uncertainty. These are the times when we need to come together to help each other through, not allow it to overwhelm us and remember that our progress is important, not only to women, but to everyone’s recovery. By fixing the conspicuous inequities in the system that have always held women back, we can emerge from this crisis stronger than ever and do more than get women back on track. We can accelerate that track to true equity by supporting 100% of the talent and productivity available—women and men together.

 

Gratitude, Especially in 2020

Gratitude_in_2020In a typical year, today would see millions of us taking to the roads, or the skies, to gather with our nearest and dearest. However, 2020 is not a typical year. Instead of holiday togetherness, many trips have been cancelled and plans scuttled in efforts to protect one another and stop the spread of COVID-19. It’s a fact – we are all missing out on a lot of time with one another. But even though we may not be able to physically be together this year, we can still connect. With a phone call, Zoom meeting, or even a socially distanced picnic, we can still be with those we love and spend part of the holiday with them – albeit at a distance. We can talk, laugh, and share stories, and think about what we have to be grateful for. Crisis, such as the one we’re currently dealing with, brings out the best in us. It reminds us to stop and think about what truly matters – our friends, family, pets, work, healthcare workers, you name it – and that focus is something we need to take forward with us.

Don’t allow the disruption that is 2020 define the holiday. Instead, pause, reframe and think about what you’re grateful for. There are so many things in the world that can cause us to feel outrage or sadness or despair. And while those initial feelings are earnest and sometimes justified, they shouldn’t always dictate our response. Take three seconds to pause, think, and breathe, and then allow a clear and present mind to choose the most appropriate way to respond to what’s going on around you.

While Thanksgiving brings the concept of gratitude to the forefront, it’s important to realize that gratitude is actually something that can serve us well through the remainder of 2020 and beyond. While it may seem ridiculous to think about gratitude in the midst of a pandemic, it really is worth the effort. Robert A. Emmons, professor of psychology at UC Davis says, “Clinical trials indicate that the practice of gratitude can have dramatic and lasting effects in a person’s life. It can lower blood pressure, improve immune function and facilitate more efficient sleep.” What better way to combat a virus than to improve our immune function?

Emmons also reports that people who keep a gratitude journal have a reduced dietary fat intake — as much as 25 percent lower. Stress hormones like cortisol are 23 percent lower in grateful people. And having a daily gratitude practice could actually reduce the effects of aging to the brain. Being thankful has such a profound effect because so many positive feelings go along with it.

Gratitude, especially in 2020, can also help you:

Experience fewer aches and pains. According to a 2012 study, grateful people report feeling healthier than other people. Not surprisingly, grateful people are also more likely to take care of their health and exercise more often, which is likely to further contribute to longevity.

Help you sleep better. Writing in a gratitude journal for 15 minutes before bed has been shown to help you worry less and sleep longer and better. Another study found that gratitude predicted better sleep quality and duration and less sleepiness during the day. Researchers explained that when falling asleep, grateful people are less likely to think negative and worrying thoughts that impair sleep and more likely to think about positive things, thereby enhancing sleep quality.

Keep your heart healthy. One study involved 186 men and women, who already had some damage to their heart, either through years of sustained high blood pressure or as a result of heart attack or even an infection of the heart itself. Researchers had participants fill out a questionnaire to rate how grateful they felt for the people, places or things in their lives. It turned out the more grateful people were, the healthier they were. When blood tests were then conducted to measure inflammation or plaque buildup in the arteries, researchers found lower levels among those who were grateful — an indication of better heart health.

And perhaps the best thing about gratitude is that it doesn’t have to be approved by anyone. Feel free to use it as needed. No amount is too much. It is proven completely safe and effective for making you feel better about life in general, even the holiday season of 2020. Someday life will return to normal. It may be a new kind of normal, but we can help it evolve to a more hopeful tomorrow if we pause, reframe, and be grateful for what is, and most importantly, what is to come!

 

 

Celebrate and Exercise Your Right to Vote!

