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Yes, Medical Gaslighting is Real

Chances are you know at least one woman who went to the ER only to be told what she’s experiencing is “normal” when it was anything but. Perhaps you also know someone who has been “blamed” for her health concerns. Women from around the world report that their doctors have tied their health problems to their mental health – oftentimes blaming depression or anxiety. They’ve also been told their medical concern is due to the fact they’re overweight (or under), are lacking motivation (aka lazy), practice poor self-care, or that it’s PMS, menopause, or (fill in the blank), which often delays effective – if not lifesaving – treatment.

A TODAY and SurveyMonkey poll from 2019 found that more than 25% of women with chronic health conditions said a health care provider ignored or dismissed their symptoms. Almost one-third of them said they felt like they needed to “prove” their symptoms to a healthcare provider, and one in four said a healthcare provider did not take their pain seriously.

For example, the New York Times reports that “by the time Michelle Cho, 32, was diagnosed with systemic lupus erythematosus, a disease in which the body slowly attacks its own tissues, she had developed kidney failure, a heart murmur and pneumonia — yet the first doctor she went to diagnosed her with allergies and the second doctor thought she was pregnant.”

A recent article published by the Irish Times shared a similar story about Eleanor – a 37-year-old woman who went to the ER with severe chest pain. “She was diagnosed with slightly high cholesterol and sent home. Three days later, she suffered excruciating pain and was taken to hospital in an ambulance. There, she was asked if she had suffered from panic attacks and was left overnight in a cubicle before doctors realized she was having a heart attack. She needed eight cardiac stents. ‘I am sure no man would be asked if they suffer from panic attacks while they’re having a heart attack’.”

Then there’s our friend Barclay DeVeau, who got very sick in 2020 with a wide range of symptoms that ultimately affected seven systems of her body. For more than eight months she begged doctors to help her as she felt a poison spreading throughout her body. But it was not until she had a seizure – which led to a temporary coma – that she started being heard.

“As I attempted to get a diagnosis and help, I was repeatedly dismissed, disregarded and disbelieved, even as my symptoms increased,” Barclay said. Those symptoms weren’t imagined, but were instead a rare bacterial infection that had taken hold and spread to her heart, brain, autoimmune system, her neurological system, connective tissue, joints, and muscles.

These women are not alone. Northwell Health’s Katz Institute for Women’s Health reports that female patients are continuously gaslighted about their physical and mental health. “Whether its heart disease labeled as anxiety, an autoimmune disorder attributed to depression, or ovarian cysts chalked up to ‘normal period pain,’ many women’s health issues are likely to be misdiagnosed or dismissed by doctors as something less critical.”

According to Gina Nebesar, co-founder and Chief Product Officer of Ovia Health, “Medical gaslighting, a relatively new, non-clinical term, refers to the practice of minimizing or dismissing a patient’s symptoms, concerns, or experiences. Often, symptoms are written off as psychological in nature, or patients are told that what they are experiencing isn’t serious or that it is normal. The problem of medical gaslighting and its downstream effects on care and clinical outcomes is long-documented—and it’s a phenomenon that disproportionately affects women, particularly women of color.”

Dr. Susan Wood, the Director of the Jacobs Institute at George Washington University, says a lack of research on women’s health was identified several decades ago, and while gaslighting exists to this day, it is not necessarily conscious. “Most physicians and health professionals are in the business of trying to help people. But they have not necessarily been trained on sex and gender differences issues,” she said to Healthnews.

The issue could be that women often have far different symptoms than their male counterparts, or that scientists know far less about the female body than they do about the male body probably because in 1977, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration began recommending scientists exclude women of childbearing years from early clinical drug trials in case they became pregnant. Researchers also worried that hormonal fluctuations could muddy results. Thankfully that changed in 1993 when it was mandated that women and minorities be included in medical research funded by the National Institutes of Health — but that doesn’t apply to privately funded studies, which means there are still huge knowledge gaps.

What can you do if you think your doctor is gaslighting you, and how can you protect yourself? Well for starters, have someone else – friend or family – go with you at the doctor’s office. They can advocate for you, listen, take notes, and ask questions on your behalf. It’s also a good idea to ask for a second opinion, especially if you’re not comfortable with your treatment or diagnosis, or lack thereof.

