Author: Allie Haynes

Get Woke with Your Vote

As the election nears, social media platforms have become inundated with voting content. Although advancements in technology have made voting information more accessible than ever before, it can still be confusing to find the deadlines and addresses you need in the sea of posts. Whichever side of politics you’re on, one thing is clear: this election is incredibly important. It’s been over 100 hundred years since the last pandemic struck the US, and the elected president will influence the outcome of the current pandemic in our country.

Only half of all eligible voters in the US exercise their right to vote. Convincing these voters to participate in the upcoming election is daunting, but powerhouse Birminghamian Dejuana Thompson is determined to make a difference. After a stint as Senior Advisor for the Small Business Administration, Thompson founded Think Rubix, LLC, which works alongside nonprofits, businesses, and governments to enact social change.

One of their projects is Woke Vote, works to, “invest in the activation, long-term engagement, training and development of new organizers, and mobilization of historically disengaged voters of color.” Data-driven research has proven their tactics have resulted in unprecedented increases in voter turnout.

Their program has gained national acclaim as a proven catalyst for voting, and their focus on community engagement couldn’t come at a better time. Recent racial unrest both locally and nationally is discouraging and overwhelming, but people now have the opportunity to elect politicians who reflect their values and opinions.

Still unsure of your voting status? We’ve gathered some resources to ensure you have the information you need!

  • Confirm your registration status and/or find your polling location here
  • Find your elected officials here
  • Here are the official amendments included in the Alabama ballot. Want an easier to read version? WBHM explains them here
  • Any additional questions? Rock the Vote has all the answers

How to Fit a Retreat into a Basket

Momentum’s executive programs usually begin with a two-day retreat, relaxing near a forest or pond. This year, we had to get creative in welcoming our new class! With a little help from Alabama Goods, Momentum logistics manager Katherine Thrower arranged locally sourced happies to create a “retreat in a basket.” Unlike the traditional fruit basket, each item had meaningful significance that was referenced in our sessions (don’t worry…we made room for snacks!). The whole Momentum team took part in dropping off baskets at each participants’ house to ensure they would feel celebrated!

“The retreat is about making them feel special because they are special,” says CEO April Benetollo. Each participant was analyzed based on their background, professional experience, and stage in life. If they were selected this year, “it’s the right time for them to be doing this.” This well-rounded group connected in breakout sessions and interactive activities to start the year off right. While the retreat focuses on emotional intelligence and awareness, the executive program shifts into different themes throughout the year.

Have you ever wondered what makes Momentum’s programming unique? We don’t just proofread your resume and send you on your way with a handout on teamwork. Momentum was founded with the goal of creating intentional relationships and personal growth.

  • The retreat sets the forecast for the rest of the year, asking participants, “Who are you?”
  • The next quarter focuses on the participant’s strengths and talents, asking, “How could you be directed to bring you more joy and value to your job/community?”
  • After that comes the real work. “How do you get there?” Momentum offers negotiation skills and resilience training to prep participants for the final stage.
  • Looking forward, the question remains, “How do you take that beyond you? What can you bring to your job, community, family, etc.?” Participants are encouraged to volunteer or join a local board to become more engaged with their community. In terms of professional growth, class members learn tactics to claim visibility, accept recognition, and share expertise with future game-changers.

Whether you’re in a program or not, Momentum has a place for you! Join us as a mentee or mentor today to meet more inspiring women in your community.

Until There Are Nine

Ruth Bader Ginsburg was notorious for her persistent fight to advocate for women, but her legacy goes beyond the work she accomplished as a Supreme Court justice, and she was not always esteemed for her fierce determination. As a student at Harvard Law School, she was criticized for “taking a man’s place,” even though she ended up tying for first in her class. Many women in the US are currently struggling to work from home while managing their children’s schoolwork. The Notorious RBG was no stranger to this dilemma. When her husband was diagnosed with cancer while they were both in law school, she took all of his notes and typed all of his papers in addition to her own, all while taking care of her newborn daughter. She faced discrimination in the workplace and had a hard time finding a job, but once she got started, she was on a roll.

Ginsburg, like most women, was also scrutinized for her personality. She was too serious, too forgiving. Too progressive, not progressive enough. Her appointment was eventually supported by feminists, but some gawked at her close friendship with the late conservative justice Antonin Scalia. Their relationship served as a reminder to the country that relationships can transcend political boundaries. They frequently traveled together, attending operas and riding elephants. However, his views did not bleed into hers, and she went on to become the leading liberal justice on the Supreme Court.