VOTE

So, women 18 to 118, when it is time to vote please do so in your self-interest. It’s what men have been doing for years, which is why the world looks so much like them but don’t forget we are the largest voting body in this country. Let’s make it look more like us. – Michelle Williams

On August 26, 1920, the U.S. Secretary of State certified that the 19th Amendment to the Constitution had been ratified by the required 36 states, and it became law, marking the largest expansion of democracy in the history of our country. “The right of citizens of the United States to vote shall not be denied or abridged by the United States or by any State on account of sex.”

As we celebrate the passage of the passage of the 19th Amendment, guaranteeing and protecting women’s constitutional right to vote, it’s hard to believe that our presence at the polls wasn’t possible until one hundred years ago, and for Black women, it wasn’t until the passage of the Voting Rights Act of 1965 that their right to vote was finally secured. We’re also stepping into another active political season, and women nationwide are deciding who and what to vote for.

Elections impact every aspect of our lives, and it’s important that we all weigh in. While presidential or other national elections – like the current season – usually get a significant voter turnout, state and local elections are typically decided by a much smaller group of voters. In fact, a Portland State University study found that fewer than 15 percent of eligible voters were turning out to vote for mayors, council members, and other local offices. Low turnout means that important local issues are determined by a limited group of voters, meaning every single vote matters even more.

This year we have the opportunity not only to shape the way our communities and our country are run, we have the opportunity to make sure the electorate 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.

But it’s not going to be easy. While the 19th Amendment continues to prohibit states from denying the vote based upon gender, there still will be struggles. National Geographic reports that today is much like it was in 1920. A woman’s access to the polls is determined by where she lives—and that, because of a long history of housing segregation, that often correlates with her race. “A resurgence of voter ID laws, the shuttering of certain polling places, and the purge of voter rolls in some states following a 2013 Supreme Court ruling that rolled back provisions of the Voting Rights Act of 1965 have deprived both men and women of color of the right to vote.”

Add the projected difficulty of voting during the pandemic, a record turnout expected November 3, an expected surge in COVID 19 cases, the possibility of further restrictions of polling stations and limitations of vote-by-mail, women will once again struggle to exercise the right to vote. We need to act now, plan ahead and make sure our voter registrations are current, that our polling stations will be open if we want to cast our ballots in person, or that our mail-in options will make our vote count in a timely manner. We need to reach out to our friends and family members and help them do the same. It is time to exercise your rights, choose representation that supports what’s important to you, and make sure that your voice is heard this November.

Don’t Let COVID Stop Women’s Progress-Take Action Now

Women's ProgressWomen’s progress toward equality was moving forward at a moderate pace. 2018 was widely considered to be the “Year of the Woman” marking the biggest wave of women elected to government ever, with 2,133 women sworn into America’s state legislatures, as well as holding 25 seats in the U.S. Senate and 101 seats in the House. In 2019, women ticked past 50% of the workforce in the U.S. for the first time during a non-recessionary period in American history. Riding that wave, world leaders, civil society and the private sector had set the stage for 2020 to be the biggest year yet for the advancement of women’s rights. Until the pandemic that is.

COVID-19 has been hard on women’s progress. McKinsey reports that while most people’s lives and work have been negatively affected by the crisis, their most recent analysis shows that, overall, women’s jobs and livelihoods are more vulnerable to the pandemic. According to the National Women’s Law Center, between February and April, women lost more than 12.1 million jobs, and only a third of those jobs returned in May and June. When comparing the unemployment rate for women versus men, women ages 20 and over have an unemployment rate of 11.2% compared to their male counterparts who have an unemployment rate of 10.1%. The June unemployment rate for women is 1.3 times higher than the highest unemployment rate women faced during the Great Recession and the subsequent recovery years, and 1 in 4 (25%) women working part-time wanted full-time work, but were unable to obtain it for economic reasons, such as their employer not giving them full-time hours. The outlook is even worse for Black and Latina woman as nearly 1 in 7 Black women (14.0%) ages 20 and over were unemployed in June, which is nearly 3 times higher than their pre-pandemic unemployment rate (4.8% in February), and more than 1 in 7 (15.3%) Latinas ages 20 and over were unemployed in June, over three times higher than their unemployment rate in February (4.9%)