If those things don’t lessen your concerns, move on. Dr. Stephanie Trentacoste McNally from the Katz Institute says if you feel you’re not being taken seriously by your doctor, you need to find another provider. “A good physician takes the time to listen to a patient and steer them in the right direction. Can hormonal changes cause anxiety or affect our mood or sleep? Absolutely. But using ‘hormones’ as the default answer isn’t acceptable.”

If you have been in a situation where your voice wasn’t heard – in your doctor’s office or elsewhere – we would like you to join us in one of our focus groups. Dr. Nancy is updating her 2008 book, Timeless Women Speak, Feeling Youthful at Any Age, and she can’t do it without all of you. She needs to find out how women feel today about aging and how it’s affecting their lives. Our focus groups are starting right away. To participate, please email us at WC4G@drnancyoreilly.com as soon as possible. All focus groups will be scheduled for one hour on Zoom in the coming weeks. We make the biggest impact together, and together we can make our voices heard.

 

Reproductive Justice Must Be the Goal for Our Reproductive Decisions

Guest post by Asha Dahya

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

Women Change the Conversation with Vote and Leadership Style

With so much going on in the world today, it’s hard to determine which issue(s) will drive voters in the upcoming midterms, and who they will choose to represent them. Young women (ages 18-29) in battleground states are motivated in large part by women’s rights – namely abortion and the Equal Rights Amendment – and are highly motivated to cast their ballots, supporting initiatives and candidates who reflect their views.

“Despite constant reports in the media on inflation and rising prices as the top issues in this election, abortion and women’s rights are actually the most important for young women as they head to the ballot box,” said Katherine Spillar, executive editor of Ms. 

They’re not alone in their rush to the polls. More women of all ages plan to vote this year, perhaps more than at any time before. AARP reports that an overwhelming majority of women voters aged 50 and over say they are certain to vote this November (94%), and 80% of women voters rate their motivation to vote at a 10, with economic and social issues being top of mind. A new Kaiser Family Foundation poll released in mid-October reports that half of all voters say that they are more motivated to cast a ballot because of the Supreme Court’s decision to overturn Roe v. Wade. Three-quarters intend to back candidates who support abortion rights, compared to 17% who plan to vote for candidates who want to limit access. In fact, 50% of 1,534 adults KFF polled say they are more eager to vote in the midterms due to the fall of Roe, up from 43% in July and 37% in May. Add to that the fact that 51% of voters in states with abortion bans are more motivated to vote, compared to 32% in states that protect abortion access. These numbers may also account for a number of Republican candidates softening their abortion stances in this election cycle.

It’s important to note that while the fall of Roe may make the current discourse seem like it’s entirely about reproductive freedoms, there’s more to it, a lot more. The Center for Reproductive Rights points out that Roe actually binds together an entire class of personal freedoms, all part of the Constitution’s liberty doctrine. “Roe was a watershed decision, and its place in constitutional doctrine does not begin, or end, with abortion rights. Instead, Roe is one in a line of seminal opinions through which the Supreme Court has developed the liberty doctrine as a source of substantive rights. Those rights encompass abortion, but extend much farther.” In fact, overturning Roe threatens the constitutional foundations for a range of other liberties, and women are alerted to other personal liberties that may be affected and how elected representation might protect those rights.

The Brookings Institute points out that women vote more often than men – in the 2020 presidential election, women constituted 52% of the electorate compared to 48% for men. Brookings also pointed out how in 2020, women cast their ballots for women up and down the ticket, calling it “The Year of the Woman Voter” and wrote that the election was driven by the increasingly overwhelming determination of a significant number of women from every demographic. But as the Center for American Women and Politics at Rutgers University points out, “Women are neither a monolith in their political beliefs, nor a unified voting bloc. Not all women are moved by the same issues and concerns, and cross-cutting identities of race, ethnicity, religion, and sexual orientation often pull women voters in different directions, particularly in the hyper-partisan context of American politics.”

We Need Women to Lead

One hundred years ago we saw the passage of the 19th Amendment, guaranteeing and protecting women’s constitutional right to vote, six years ago we had a woman running for the highest office in the land, and four years later Kamala Harris made history when she became the first woman, the first woman of color, the first Black person and the first South Asian to be elected Vice President of the United States. When she was sworn in, we – at last – had a woman in the second highest office in the land who understands juggling the demands of a career with the needs of a family, why you need to choose your own reproductive journey, the importance of equal pay, and who values affordable healthcare, childcare and workplace protections. We need women who possess that same understanding at every level and who are empowered to help make your voice heard.

