Author: momentum

Tips on Navigating your Professional Journey

When thinking about our careers, we never want to become so focused in our day-to-day that we forget to look forward to where we want to be.

No matter where we are on our professional journey, we always want to be aware of our career progression.  While also remembering that it takes time to move forward, the workplace isn’t like grade school where we are constantly being tested and reminded that we have either made the mark or we need to step it up. But all in all, each of us is on a path that is hopefully leading us toward a brighter professional future.

It’s easy to think that the first full-time job we had (or are going to have) defined everything, but in all honesty the first ten years are the most crucial. With each new job and position, we want to remember to look for a role that highlights our strengths while challenging us at the same time. Furthermore, we never want to become stagnant.

We recently had the opportunity to hear from Joy Carter and we wanted to share some of her wisdom. Consequently, we want you to keep these ideas in mind while you tackle your professional journey.

A few tips to help your progress:

1. Negotiate your salary. Whether it’s your first job or your last, you’re worth it.

Remember to ask those around you for feedback, insight, and encouragement. Figuring out what your future goals are can be difficult, always feel free to phone a friend.

2. Goals! Goals! Goals! If we consciously take disciplined steps, we will get where we want to be. Every 90 days, set 3-5 goals that you can accomplish. Know where you want to be, and then figure out how to get there.

3. Take advantage of the small moments. Whether that’s taking advantage of the right opportunity over lunch, coffee, or when riding the elevator.

4. Don’t fear feedback; ask for it. Your managers and your peers may have excellent insight for you about your strengths and about ways that you could improve. Are you aware of your RBF?

5. Mentorship is key for all. Observe the people around you in your company or community, and consider creating a mentor relationship with them. Relationship makes us stronger whether you’re the mentor or the mentee. Career decisions can be overwhelming; don’t go it alone.

6. Be aware of all the possible next steps you could take on your professional path in the upcoming five years. Do your best to avoid committing to one direction. Simply be aware of your options.

Career progression can be daunting and illusive. We hope our tips today are a reminder that you are not on this journey alone. Remember to stay disciplined and to always be aware of all the possibilities.

 

Contributing Writer Holly Moore

 

Affecting Change to Eradicate Sexual Harassment in the Workplace

Holly Moore, Marketing Intern

In light of the multitude of recent reports regarding sexual harassment, we need more than conversations on the topic. We need actions that can eradicate comments and activities of this nature from the workplace. With so many of these scandals in the news, we know the problem is pervasive and transcends industry, age, race, religion, geography, and economic class . Recently there has been a reaction on Twitter regarding these events with the #metoo movement. Many individuals had the courage to share their personal experiences of sexual abuse, harassment, and impropriety, which has encouraged others to follow suit in coming forward. Now we need to turn talk into action to make the workplace a safe environment where everyone can bring their “best selves” to work.

According to the American Association of University Women (AAUW) sexual harrassment generally “describes unwelcome sexual advances, requests for sexual favors, or other verbal or physical conduct of a sexual nature,” but it is not limited to that. It is also a pattern of improper belittling tones, sexist comments, subtle actions, or a hostile, sexualized work environment. Part of this definition comes from a recent article, which also includes the following tips for victims.

Credit Image: © Frank May

For the individual dealing with sexual harassment in a work environment:

In the wake of much criticism of the women coming forward– “why now?” and ” how can she prove it?”– we need more conversation about why it’s so hard for victims to come forward. Many victims fear career suicide; they cannot afford losing their jobs or the retaliation that they may receive while fighting for their rights. According to Kathy Caprino, CEO of Fairygoddess, on top of retaliation, there is also the bystander effect (meaning others were watching and did not take action therefore the victim does not feel that their experience will be heard) as well as the influence and pressure of a male-dominated culture.
Here are a few tips for the individual who is the target of sexual harassment:

1. Record every incident (even if the actions on their own seem small and seemingly unimportant) and all the details of who was involved, when and what occurred. Make sure to write them down in a non-work device, so that you will have them in case you are let go without warning.
2. Follow your company’s formal complaint channel, but act quickly. Many lawyers say that victims wait too long to come forward and their cases become time-barred.
3. The complaint channel activates “the company’s legal obligation to do a prompt, thorough investigation, make findings, protect the victim and punish the perpetrator. If that does not solve the problem and there’s more sexual harassment and if there is retaliation, which is illegal, then she [or he] needs to reach out to a lawyer,” says Caprino. Most lawyers provide a free initial (confidential) consultation that will inform the victim of their rights.
For the bystander
 
“Everyone knew. But no one said anything,” is how John Baldoni, an executive coach and educator, began his article on the subject, which seems to be a theme in most workplaces. According to Baldoni “silence equals complicity” because in most cases the harasser is not the only one aware of what is occurring. This is not simply a corporate level issue; individuals also have responsibility in these situations. Baldoni explains how currently there are few prevention answers. Either the victim can complain to HR (where the complaint will most likely never be addressed) or they can talk and engage in conversations about it, but neither of these actions are a sufficient response. Neither of them affect any kind of change. So Baldoni shares helpful tips for the individual seeking change.
1. Hold each other accountable as individuals to stand up and protect one another.
2. Believe the victim and take the complaints seriously, whether you have the power to do anything about it or not according to this article about how to navigate sexual harassment in the work place.
3. Don’t engage in sexist jokes. Draw the line; show your coworkers you don’t put up with those ideals and attitudes.
 
For companies that want to be better about sexual harassment policies:
 
Victor Lipman, executive coach and author, wrote in an article  saying that “companies should be preventers, not enablers” of these kinds of behaviors. While there are many discussions regarding whether or not non-disclosure agreements regarding this topic should be legal, there are actions that companies need to take to mitigate the problem.
1. Make a policy regarding the issue and publish it for all employees to see. Baldoni says to make it as clear as possible during new hire training so that they know without a doubt what the policy is.
2. Make it a zero-tolerance policy. One-strike, you’re out.
3. For the HR department and management, do more than simply create a new policy in a rule book. Discuss these policies so employees know that they carry weight.
4. While anti-retaliation policies are illegal, ensure that everyone at your company explicitly knows this.
5. Remove mandatory employee arbitration clauses (they are illegal and forbid lawsuits) but they also silence victims and they protect sexual offenders.
In order for the culture to change, adjustments have to be made on every level of a company from every policy that is made to every employee’s actions to the CEO’s actions and opinions to a company’s newest hire. While there are many different ways to accomplish this, Dana Walden, chairman and CEO of Fox Television Group, said that “There must be women in the highest ranks on every corporate board. Our recruiting and our training has to be oriented to ensure that we’re identifying and nurturing future generations of female leaders.”

Mentorship: a workplace necessity or a necessity for success?

For the community of business professionals, the idea of mentorship is a hot topic, especially when discussing women in the workplace. We are all aware of the “leaky chasm” where more women are graduating from university than ever before and yet the number of executive leaders is slim. Mikki Taylor, a well-known writer and speaker, said that “many women live like it’s a dress rehearsal. Ladies, the curtain is up and you’re on.” In view of mentoring, it is important for women to take their steps with purpose. It is time we become bold and seek out mentors and mentees. Mentoring future women leaders is a necessity for the workplace as well as personal success.

According to Forbes,  only fifty-four percent of women have access to senior leaders who act as mentors or informal sponsors. The lack of mentors for women is believed to be one of the major reasons we don’t see more women in leadership. Increasingly data show that when more women sit at the decision-making tables, better decisions are made. In order to continue fostering growth, women must begin asking for help and sharing their insight. Mentorship is a wonderful path to begin paving better roads for the future of equality in leadership.

There are countless benefits for both parties involved in a mentoring relationship. According to a recent Forbes article, “it is a broader network of relationships and circumstances that shape individual success.” With many decisions that are made, there are discussions that come before them. When making a change in career choice, almost everyone will phone a trusted friend to hear his or her input and discuss options and concerns. Mentoring is important because there is an educated decision to trust someone who has more experience, a different perspective, and wise recommendations. While the responsibility for life decisions ultimately resides within each of us, we are wise to seek counsel from someone with experience in the issues we face.