A patchwork of back-to-school options is another potential wrench in women’s progress across the country. Boston Consulting Group’s recent study of working parents finds that 60% of parents have not found alternative childcare in the wake of school and daycare closures, and with modified return options available this fall, many additional women are leaving the workforce. Whether by choice or necessity, in terms of workforce and leadership participation, that is an action that could have ramifications for years to come.

We can’t let the events of this year stall our progress. In the study, “COVID-19 and Gender Equality: Countering the Regressive Effects,” McKinsey researchers defined three potential scenarios in the post–COVID-19 world of women at work. “The first is a gender-regressive ’do nothing’ scenario. It assumes that the higher negative impact of COVID-19 on women remains unaddressed, and it compares GDP outcomes in 2030 to the case in which women’s employment growth tracks that of men in the recovery. The second is a ’take action now’ scenario, which would improve parity relative to the gender-regressive one. The third is a ’wait to take action’ scenario continuing until the economic impact of COVID-19 subsides.”

The best option for a substantial increase in economic opportunity is to “take action now.” Policy makers would make decisions, in 2020 and beyond to significantly improve gender equality over the next decade. Researchers estimate that the global value of achieving best-in-region gender-parity improvements by 2030 could lead to $13 trillion of incremental GDP in that year and create 230 million new jobs for women globally.

Employers can also take action now. In fact, many are. One obvious action is to add flexibility to the workplace, for women and men, especially in these unprecedented times. And that doesn’t just mean remote work. It can also mean a four-day work week, or shifting work hours (especially now), and moving forward to better accommodate the difference between office hours and school hours, or the “child-care crisis between 3 and 5 p.m.”

In a community where public-school students are headed back two days a week, one healthcare system was recently quoted as saying that they have surveyed employees to find out their needs and are “aggressively pursuing creative solutions.”

“Our most precious resource is our employees, and we know the most precious thing in their lives is most often their children,” spokesperson Kaitlyn McConnell said. “As area schools release their plans for the start of the school year, CoxHealth knows that many of the system’s employees are anxious about what the next few months will mean for their children, and how the changes will affect their jobs. We also know that it’s important to keep our staff members at work and able to care for the community.”

That creative approach and many others are what’s needed right now. We need to collectively take action and keep women employed and in the pipeline for advancement. And we need to think big-picture and develop plans to regain the steps we may have lost during this crisis. We are all struggling with this continued uncertainty. These are the times when we need to come together to help each other through, not allow it to overwhelm us and remember that our progress is important, not only to women, but to everyone’s recovery. We can emerge from this crisis stronger than ever. The times beg for great leadership, and women are uniquely qualified to lead in these times. Do NOT allow COVID to stop your progress. Think of one action you can take to lift women up and create a new year of the woman now.

What the COVID Crisis Reveals about Women’s Work

Mom and daughter in front of computerInvisible women’s work just became abundantly visible amid the quarantine of the COVID crisis. While sheltered at home, Zoom calls broadcast the juggling act women perform when child-care, home-schooling and working from home all merge into the same time and place. Fluctuating back to school plans are happening as many parents are hitting the burnout stage after struggling to balance remote work and homeschooling for weeks on end. It’s hard to remain responsive to your team and meet the demands of what had previously been a 40 hour per week job and educate, entertain, cook, and care for your children. Video calls have become balancing acts, deadlines a family affair, and advancement? That’s too far down the list to even contemplate – especially as many women are often finding themselves finishing up their workday after the kids are in bed, or in the wee hours of the morning, before their day begins again.