Why women? According to RepresentWomen.org, representation is powerful, and is a fundamental pillar of a functioning democracy. Yet here we are, in 2022, and half of our population is underrepresented, not just nationally, but at every level of government. “Leveling the political playing field clearly benefits women candidates, but what does this do for all women? And what about the other half of the population? As it turns out, advancing towards gender parity not only empowers women, but also strengthens our democracy and serves the entire nation.”

Women also lead differently. RepresentWomen.org notes that while we have had anecdotal evidence of women in political office working together and problem solving, there is also new quantitative data to support those claims. “The challenges and life experiences unique to women inform their policies and leadership styles, meaning they tackle issues from different angles than men do. By better representing women’s perspectives, we can revitalize and diversify policymaking.” In addition, American University finds that women legislators “work harder for their constituents.” Women also tend to prioritize minority needs and focus on family and healthcare more than their male counterparts.

Women also have a different approach to power, and legislate with their eyes on those they serve, benefitting their communities and our nation as a whole. As Gloria Feldt writes in her book No Excuses, “Culture has taught women that power means “power over,” a concept that has been drummed into feminine consciousness through traditional, heavy-handed masculine leadership. When women re-think power as the ‘power to’ accomplish their goals, they want to own it and use it in an entirely different way.”

It’s a given that we still have a way to go when it comes to equal representation. However, as the issues become more gender specific, it is important to have women seated at the table, who can represent our voices and keep the issues that impact us, our families, and communities front and center. Remember, women lead differently, and care deeply about those they serve.  Congresswoman Cori Bush summed it up best when she said in her acceptance speech in 2020 that she loves the people who elected her and those she represents, and it is with that love that she will fight for everyone in her district. This is why it’s crucial to get more women serving in public office. That kind of dedication and perspective completely changes how we are governed. It starts in our communities and at the ballot box when we 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.

Black Women’s Equal Pay Day is a Wakeup Call For Us All

Last week marked Black Women’s Equal Pay Day, the day the average Black woman in the US finally—after nine extra months of work—made what their white male counterparts did in 2021. It’s important to note that in 2021, Black Women’s Equal Pay Day was recognized on August 3, but in 2022 it’s been pushed back by nearly two months. That means the pay gap is widening – fast. September 21 was not a day to celebrate, but a stark reminder of the gross inequities that Black women continue to face and is a wakeup call for us all.

This loss of pay is charted by HerMoney.com, who reported that in 2020, Black women made 63 percent of what white, non-Hispanic men made. However, the pandemic caused full-time Black women workers’ median wage to be reduced to 58 cents in 2021, according to ACS Census data. This widening gap is similar to the levels of the 1960’s and is even more shocking compared to the 83 cents gap of women of all races, reported by The American Association of University Women. Factoring in all races moved Equal Pay Day for the rest of us to March 15 this year, which means that Black women had seven more months to earn the same pay as non-black women in this country where all people are supposed to be equal.

Overall, Black workers have always faced discrimination in the workforce, and Black women are especially vulnerable as they face the double jeopardy of not only being Black, but also being female. That discrimination costs them too, as much as $1,891 per month, $22,692 per year and a staggering loss of $907,680 over a 40-year career, according to the National Women’s Law Center. This means that a Black woman has to work until she’s 80 years old to make what a white man makes by the time he reaches 60. The wage gap starts with girls as young as 16 and worsens as Black women progress through their education and careers. Even though Black women enroll in college at higher rates than men, Black women who have bachelor’s degrees still earn 36% less than white men with bachelor’s degrees on average.

Part of the current disparity can be traced to the pandemic. COVID-19 dramatically shifted the labor market and hit women of color the hardest. Millions of women were forced out of the workforce due to layoffs and increased caregiving demands, with women of color suffering the greatest economic losses, to the tune of 1.4 million jobs, largely in industries in which Black women are overrepresented such as services and hospitality,according to a separate report from the NWLC. The report further states that unequal pay has left Black women less able than their white, non-Hispanic male counterparts to successfully weather the economic fallout of the pandemic. And data shows that economic gains in recent months have not been experienced evenly across groups by race and gender. For example, the unemployment rate for Black women was double digits for 6 months in 2020—including a peak of 16.6% in May 2020—before finally declining. That means Black women have been yet again excluded from full economic recovery, and the unemployment levels they have been facing would be labeled recessionary if they were applied to all workers.