She was an expert of making the most of what she had. As a frequent member of the minority vote in the Supreme Court, she made history for her eloquent dissents, some of which eventually inspired new laws. Some of the highlights of her legacy precede her time in the Supreme Court. She co-founded the Women’s Rights wing of the American Civil Liberties Union, became the first tenured female law professor at Columbia, and co-founded the first women’s rights law journal, all during the 1970s, when most boardrooms had no room for women. In her later years, she became a pop icon, inspiring teens to become politically involved as she demonstrated her workout routine on late night television.

Ginsburg inspired men and women both through her actions and her words. As the second woman to ever be nominated to the US Supreme Court, she knew that it would take serious work for women to be effectively represented.

“When I’m sometimes asked ‘When will there be enough [women on the Supreme Court]?’ and I say ‘When there are nine,’ people are shocked. But there’d been nine men, and nobody’s ever raised a question about that.” -Ruth Bader Ginsburg

Although she is no longer with us, her story is not over. Her work continues to inspire efforts toward representation and equal pay. She persisted, and we must continue to persist.

What’s Good

Sick of reading yet another news story about murder hornets and wildfires started by gender reveals gone wrong? We’ve collected some good news about women from around the world to brighten your news feed.

A rare breed of storks in northeast India were on the verge of extinction just 7 years ago. A local woman founded a nonprofit to employ women to change local perception about the native species and help facilitate growth. The women also receive training and education as a part of their work. Now, the population has increased 500% and continues to grow!

The Fortune 500 set an all-time record for women CEOS! In 2000, there were only 2 women represented; now there are 37. There’s certainly room to grow, but we’re on an upward trajectory.

MotionMobs, led by Birmingham entrepreneur Taylor Peak, was featured in the New York Times for their work in contact tracing. Businesses in Birmingham like UAB are using their technological services to keep tabs on the spread of COVID-19. “The best part—the app is free and available to all Alabama residents,” reports Bham Now. We love to see local women making history!

 

Rwanda recently set the record for their government being represented by the highest percentage of women in the world at 64%. This exciting news comes after decades of hard work and perseverance following the Rwandan genocide almost 20 years ago. “John Mutamba, an official at the Ministry of Gender and Women in Development, said: ‘Men who grew up in exile know the experience of discrimination. Gender is now part of our political thinking. We appreciate all components of our population across all the social divides, because our country has seen what it means to exclude a group.'”

$100 million dollars was donated to Meharry Medical College, Howard University College of Medicine, Morehouse School of Medicine, and Charles R. Drew University of Medicine and Science, all HBCUs, as an effort to increase opportunities for black doctors and to improve minority health. The donation from former NY mayor Mike Bloomberg was the largest ever received by these universities. Over half of the students attending those 4 schools this year will receive funding from this grant!

Recently, “Birmingham-Hoover ranked #2 among large metros with the most successful women entrepreneurs,” according to Bham Now. Women entrepreneurs like Ashlee Ammons of Mixtroz recently attended our 2020 Vision Conference to network with other leaders in Birmingham. Did you miss the conference? You can watch presentations from some of our speakers through our Intentional Tuesdays recordings, available on Youtube.

 

A New Way to Network

The term, “Zoom etiquette,” would make no sense just a few months ago, but now, connecting appropriately in virtual meetings is a must. Momentum fortunately got to host its biannual conference just before COVID-19 hit Alabama, but many organizations have had to forgo their usual in-person gatherings. However, Birminghamians are still finding ways to network despite an international pandemic. Here are some upcoming (and fun) events geared toward professionals in our community:

Rebound Bham: created by a host of nonprofit and government organizations, this series shows small business owners how to persevere and grow during this time next event Roadmap Goal Setting Workshop, August 27  at 9 am

Virtual Cocktails & Conversations: Join after work and connect with “social go-getters” in Birmingham, September 1 from 6-8 pm

CTRL + SHIFT: A Virtual Conference for Dreamers and Doers: “take control and shift the paradigm on the outcomes in our community,” August 28 from 12-6 pm 

Connect with Birmingham leaders in marketing, graphic design, and anything artsy through Creative Mornings, an international program with speakers and networking opportunities

Birmingham at the Wine Loft: connect in a casual space and get started on your next great idea! November 10, 6-8 pm

The Women’s Network of Birmingham: get to know a diverse group of women professionals in the city through their networking event on September 10 at 11:45 am through Zoom

Mixtroz: this Birmingham startup expertly features a myriad of opportunities to connect and grow your network. Ashlee Ammons, co-founder, attended our conference in March!