The struggle to get it all done isn’t new, but the pandemic has shone a light on the lopsided division of household labor and highlighted the fact that our current path – even before coronavirus – is not sustainable. Monica Hesse recently wrote in The Washington Post that “we can lobby for equal wages, promoting women, and harassment-free workplaces, but progress toward true equality hinges on chores — the diapers and the dishes and the hundreds of other essential tasks that must be performed, even if we pretend they don’t exist.” She also writes that “We shouldn’t try to return to business-as-usual until we address that “usual” has been pretty sucky for working parents.”

Usually, it’s the women that are bearing the brunt of the increased household labor, and that was true before the pandemic too. There just wasn’t as much of it. Brigid Schulte, author of Overwhelmed: Work, Love, and Play When No One Has The Time says that there is a whole body of research around what’s called “the mental load” that women disproportionately bear.

“It’s all of the stuff that you have to keep in your mind. It’s just an explosion of details and logistics and planning and organizing. And it’s not like laundry that you can see when it’s done. You only know when people haven’t done it, if it falls apart or where somebody has an emotional meltdown,” Brigid said. “Part of the mental load is also this emotional labor, taking everybody’s emotional temperature, making sure everybody is feeling heard and getting their needs met. It can be absolutely exhausting. And when people don’t see it and don’t recognize it and don’t value it, it can be very demoralizing.”

The levels of emotional labor during the pandemic have skyrocketed. Employees are always parenting now, and moms are always working. Researchers at the Council on Contemporary Families found that the number of couples who reported sharing housework had grown by 58 percent during the pandemic, from 26 to 41 percent, and while that increase is notable, we’ve still got a way to go. According to Boston Consulting Group, women are tackling 15 hours more of domestic labor per week than their spouses, and a United Nations policy brief on the impact of COVID-19 on women warned that “even the limited gains made in the past decades are at risk of being rolled back.”

To keep things moving forward, we need to look at the opportunities the current state of affairs presents, discover ways we can reshape the workplace to be more supportive, and look at how that will impact families and gender equality. While labor inequalities in the household have been problematic, they’ve also oftentimes started conversations – at home and at work. In a survey recently conducted for Catalyst, 71 percent of working people said they believe COVID-19 will have a positive impact on gender equality in the workplace. In the same survey, 39 percent of people said they see their company “taking steps after the pandemic to enhance gender equity as a priority in the workplace.”

Flexibility should now become a built-in feature of how we work, for women and men, and that doesn’t just mean remote work. Alison Goldman writes in The Lily that flexibility can also mean a four-day work week, or shifting work hours (especially now), and moving forward to better accommodate the difference between office hours and school hours, or the “child-care crisis between 3 and 5 p.m.” She also quoted Manon DeFelice, founder and chief executive of Inkwell as saying, “There’s a whole spectrum of what flexibility can be, and I think it’s up to the company to decide for each role what they’re willing to allow for in terms of flexibility and what those managers are willing to allow for that flexibility.”

Whether at home or in the office, and whether our kids go back to school or not, we need to remember that are connected more than ever before, and navigating these uncharted waters together. 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. And most importantly, keep in mind that we are all struggling with this continued uncertainty. These are the times when we need to come together as a community to help each other through. Remember, we’re all in this together.

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.

Change Can Create Opportunity for Women, Men and Business

work from homeThe COVID-19 crisis has not only changed the ways we live, work, and play, it has changed the way we earn, learn, and interact with one another. With states opening up, some business leaders are grappling with ways to keep everyone safe, while others are recognizing the benefits of keeping their workforce at home. As everyone adjusts to this current normal, the door is open to create flexibility in our workplaces that makes professional opportunities and work environments more equitable to women and men, and a more profitable new normal for business.

Big business is waking up to work-from-home opportunities. Walmart announced that tech workers don’t have to return to the office anytime soon — or potentially, ever. The decision follows Twitter, which recently told employees that they can continue to work from home “forever” if they’re in a role that allows it. Facebook’s CEO Mark Zuckerberg also said the company is ramping up hiring remote workers and predicts that 50 percent of its employees could be working remotely within the next five to 10 years. Google has also announced that workers who don’t need to be onsite can extend their work-from-home arrangement until the end of the year.