While COVID-19 brought some of the racial and gender issues that Black women face to light, it’s important to remember that these are not new problems. Black women have been working twice as hard for half as much long before COVID-19, the pandemic simply added another layer to the inequities they’ve long faced.

Nicole Mason, president and CEO of the Institute for Women’s Policy Research, told ABC News that the solution for closing the gender pay gap for Black women needs to come from both the government and private sectors. “On the federal level, Mason said the passage of legislation like the Paycheck Fairness Act can help promote pay equity and transparency, while enforcement of existing civil rights and equal employment laws can help lower workplace discrimination.”

Black women are in crisis, and the growing pay gap must be reversed. We need to work together to address the disparities and close the pay gap for Black women, while creating a system that supports all women the same way it supports and protects our male counterparts. We need to make sure that women across the board are recognized for their skills and talents and actually get paid fairly for the work they do. Equal pay for all (women and men) needs to be a top priority, and this year’s Black Women’s Equal Pay Day is a resounding wakeup call – reminding us to take action. We need to take steps to make change for everyone, point out the injustices, and do what we can (all races and genders) personally and politically to make sure that Black women get the equal pay they deserve.

The Cassandra Project Shows Why Women’s Voices Must Be Heard

Filmmaker Barclay DeVeau’s new project focuses on one unifying and terrifying truth – when women’s voices are not heard, it is very dangerous for everyone. The Cassandra Project is a trilogy of narrative short films highlighting the reality and risks of women being dismissed and disbelieved. The project will feature the stories of three female protagonists whose voices are discounted due to gender disparity, in each case leading to extremely high stakes situations. By tying the films together in a trilogy, Barclay believes the impact will be all the greater.

On The Cassandra Project website, the team writes, “Like many of you, we have been disturbed by the current state of things in our country. So much progress has been reversed recently, that it often feels like retreat or resignation are the two most viable options. But we refuse to do that. In discussing what we can do to push back, fight and take a stand, we decided to create The Cassandra Project…The specific idea for this project came from one of our own experiences of a medical crisis that was discounted, disregarded, and disbelieved. The rest of us watched for months as our friend’s health deteriorated and she tried to get help, but it wasn’t until she was critical that she received the medical care necessary. Unfortunately, this is not an isolated incident. In almost every scenario imaginable, women’s voices are not given the same credence as their counterparts, and the stakes for everyone are extremely high.”

That “friend” was Barclay herself, who got very sick in 2020 with a wide range of symptoms that ultimately affected seven systems of her body.

“For more than eight months, I begged doctors, nearly daily, to help me – pleading with them as I felt a poison spreading throughout my body,” Barclay said. “During this time, as I attempted to get a diagnosis and help, I was repeatedly dismissed, disregarded and disbelieved, even as my symptoms increased.”

In fact, it was not until she had a seizure – which led to a temporary coma – that she started being heard. “By that time, what turned out to be a rare bacterial infection, had spread to my heart, my brain, my autoimmune system, my neurological system, and my connective tissue, joints and muscles,” Barclay added.

Now that she’s received intensive treatment – from wonderful doctors who have given her life back – Barclay feels a responsibility to use her filmmaking skills to speak out and show how not listening to women can be a matter of life or death.  The Cassandra Project (named after the Greek goddess who could see the future, but was disbelieved because of a curse) ties three very different stories together as a trilogy. The films will include Barclay’s own story, which will become a sci-fi/horror, “because, well…that’s what it was.” She’s not able to reveal anything about the other two shorts yet, but says, “trust me, they’re awesome!  And we have some incredible cast members attached.”

To happen though, The Cassandra Project needs support. Shooting is planned for January and February 2023 and with completion scheduled for summer 2023.  Barclay says that she will submit the trilogy to all the major film festivals and to the Academy for Oscar consideration in the short film category. The goal is to raise $50k for production costs, including cast and crew, camera, grip and lighting equipment, art department expenses, locations, permits, catering and postproduction costs.

To help Barclay make The Cassandra Project a reality, Dr. Nancy is offering to match up to $10k in donations through September 30. That, coupled with incentives Barclay’s team is offering for contributions at different levels, has helped kick off their fundraising campaign. While they’ve started strong, they still have a way to go.

“Dr. Nancy is an amazing advocate for women, and we are absolutely thrilled to have her on board as a partner in this project,” Barclay said. “Every contribution, no matter the amount, will help us raise awareness and affect change with these films; every single dollar is deeply appreciated.”