Making Sense of Meditation

When I think of meditation, I picture myself sitting cross-legged on the floor with the sound of wind-chimes and the smell of essential oils. However, meditation doesn’t always look like this. Regardless of your lifestyle, you can find a form of meditation that fits with your personality and schedule. I’ve just started to learn more about other types of meditation, but it can be challenging to navigate the best form of meditation for you.

Sommerville Johnston, Licensed Professional Counselor, Somatic Experiencing Practitioner, wilderness instructor and founder of Aspen Roots Collective, guided us during a Wellness Wednesdays session last week through a unique form of meditation called mindfulness. According to Headspace, a popular meditation app, “Mindfulness is the quality of being present and fully engaged with whatever we’re doing at the moment — free from distraction or judgment, and aware of our thoughts and feelings without getting caught up in them.” Some mindfulness exercises ask the participant to notice their surroundings and current feelings to engage with the present moment. My mind tends to wander during those exercises, so I was excited to hear that Sommerville had a different approach to mindfulness by using imagery. Visualization meditation asks the participant to imagine a calming image, like a tree or nature scene, and to associate your personal emotions and feelings with that image. The goal is to find peace and stillness as you picture feelings of stress, grief, etc. falling down like leaves from a tree.

If the idea of nature is calming to you, you might also enjoy walking meditation. From the outside, it looks the same as any other jaunt through the woods or neighborhood would. However, there is a specific technique you can use to interact with your emotions and surroundings. Simply shifting your gaze from the ground to the birds in the sky or wildflowers on your trail can also help shift your thoughts. Intentionally breathing, listening carefully to what’s around you, slowing your pace, and adjusting your posture can all create a more positive experience.

Once you find your technique, you can incorporate meditation and mindfulness into any activity, so you don’t have to necessarily schedule it as one more thing to accomplish on your never-ending to-do list. Movement meditation can be done through gardening, taking a quick stroll on your lunch break, doing laundry, or taking up socially-distanced yoga.

Still not convinced? The National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health reviewed several studies and found that, “A 2013 review of three studies suggests that meditation may slow, stall, or even reverse changes that take place in the brain due to normal aging.” It can also be helpful in dealing with chronic pain, stress, high blood pressure, and headaches. This list only begins to describe the benefits and types of meditation, but it’s a good starting point on your journey of self-care.

Finding Financial Confidence

As COVID continues and stimulus checks remain unpredictable, it is more important than ever to find financial stability and security. DeLynn Zell, CEO of Bridgeworth Financial, gave a detailed presentation last month on how to control personal finances during the COVID crisis. Some of her suggestions include creating a budget, establishing savings, and making a financial plan. 

Unfortunately, women have historically earned less than men. “Women are three times as likely as men to say they can’t afford to save for retirement and have significantly lower rates of financial literacy. Women also make up the majority of caregivers, and are three times more likely than men to quit their jobs to care for a family member.” Despite men spending more time working from home, women are still bearing the brunt of the labor. According to Forbes, mother’s work hours fell four times as much as father’s in April, widening the already existing gender gap. Most men worked the same amount of hours, but women were expected to take on additional caregiving and homeschooling responsibilities. The future remains uncertain, but women across the country are finding unique ways to support each other. 

Here are some ways women are gaining strength:

  1. Being vulnerable. “Talking about and sharing more stories about the success of women who took chances, made missteps and still ended up on top are vital to helping more women go after their dreams and not be so focused on seeking perfection,” said Sarah Kauss, Founder & CEO of S’Well. Mentoring relationships are a great way to swap stories and bring encouragement.
  2. Improving emotional intelligence. According to the US Senate Committee on Small Business & Entrepreneurship, “Investors ask men about opportunity and the potential for gains while women are questioned about the potential for losses.” Reframing challenges and gaining confidence can help narrow the gap. Jean Ann Larson, Chief Leadership Development Officer at UAB, gave an insightful presentation on the role of emotions in the workplace.
  3. Speaking up. “College-educated women make about 90% as much as men at age 25, but only 55% as much at age 45.” Of Momentum’s Alumni, 79% agreed or strongly agreed that Momentum had a positive influence on their attitude to negotiate in the workplace. Delphine Carter, Founder of Boulo Solutions, works every day to help women find new careers. Her advice on achieving professional goals is for women to proudly share their accomplishments in a comfortable way, allow themselves to be whomever they want and, as importantly, learn to support each other on that journey.