The value of mentoring is a two way street, with mentors standing to benefit from the relationship as well. According to a Forbes article, the benefits of  mentoring include new insights into the workforce, valuable connections, new perspective, and the personal satisfaction of sharing experiences. In addition to the personal and professional benefits of a mentor relationship, those who mentor are twenty percent more like to receive a raise.

The guidance, honesty, and input of a mentor can help a mentee become their achieve their personal best. Many mentees desire this relationship to gain knowledge and a specific skill set, but this article points out that they also often receive a broadened perspective, gain connections, learn more about business politics, and gain the confidence to stand on their own. For young professionals who may feel inadequate, take the advice of Sara Blakely, the Founder of Spanx: “Don’t be intimidated by what you don’t know because it can also be your greatest strength and ensure that you do things differently from everyone else.”

A three-tiered mentoring program is an essential part of Momentum’s mission to advance women in leadership. Each year we pair class participants with senior mentors. Upon graduation, participants receive training on successful mentoring and are paired with a teen, college student, or young professional looking for a mentor. Momentum has fostered over 800 mentoring relationships to date.

If you have experiences, opinions or advice on mentoring, we’d love to see your comments here.

Reflections on my internship at Momentum

Kayleigh is a college junior and marketing intern at Momentum.

Alas, the day is finally here. It is my last day working at Momentum.

You see, I started with Momentum at the end of January. As part of my Brock Scholars program in the Brock School of Business at Samford University, I had to find an internship for the spring semester of my sophomore year. When I sat down with my internship adviser, she mentioned a position at Momentum. It was in marketing, which was not necessarily my focus, but I had a feeling the internship would be great experience and great exposure to the business world.

I definitely wasn’t wrong.

Top Takeaways

Recently, I described my time at Momentum as a much-needed stepping stone as I learned how to bring classroom experience into the real world. When I started in January, I was still finding my way and gaining confidence as a college student. Freshmen year was over (thank goodness), my core classes were out of the way, but I was figuring out my new identity as a business student. Suddenly, I needed to wear a blazer to class, read the Wall Street Journal, and understand the latest happenings in the stock market (and I still haven’t figured out that one yet, to be honest).

Not only was professionalism expected from me in class, but in a new work-setting as well.

Of course, the staff at Momentum made the transition from student to employee effortless. They always made me feel at ease, and were patient with me as I figured things out. The Momentum office was a place where I truly transformed. Through projects and events, I was able to bring to life some of my ideas and gain more confidence in my abilities.

Another thing I gained through my time at Momentum was exposure to the obstacles I face in business as a woman. Honestly, I was fully unaware that this would even be an issue. When I started working at Momentum, I realized how intentional businesses must be to cultivate diversity in the workplace. Implicit biases are always at work. My research for blog posts and various projects at Momentum made me realize how important it is to be a part of a workplace that advocates for diversity. That will definitely affect my decision-making upon graduation- in a positive way of course.

Truly, the greatest thing I gained from my time at Momentum was the open door to so many great leaders. I met so many incredible women through the Momentum staff and alumnae network. I was able to meet leaders that have had a tremendous positive impact on the state of Alabama. And each one of those phenomenal leaders took time to invest in me as an individual. The conversations I had and the encouragement I received is something I will never forget. I look forward to passing that same kind of encouragement on to the younger leaders who follow me.

Thank you

Thank you to everyone who enhanced my Momentum experience. Momentum is such a wonderful organization. I am proud to have played a small role in their overall impact on the city of Birmingham, the state of Alabama, and beyond.

What is Social Entrepreneurship?

Kayleigh is a college junior and marketing intern at Momentum.

Defining social entrepreneurship

Over the last thirty years or so, the field of social entrepreneurship has grown rapidly. Why? Stanford Social Innovation Review explains it this way:

“On the most basic level, there’s something inherently interesting and appealing about entrepreneurs and the stories of why and how they do what they do…  These extraordinary people come up with brilliant ideas and against all the odds succeed at creating new products and services that dramatically improve people’s lives.”