To learn more about The Cassandra Project, or to make a donation and help Barclay and her team raise women’s voices, go to www.thecassandraproject.net.

How Women and Wealth Will Create the Financial Revolution

Guest post by Cindy Couyoumjian

Women are on the verge of extraordinary financial change more than any other time in human history. Today women control $10 trillion in financial assets and by 2030 that figure is expected to rise to $30 trillion. This unprecedented amount of wealth is revolutionary for women. It will give them the unique opportunity to hammer away at the remaining patriarchal obstacles that prevent them from achieving economic freedom and agency in the world.

In my book, The Rise of Women and Wealth, I explore how patriarchy has kept women in a subordinate position for millennia. Over the past one-hundred and fifty years, women started to challenge this oppressive structure that is simultaneously everywhere and nowhere. It is everywhere in the sense that it shapes and defines the role of men and women in a male-centered society, yet nowhere because, like gravity, it’s invisible and we don’t think about how this toxic force perpetuates male domination at the expense of women.

The first wave of feminine change challenged the political order, which led to women exercising their inalienable right to vote. The second wave, which was inspired by Betty Friedan’s best-selling book, The Feminine Mystique, challenged the comfortable social construct of the 1950s and ‘60s that defined women as housewives and mothers while simultaneously denying them agency in the world. By the 1990s, and more recently the #MeToo movement, third wave feminism exposed the ugly and toxic side of masculinity. Beginning with the Anita Hill Congressional testimony against United States Supreme Court nominee, Clarence Thomas, and later numerous reports of sexual harassment in the entertainment industry showed what happens when society allows vulgar male power to go unchecked.

Although there is no general agreement regarding the fourth wave of feminine change, I think that we are currently in the midst of a powerful change that will affect women everywhere. I call this change the financial revolution, which will finally give women the power to shape and define their own destinies. . Today, with the massive wealth transfer women are set to inherit, real generational change is within reach. The one thing that is missing, and urgently needed, is that women must improve their financial literacy.

For centuries, women were led to believe they didn’t belong in the male-dominated financial world. As a result, women have not been properly educated about money. For the financial revolution to succeed, women need to embrace money as a tool and learn how to use it. The financial industry needs to increase the number of women financial planners and advisors. Women need to trust their financial intuition and ask questions about investing and creating generational wealth. Women today are on the precipice of long-term change.   It’s up to women to take the next step, accept responsibility for driving the financial revolution, and direct this new feminine wave into true equality for women.

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Cindy Couyoumjian is the founder of Cinergy Financial and is dedicated to empower people by expanding their financial literacy and awareness. With 36 years in the industry and seven securities registrations, Cindy is more than a leader in the industry, she is also an innovator of investment methodology. Her newest book, The Rise of Women and Wealth: Our Fight for Freedom, Equality and Control of our Financial Future, urges women to become financially literate and reclaim their power and liberty to become agents of change.

Ketanji Brown Jackson Makes History

Ketanji_Brown_JacksonHistory was made on April 7, 2022, when a bipartisan group of Senators confirmed Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson to the Supreme Court of the United States. The momentous vote was presided over by Vice President Kamala Harris, our nation’s first Black female vice president, and witnessed by members of the Congressional Black Caucus. Black female lawmakers sat together along the walls, while young people filled the visitor galleries, all present to witness the event. Vice President Harris called for the final vote on Jackson’s nomination with a smile on her face, and the chamber broke into loud applause when she was confirmed.

Georgia Democratic Sen. Raphael Warnock said before the vote that “Ketanji Brown Jackson’s improbable journey to the nation’s highest court is a reflection of our own journey through fits and starts toward the nation’s highest ideals.”

“She embodies the arc of our history,” he added. “She is America at its best. That I believe in my heart after meeting with her in my office, talking to folks who I trust who know her and hearing her testimony before the Senate Judiciary Committee.”

It was a bumpy road to the Senate chamber for Judge Jackson, and much of the nation. Under intense scrutiny for four days, Republicans on the Judiciary Committee attacked her as a progressive activist who was soft on crime, glossing over her exemplary qualifications and experience, even asking her how she would define the word “woman.” President Biden denounced those behaviors saying Judge Jackson displayed “the incredible character and integrity she possesses.”