The work-from-home forever response to COVID isn’t limited to the tech sector. Studies find that as many as half of those employed before the pandemic shifted to working remotely and at companies where remote work is possible, many now expect it to continue for quite some time. So, whether your desk doubles as the dining room table for the rest of the summer or beyond, at three months and counting, remote work isn’t going anywhere, anytime soon.

This is fortunate as many are thriving in the current workplace setup and are hesitant to return to the office. According to Gallup, three in five U.S. workers who have been doing their jobs from home during the coronavirus pandemic would prefer to continue to work remotely as much as possible, once public health restrictions are lifted. In contrast, 41% would prefer to return to their workplace or office to work, as they did before the crisis.

What Do These Changes Mean for Women?

While many women have long wanted the flexibility that included part or full-time work-from-home, the COVID-19 version isn’t an option they would choose but is one they must endure. Work-from-home coupled with the continued dangers of the pandemic is isolating and hard on those who live alone. Those with children also find it more difficult because of COVID-19, as their supports are shut down and they’re juggling work, childcare, home schooling, and more.

New evidence from Lean In found that since the shutdown, more than half of all women are struggling with sleep issues. Far more women than men with full-time jobs and families say they have more to do than they can possibly handle. This is resulting in increased stress in women’s personal and professional lives. However, men are noticing. While women are juggling as fast as they can, men’s COVID experience of balancing unpaid work with paid work is eye-opening. In fact, a recent study on working parents found that twice as many fathers as mothers described caregiving during the lockdown as extremely difficult and 38% very strongly agreed that they should be doing more of the unpaid work at home.

Harvard Business Review predicts how this might play out for women’s equity, “Because men vastly outnumber women in senior leadership roles in most organizations, this is a golden opportunity for men-as-allies to purposefully leverage their newfound experience balancing teleworking and domestic partnership to truly move the needle on full gender equity. As organizational change agents, male leaders must demonstrate vision, courage, and genuine collaboration with women to rework policies, practices, and systems in order to create a new normal in our post-pandemic workplace, as well as in society more broadly.”

It’s time for these male leaders to become our allies and partner with us to advocate for change and flexibility. These past weeks have proven that work-from-home options are not only viable, but preferable for many, and with the return of societal supports, could be exactly what women need to shake up the traditional five-day-at-work model that comes with the “Motherhood Penalty” we’ve tried to eliminate for so long. We need equitable sick leave, and for our male counterparts to do their fair share when it comes to taking sick kids to the doctor or staying home with them. Of course, we still need affordable childcare too.

This time of great change creates an ideal opportunity for us to level the playing field and make gender equality a key feature of the new normal. Moving forward, women and men need to work together, and employers need to seek ways that blend work and family to maintain high-performing employees, economize of the cost of high turnover and physical office space, and reap the rewards of talent in the right places. We’re all in this together and if we all want to benefit from these difficult times, we need to support one another, be clear with our intentions and look for ways to change crisis into the kind of opportunity in which everyone wins.

Together in This Time of Crisis

Together in This Time of Crisis“It starts with self-examination and listening to those whose lives are different from our own. It ends with justice, compassion, and empathy that manifests in our lives and on our streets.” – Michelle Obama

This last week has been difficult. The country is reeling. We’ve seen the anger from racism being ignored for too long spill out into the streets in the form of protest. Right now, it would be easy for us to turn away and ignore the pain and rage that is exploding in our cities. It would be easy for us to feel uncomfortable and overwhelmed by what is happening. But what we need, instead, is to come together in support and unity. We need to stand with our Black and brown sisters and brothers, so that we can make sure we are lifting our country up toward equality and justice.