However, the definition of social entrepreneurship is often unclear.

The difference between a social entrepreneur and a business entrepreneur is not a lack of profit. Business sustainability is impossible without profit. But, the social entrepreneur may be less likely to keep substantial financial profit. As SSIR said, “Instead, the social entrepreneur aims for value in the form of large-scale, transformational benefit that accrues either to a significant segment of society or to society at large.”

Truly, a social entrepreneur is just a catalyst for societal change.

My major

As the idea of social entrepreneurship has increased in popularity, the concept is beginning to be introduced in the university setting. In fact, I am studying Economics with a concentration in Social Entrepreneurship and Non-Profit Management at Samford University.

Personally, I want to learn how to utilize assets to forge stability in an unjust sector of society- whatever that may be.

Female social entrepreneurs

In order to make a difference, social entrepreneurs must inhibit creativity, courage, and an ability to take direct action. Here’s a few of the women in the realm of social entrepreneurship that I am inspired by:

via LinkedIn

Elizabeth Dearborn Davis

Elizabeth is the co-founder & CEO of the Akilah Institute for Women, which is the only women’s college in Rwanda. Elizabeth moved to Rwanda upon college graduation, and founded Akilah when she was 24. Launched in 2010, Akilah offers accredited diplomas in Entrepreneurship, Information Systems, and Hospitality Management. 90% of Akilah graduates launch their careers within 6 months of graduation and earn 12x the national median income.

via LinkedIn

Veronika Scott

Veronika is the founder & CEO of the Empowerment Plan in Detroit. The Empowerment Plan is a humanitarian project based in the city of Detroit. The plan centers around a coat that is self heated, waterproof, and transforms into a sleeping bag at night. But, the organization also employs homeless women to produce coats for people living on the streets. The coats are given away free of cost, and the employed women grow professionally in order to break out of the cycle of poverty.

via Pipeline Angels

 

Natalia Oberti Noguera

Natalia is the founder & CEO of Pipeline Angels, which is a network of women investors that’s changing the face of angel investing and creating capital for women social entrepreneurs. Pipeline Angels host boot camps across the U.S. for new investors and a pitch summit for start-ups looking for funding. Since its launch in 2011, 200+ women have graduated from Pipeline Angels investing boot camp and have invested over US$4M in 40+ companies.

Opportunity awaits

The world of social entrepreneurship covers a wide variety of passions, pursuits, and profits. Truly, there is opportunity for all to make a difference through their individual sector of work, even without the label “social entrepreneur.”

Read more about the topic here. 

Women & philanthropy

As we previously discussed, women’s financial influence has increased radically due to greater financial independence, more spending power, and growing leadership. Combine increased financial influence with an upward trajectory of women’s roles in philanthropy, and there could be some serious world changing going on.

A brief history of women and philanthropy

According to Inside Philanthropy, Andrea Pactor, Associate Director of the Women’s Philanthropy Institute, traces the momentum for women and philanthropy back to 1991. In that year, Sondra Shaw-Hardy and Martha Taylor started the National Network for Women as Philanthropists, which changed the way women approached giving and cultivated women donors.

In 2004, the program became part of Indiana University, which allowed Shaw-Hardy and Taylor to make presentations about gender and philanthropy across the country. The program provided donor education to women donors about their power and influence in philanthropy, while also guiding fundraisers to engage women as donors.

This is just one example of the growing movement of women in philanthropy.

Generation and gender statistics

As the Baby Boomer generation moves towards retirement, Millennial women are modernizing giving. According to a recent study, Millennial women support a wider range of causes and are more likely to use new forms of giving, such as crowdfunding or giving circles. 75% of Millennial women said they are more likely to lead with their hearts than their heads when it comes to giving, compared to 62% of Baby Boomer women. However, Baby Boomer women tend to be more strategic and therefore more satisfied with their philanthropy.