“To be sure I have worked hard to get to this point in my career, and I have now achieved something far beyond anything my grandparents could have possibly ever imagined, but no one does this on our own,” Judge Jackson said in her remarks on the White House South Lawn following her historic confirmation. “In the poetic words of Dr. Maya Angelou, ‘I do so now while bringing the gifts my ancestors gave. I am the dream and the hope of the slave.’”

Judge Jackson thanked the Democratic Senate leaders, numerous White House staff involved in her confirmation process, and the many people who helped her along the way. “As I take on this new role, I strongly believe that this is a moment in which all Americans can take great pride. We have come a long way toward perfecting our Union.”

“In my family it took just one generation to go from segregation to the Supreme Court of the United States of America. And it is an honor – the honor of a lifetime – for me to have this chance to join the court,” she added. “To promote the rule of law at the highest level, and to do my part to carry our shared project of democracy and equal justice under law forward into the future.”

Ketanji Brown JacksonJudge Jackson is the first Black woman to be nominated to the nation’s highest court in its 233-year history. Born in Washington, DC, she grew up in Miami, Florida. Her parents attended segregated primary schools, then attended historically black colleges and universities, and her father attended law school. Both started their careers as public school teachers and became leaders and administrators in the Miami-Dade Public School System. She testified at her confirmation hearing that one of her earliest memories was watching her father study law. “He had his stack of law books on the kitchen table while I sat across from him with my stack of coloring books.”

Judge Jackson stood out as a high achiever throughout her childhood, serving as “mayor” of her junior high, and student body president of her high school. As class president, Judge Jackson was quoted in the 1988 Miami Palmetto Senior High School yearbook as saying, “I want to go into law and eventually have a judicial appointment.”

However, when she told her high school guidance counselor she wanted to attend Harvard, she was warned not to set her “sights so high.” She remained focused and in fact, she not only made her way to Harvard, she graduated magna cum laude from Harvard University, then attended Harvard Law School, where she graduated cum laude and was an editor of the Harvard Law Review. Today, Judge Jackson lives with her husband Patrick – who she married in 1996 – and their two daughters, in Washington, DC.

Prior to her confirmation to the Supreme Court, Judge Jackson clerked for the United States District Court for the District of Massachusetts, the United States Court of Appeals for the 1st Circuit and for Justice Breyer. She worked in private practice before joining the U.S. Sentencing Commission in 2003. Then she became a federal public defender in 2005 before her confirmation as a U.S. district court judge in 2007. Just last year, the Senate confirmed Jackson 53-44 to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit.

Judge Jackson has set the bar – no pun intended – and is serving as an example to young girls around the world. You have to see it to be it, and she’s “being” it with grace, dignity, and deserving qualifications galore. New Jersey Democratic Sen. Cory Booker summed it up best when he said to Judge Jackson during her confirmation hearing, “You deserve to be here, at this place, at this time, and you have made us all so proud…”

“Why Not” Is a Movement and a Mission

Why_Not_IncubatorJacqueline L. Sanderlin, Ed.D., is an inspiring international speaker and visionary leader whose “Why Not” attitude has led to dramatic improvements in some of Southern California’s most under-resourced schools. Dr. Jackie has served over 30 years as a special education teacher, curriculum specialist, assistant principal, principal, after-school administrator, program coordinator, district administrator and executive director of school and community engagement. She is currently the U.S. Board Chairman for WE Charity, blogs for Scholastic magazine, serves as an Executive Board Member for the Goldie Hawn Foundation – MindUp, and is a steering committee member for the Social Emotional Learning Alliance for California. Having developed meaningful community partnerships between 350+ corporations, local businesses, and underserved schools, she appeared as a guest on The Ellen Show, which positioned her for the consulting producer role of the NBC reality show, School Pride.

In a time of vitriol and division, Dr. Jackie has been outspoken about her “Why Not?” message, which is to build community, unity, equity, and partnerships. She currently serves as K-12 National Education Leadership Executive Manager at Apple, Inc., and is founder and CEO of the “Why Not?” Incubator, a nonprofit organization designed to provide leadership coaching to executives, educational leaders and teams. Dr. Jackie offers virtual and in-person interactive sessions on building and sustaining community partnerships, school community wellness, empowering student youth, race and equity, and how to support teachers and students in an online setting.

Here is what “Why Not” means to Dr. Jackie, in her own words:

For me, “Why Not” is more like a movement AND a mission. I am on a mission. I want to empower all youth to use their voices to open doors, create opportunities and invent possibilities. As an educator in very challenging school districts, I have learned about the power of asking the “Why Not?” question.