Petite Can Mean Powerful

Deborah Boswell, long-time President of Professional Speech Services of Alabama, spoke at last week’s Intentional Tuesdays event about the power of your voice. As a woman who measures over five feet tall on a good day, I was ready for this presentation with my trusty pen to take notes. Deborah mentioned some key takeaways that you probably haven’t heard before. Here’s the rundown:

  • Focus on your breath. You don’t have to scream to be loud! Try to talk from your diaphragm instead of your throat or chest to command the room.
  • When you’re nervous, you probably have shallow breath. Take some deep inhales and exhales before a presentation. Personally, I listen to a Lizzo song or some words of encouragement from Brene Brown. You can view some more mindfulness resources here.
  • First impressions count. Think about your posture and what you’re wearing. I have been moved mid-presentation because multiple people thought I was breaking out in hives. Turns out, I was just nervous, so now I wear a turtleneck.
  • Be concise. No one likes a long meeting that could have been summed up in a quick email. Executives don’t have a lot of time on their hands, and the average person’s attention span, according to research by Microsoft, is shorter than eight seconds. That’s less than a goldfish.
  • BLUF. Don’t bluff, but keep the Bottom Line Up Front. Capture their attention at the beginning so they stay with you for important information.
  • Conjunction junction, what’s your function? Diluting clarity, according to Deborah. Break up your sentences.
  • If you are the expert, behave like the expert! Stay confident; you’ve got this.

Wish you hadn’t missed Deborah’s presentation? Want to watch it again? Check out our new Youtube channel for her presentation and others!

What’s New With Momentum?

If you’re anything like me, your email, Instagram, and Facebook are overflowing with information, especially since the start of COVID-19. Our mission at Momentum is to advance equity for women in leadership, so we’ve put together some additional resources for you in light of the challenges you and your community may be experiencing. Please feel free to reach out to our staff about any of the programs listed below.

  • Mentoring! Momentum is excited to offer opportunities to women in Alabama to be either a mentor or a mentee. This is a great chance to grow your network and build a meaningful professional relationship. The commitment is only for six months, so you can focus on one specific skill or topic. Reach out to our Mentoring Coordinator, Mindy Santo, for more information.
  • inTENtional Tuesdays! We only have two sessions left in series. Next week on July 7, Deborah Boswell, President of Professional Speech Services of Alabama, will discuss the language of power. Join us Tuesday, July 21, to hear from Rachel Fry, Clinical Psychologist at Fry Health, speak about building your personal compass.
  • Wellness Wednesdays! Sad that inTENtional Tuesdays is ending? We’ve got a new series coming up. We’ll be hosting experts in emotional, spiritual, and physical health. Stay tuned for more updates!
  • Resources! In the past several months, we’ve written several blog posts about blogs, podcasts, books, etc. that address issues like COVID-19 and racial injustice in America. There is now a page on the website where you can access all of these resources and more.

If you have any suggestions for great books, podcasts, and artists related to health, COVID-19, and race in America, please comment below!

Planning During a Pandemic

In mid-March, Momentum hosted its biennial conference at the BJCC. As reports of COVID-19 were being heard around the world, Momentum’s 2020 Vision Conference ended up being the last major event held at the BJCC before they closed due to health concerns. It could not have been pulled off without GoPro Solutions, which was founded by Jennifer Gowers in 2007. She and her team, who work conveniently around the corner from Momentum’s office, worked for months to make sure our vision was carried out successfully. I Zoomed with Gowers to learn how their business is adapting in light of COVID-19.

Believe it or not, event planners are really good at planning for everything. When I called Gowers, I imagined that she would talk about all the events she would have had to cancel and frantically reschedule. Although she said some events and weddings have been postponed, she calmly explained how many of their events have gone virtual. Furthermore, because they plan so far in advance, they have more flexibility in restructuring.

GoPro was also ahead of the curve in working online. Gowers explained that her staff knew how to work remotely before quarantine, so she already had strategies to effectively get things done. She recommends that people designate a space for work in their home, not try to do chores during work hours, and focus on mind management. As an avid podcast listener, she explained that women like life coach Brooke Castillo encourage her to stay positive and mindful.

Looking toward the future, Gowers thinks that people will be more excited to come to events and overall attendance rates will rise. However, she thinks networking won’t be the same, and online platforms will expand. While online events are the most safe, she explained that “online is not the answer for everything”, so some gatherings will have to wait.

As a small business owner in Birmingham, she wants people to try to support local businesses instead of ordering straight from large corporations like Amazon. Gowers is optimistic about Birmingham’s future, citing the city’s unique resilience and genuineness. Although we may not be able to greet each other in person, she says Birmingham residents “know how to hug each other from afar”.