This goes far deeper than you may imagine. Several doctors’ groups — the American Academy of Pediatrics, American Medical Association, and American College of Physicians — are emphasizing that racism is a public health issue and they’re calling for police brutality to stop. The American Psychological Association has also issued a statement calling racism a pandemic.

“We are living in a racism pandemic, which is taking a heavy psychological toll on our African American citizens. The health consequences are dire,” said APA president Sandra Shullman. “Racism is associated with a host of psychological consequences, including depression, anxiety and other serious, sometimes debilitating conditions, including post-traumatic stress disorder and substance use disorders. Moreover, the stress caused by racism can contribute to the development of cardiovascular and other physical diseases.”

Gloria Feldt, Co-founder and President of Take The Lead, recognizes that current events lead to high tensions, grief and rage on top of the coronavirus pandemic, but pointed out that Take The Lead stands firmly for equality and parity, and against racism and injustice. Women Connect4Good stands with them. Racism and injustice cannot be tolerated, and discrimination in any form is not okay.

“There’s a special kind of leadership that the world needs now—positive, inclusive, and empathetic leadership that embraces power as the ‘Power TO’ change the world for the better,” Gloria said. “Perhaps this is the moment when together we can lead from the power TO create more justice and more abundance instead of leading from fear—whether fear of losing privilege or fear of losing our lives. We can change the narrative and show the world that there is no finite pie, and when we help each other we all can have more.”

She’s right. When we shift the narrative and help each other, we can use our collective power to move change forward. Hashtags and online discourse aren’t going to cut it anymore. We have to take steps – literally – to change things for the better, and to create a world that is equal on every level.

Dr. Sheila Robinson, Publisher and CEO of Diversity Woman Media, said in Dr. Nancy’s recently released documentary that we need to focus on the things we can learn from and focus on creating more solutions. “I think that what we all want is the same thing – every woman, every race, every culture, every background – we want a safe place where we can work and we can be valued for what we’re worth so that we can share those rewards with our families. We want our children to have great educations. We want safe homes for our families, and we want to be able to support our partners.”

To our Black and brown sisters and brothers, know that we are with you. You matter to us. Your lives matter. You, your family and your friends make our communities better. Together we have the power TO change the world. We stand with you and are working alongside you for change.

 

Building Gender Equality Instead of Returning to Normal

Gender-EqualityWhile the country takes steps to reopen, and the news cycles are filled with examinations of society returning to normal, Hawaii is taking steps to rebuild rather than simply return to the status quo. In fact, the state is looking to seize the opportunity “to build a system that is capable of delivering gender equality.”

Hawaii is the first state to propose what it’s calling a “Feminist Economic Recovery Plan,” and some of the basic ideas touted in Building Bridges Not Walking On Backs include raising the minimum wage to a living wage ($24.80/hour for single mothers), the adoption of a universal basic income, universal single payer health care, paid sick days and paid family leave, a restructuring of the tax system, publicly funded childcare for all essential workers, and more.

Hawaii is unique in that it has some of the highest costs for childcare and elder care, and the largest shortage of care services in the U.S., which is why women have pointed out the need for social share infrastructure. The plan, produced by the state’s Commission on the Status of Women, addresses that need as part of a call for “deep cultural change” by explicitly incorporating the unique needs of indigenous and immigrant women, caregivers, elderly women, femme-identifying and non-binary people, incarcerated women, unsheltered women, domestic abuse and sex trafficking survivors, and women with disabilities.

New York Governor Andrew M. Cuomo has called COVID-19 “the great equalizer” and this plan out of Hawaii illustrates that it is time to take that point to heart and look at a ways to build a future that sustains us all. The plan states that, “Rather than rush to rebuild the status quo of inequality, we should encourage a deep structural transition to an economy that better values the work we know is essential to sustaining us. We should also address the crises in healthcare, social, ecological and economic policies laid bare by the epidemic.”

Looking beyond COVID-19, the International Labour Organization, UN Women, and the European Union have also called on G7 nations to put measures in to promote gender equality moving forward. Citing the fact that the pandemic has deepened pre-existing inequalities and exposed cracks in social, political and economic systems, the organizations find that women with care responsibilities, informal workers, low-income families, and youth are under particular pressure.