My schools lacked the resources other schools had in different zip codes and it was my goal to ensure they had the best afforded to them. That is what they deserved. I was never looking for a hand out, rather than a hand up! I wanted to empower my scholars and teachers to think bigger and broader. We did this with the help of community partnerships. We also learned the power of community.

When we began to invite others to the table to help us co-create, dream possibilities and reimagine what could be, we were able to bring music, theatre, dance and photography to our school with the help of community partners. One partner gave each scholar a bicycle to help us focus on the importance of play and health. This is something we could not do, but because of the partnership we were able to give a gift to each scholar for Christmas! After that, we developed a wellness team that included more community partners, stakeholders and local politicians.

Now, I provide workshops to educators called, Building Bridges, to help them identify ways to engage their community and empower their scholars. I wrote my book, The “Why Not?” Challenge: Say Yes to Success with School-Community Partnerships, to provide action steps for schools to engage their community partners in a real way.

The three key actions to my work are:

1.) Dream possibilities

2.) Embrace your community

3.) Find your hook (cause).

Our schools are the hub of all communities and can be a catalyst for college and career pathways. More than that, when we allow others to co-create with us, it broadens our perspectives, which helps us to provide a platform for success for our scholars! Everyone benefits–from the neighbors who own property in the communities where the schools are located to the companies that employ the talent being developed in our schools. We owe it to the next generation to give them this foundation of learning and understand that they matter and we depend on them to be all they can be.

Burnout Behind Job Exodus for Many Women

BurnoutDuring last week’s Diversity Women’s Business Leadership Conference, the topic shifted to women leaving the workplace first during the pandemic, and now as part of the great resignation – which isn’t over yet as nearly two-thirds of workers are hunting for a new job, and nearly nine out of ten company executives are seeing higher than normal turnover in their organizations. Looking at reasons for the exodus, Michele Meyer-Shipp, who most recently served as the first highest ranking woman at Major League Baseball in the role of Chief People & Culture Officer, felt that for many women the cause was simple – burnout.

She’s definitely on to something. A recent report from Limeade, a software firm that surveyed 1,000 full-time U.S. workers, found that in fact burnout (40%) is the main reason respondents left their job, followed by organizational changes (34%), lack of flexibility and not feeling valued (20%), and insufficient benefits (19%). A June survey of 2,800 workers from global staffing firm Robert Half further backed that up and found that more than four in ten employees (44%) say they are more burned out on the job today compared to a year ago. And last but not least, a study by Asana of 13,000 knowledge workers across eight countries found that 71 percent had experienced burnout in the past year.

As if living through a global pandemic weren’t enough, the workplace shifted as the world adapted to shutdowns, surges, and all other associated pandemic issues. Being in the office, at home, back in the office, or a hybrid of both further taxed an already stressed system and women oftentimes bore the brunt of those never-ending changes. Meyer-Shipp was quick to point out that while no one size fits all, a lot (a LOT) of women are burned out as a result. “As people started to leave the workplace, women were picking up extra workloads and carrying the weight for their teams, their departments, their organizations and literally got to that point where it’s like, ‘enough’. It’s like, ‘seriously people like I’m not doing this anymore.’ I think we had a lot of that.”

Granted, many women and men were burned out before the pandemic, but during those first months they had time to think, time to re-assess, and time to plot a move forward that didn’t include the stress that was increasingly associated with their jobs.

Before you blame the employee for burnout because of their resilience, backbone, yoga practice – or lack thereof – you have to realize that they have little to do with the root causes of the condition. According to the foremost expert on burnout, Christina Maslach, social psychologist and professor emerita of psychology at the University of California, Berkeley, we are attacking the problem from the wrong angle. “Categorizing burnout as a disease was an attempt by the WHO (World Health Organization) to provide definitions for what is wrong with people, instead of what is wrong with companies. When we just look at the person, what that means is, ‘Hey we’ve got to treat that person.’ ‘You can’t work here because you’re the problem.’ ‘We have to get rid of that person.’ Then, it becomes that person’s problem, not the responsibility of the organization that employs them.”