Hilde Hardeman, Head of the European Commission’s Service for Foreign Policy Instruments (FPI), said, “We can say that the COVID-19 crisis is gender biased looking at its impact on women-owned businesses, on the burden women are facing during the crisis, at the increase of gender based violence, but the COVID crisis is also an opportunity to rebuild back better. Our efforts should now concentrate on putting women at the centre of the recovery.”

While these past weeks have been a time of personal reflection, we need to revisit that piece of graffiti in Hong Kong that proclaims, “We can’t return to normal, because the normal we had was precisely the problem.”

It’s time to tackle the elephant in the room. As we look ahead, sure, there are personal changes we want to take forward with us – like unscheduled weekends or daily walks, routine self-care, time to make art, time with friends, or watching the sunset. But we also need to look beyond that and address changes that need to be made in the workplace, and systemic changes in our society. We need to take this time to look for ways to close the pay gap, to get more women into leadership roles, to address sexism, and bias. We need to pressure our elected officials to make sure that women have the supports they need to thrive, and to make meaningful contributions to their families and communities. And ultimately, we need to look for ways to tackle these issues together and build a society that is truly gender equal and sustains us all. Now – before things return to normal – we need to pause, take stock, and redefine normal.

 

 

 

What Does Your New Normal Look Like?

Woman relaxing on the couchA large portion of the country is reopening, and while that can signal a return to the office – at least part time – for many, it won’t be a return to “normal”. We’re going to be leaving our homes for a very different world. And while some people can’t wait for “things to get back to normal,” the question we need to be asking is, “Was that ’normal’ the best that we could do?”

Prior to the pandemic shutdown we were a society on the go. We were a schedule-driven, multitasking mob with goals, agendas, and very little downtime. We defined ourselves by doing, not by being, and wore our busyness like a badge of honor. We scheduled our kids, ourselves, our weekends, and our holidays. We scheduled it all and we were busy, busy, busy. That busyness came at a cost though, it was making us sick. Dr. Susan Koven, Massachusetts General Hospital, noticed the trend and wrote, “In the past few years, I’ve observed an epidemic of sorts: patient after patient suffering from the same condition. The symptoms of this condition include fatigue, irritability, insomnia, anxiety, headaches, heartburn, bowel disturbances, back pain, and weight gain. There are no blood tests or X-rays diagnostic of this condition, and yet it’s easy to recognize. The condition is excessive busyness.”

However, early this year that busyness stopped – abruptly –and the time of the great reflection began. Why were we so busy? What did that busyness mean? Why did that busyness matter? And most importantly, what’s next? Our dilemma is global and can best be summed up by a piece of graffiti in Hong Kong that proclaims, “We can’t return to normal, because the normal we had was precisely the problem.”

While these past weeks have been traumatizing, in certain ways they’ve been a gift. We have been able to connect with our immediate and extended families; we’re consistently reaching out to neighbors and friends; we’re reengaging with our communities (from a distance), and we’re focusing on the people that make our lives full. We’re more mindful of our time; we’re focusing on self-care; we’re picking up old hobbies; we’re cooking; we’re making art, and while many of us are still working, we’re not traveling, networking, or engaging in the extraneous noise, or busyness of it all. We’ve been able to enjoy the quiet, and in some ways, are reluctant to let it go.

As we start to look at what’s next and define our new normal, we need to take stock of these past few weeks and evaluate what we want to take forward with us. Is it unscheduled weekends or daily walks? Is it a consistent focus on self care? Could it be a regular opportunity to make art? More time with friends? Or watching the sunset? Now – before the busyness sets in – it’s time to pause, take stock, and ask yourself what you really want. We’re all in this together and if we want to collectively benefit from these times, we need to support one another, be clear with our intentions, and define what we truly want our new normal to look like.

 

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