However, a Gallup survey actually found that the top reasons for burnout are unfair treatment, unmanageable workloads, a lack of role clarity, a lack of communication and support, and unreasonable time pressures – all of which have been exacerbated by the pandemic. That furthers Maslach’s assertions that the root causes of burnout do not lie with the individual, but with the workplace as a whole. Current events such as the great resignation are not happening as a result of people not wanting to work, but instead prove that they’re burned out and need more workplace support.

Emphasizing the need for honesty and transparency from managers and employees, Brandon Greiner, vice president of operations for MedExpress, says, “An important first step in keeping stress in check is for managers to regularly check in with employees and encourage them to provide honest feedback regarding their workload, work environment and responsibilities.”

Lindsay Lagreid, senior advisor at Limeade, takes that further by saying that managers need to also start asking better questions. “Asking ‘How ya doing?’ and accepting answers like ‘I’m fine’ or ‘hanging in there’ aren’t going to cut it anymore. Instead, try more specific questions like:
*Have you been able to complete your projects on time? If not, why do you think that is?

*Do you have the resources you need to get your work done? If not, what else would you need?

*What can I do to make your job easier?”

We are still navigating unprecedented times and burnout, like so many other issues this pandemic has brought to the forefront, needs to be recognized and explored. That means we need to talk about it, look for ways to address it, and ultimately define ways to prevent it from happening in the first place. Keep in mind the fact that collectively taking action on this issue at every level is crucial to get and keep women employed and in the pipeline for advancement. Ultimately, this is a time of reinvention and change, and in order to hold on to top performing women and men, the workplace not only needs to recognize the issue, but make some changes of its own.

Standing With the Women of Afghanistan

Stand_With_Afghan_WomenIn Afghanistan, the withdrawal of U.S. and allied troops last month, signaled an end to much of the progress that women in the country had made, and many of the rights they had come to enjoy. While Taliban leadership assured citizens that they would allow women to work and pursue education, the hard-handed Taliban rule of the 90’s, left many Afghans afraid that those pledges would not be fulfilled. If the past couple of weeks are any indication, those fears are well founded.

Today there are no women in the Taliban’s newly named interim cabinet, and the country’s Ministry of Women’s Affairs was abolished. And although women can continue to study in universities, classrooms will now be gender-segregated, Islamic dress is compulsory, and subjects being taught are under review. All of this despite the fact that over the past twenty years millions of Afghan girls and women were able to attend school, hold a job and help shape their destiny for the first time. After years of not being able to leave their homes without a male chaperone, their educational opportunities allowed them to become judges, teachers, journalists, police officers, and government ministers. However, the Taliban recently told working women to stay at home, admitting they were not safe in the presence of the militant group’s soldiers, which means Afghan women are now effectively locked out of participation and leadership in the communities they helped form.

As if that were not enough, Afghan women and girls have been banned from playing sports as the deputy head of the Taliban’s cultural commission, Ahmadullah Wasiq, said women’s sport was considered neither appropriate nor necessary. According to NPR, ads showing women’s faces have also been blacked out and Taliban members have been erasing street art and murals that often conveyed public service messages.

How have the women of Afghanistan responded to these actions (and many more)? Loudly. Last week, dozens of Afghan women demonstrated in the western city of Herat to demand their rights to employment and education. This week Hannah Bloch writes at NPR.com that “Day after day, Afghan women have taken to the streets in groups large and small to protest against Taliban rule, the regime’s new curbs on their rights and Pakistan’s influence in Afghanistan.” In Kabul, they demanded equal rights, and women in government and others demanded “azadi” or freedom. In response, the Taliban have at times used force — wielding whips, beating women with batons, pointing guns and firing weapons into the air.

This situation is only days old and events are continuing to unfold at a horrifying pace. Gloria Steinem reached out and asked supporters to join her in an Emergency Response for Afghan Women. Donor Direct Action, which she co-convened with South African Judge Navi Pillay, supports a front-line women’s group in Afghanistan that has protected Afghan women and children since 1999. She and Jessica Neuwirth recently spoke with the leadership of this group and said, “It was heartbreaking to hear first-hand from Kabul about the scale of this crisis and the utter lack of resources to respond. These women are fearless and inspiring, and they need our help. That is why I am convening this Emergency Response for Afghan women.” Women for Women International is providing emergency support for Afghan women, The Georgetown Institute for Women, Peace and Security is taking action to help protect Afghan women and human rights leaders, as well as many, many other organizations.

Write letters, donate if you can, raise awareness and lend your voice. We need to stand together with the women of Afghanistan and help them any way we can.

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