Compared to men, 64% of women are motivated by their heart when it comes to giving decisions, compared to 53% of men. However, men tend to be more confident about which tax strategies or methods to use for giving compared to women (52% to 40%, respectively).

Philanthropic education is more important than ever. A strength of women’s philanthropy movement is its multi-faceted support of various causes.  By pairing greater financial independence with philanthropic motives, women have an opportunity to make a huge difference in their communities. As women, we must come together and leverage these resources to maximize their potential.

Visit Momentum’s new Mission Partners page to learn about some great organizations that are investing in the Birmingham community and get involved!

Why Diversity Matters

In 2015, McKinsey & Company, a global management consulting firm, released a study entitled Diversity Matters. The study examined data from 366 public companies across a range of industries in Canada, Latin America, the United Kingdom, and the United States. All numerical results pointed to one fact: diversity is a driver of success.

Companies who ranked in the top 25% for diversity outperformed the norms for financial returns for their industry. In fact, the top 25 most ethnically diverse companies were 35% more likely to have financial returns above the industry norm than the bottom quartile or 25% least ethnically diverse companies. The top 25% for most gender diversity were 15% more likely to have financial returns above the industry norm than the bottom quartile or 25% least gender diverse.

Of course, diversity does not automatically translate into profit, but diverse leadership signals successful characteristics within a company.

But why? Because diverse companies are better equipped to do three things:

  1. Recruit and retain top talent because people see leaders & co-workers who look like them, creating a more comfortable and secure work environment.
  2. Better understand and serve customers, because the people who work there reflect the communities and markets they’re in.
  3. Avoid group-think and engage in healthy conflict with a diversity of backgrounds and opinions represented for better decisions.

It seems simple. However, unconscious bias often sways companies to hire employees who look and act like them. This makes it difficult to hire based on true talent instead of stereotypes.

The key to avoiding unconscious bias seems to be awareness. That key factor applies to absolutely everyone, (check out this interesting Ted Talk entitled “White Men: Time to Discover Your Cultural Blind Spots”).

Can we truly learn to see people as simply people, allowing their talent to shine above their skin color, gender, or sexual orientation? While much progress has been made, there is still much work to do. We must continue to step outside of our comfort zone to create a culture of acceptance and success. While incredibly simple, the process is difficult. However, the results are ultimately achievable and definitely desirable.

Influence and Power Through Spending

Photo credit: Time.com

Women control over $20 trillion in world-wide spending.
That’s a lot of buying power.

 

Catalyst defines buying power as the total personal income that is available after taxes, for spending on virtually everything. Women hold tremendous power in the world economy, because they  drive consumer spending. In fact, women account for 85% of consumer purchases.

Here are a few reasons why:

  1. As education advances and marriage delays, there are more women earning their own paychecks than ever. Global incomes of women are estimated to reach $18 trillion by 2018.
  2. Even if a woman doesn’t earn a paycheck, she is still likely the gatekeeper to her household’s expenditures.
  3. Women have a multiplier effect. As primary caregivers for children and the elderly, women often buy on behalf of other household members.

So, what does this mean?

First of all, companies should need to understand how to tailor marketing messages to women. Bridget Brennan, an expert on women’s spending patterns, says companies should study women as you would a foreign market. Female culture has its own language, behaviors, and perceptions. The solution is not to make your product pink, like Dell attempted to do a few years ago:

“Consider Dell’s short-lived effort to market laptops specifically to women. The company fell into the classic “make it pink” mind-set with the May 2009 launch of its Della website. The site emphasized colors, computer accessories, and tips for counting calories and finding recipes. It created an uproar among women, who described it as “slick but disconcerting” and “condescending.” –Harvard Business Review

Dell corrected its error quickly, but the error shows the vast misunderstanding that often comes with marketing to women.

Companies should also work intentionally to stop promoting false female stereotypes. Consistently portraying women as eye-candy, exasperated moms, and helpless damsels in distress does nothing to make today’s women want to buy your products. Making sure to have gender-diversity throughout the company will help combat poor decisions regarding the female consumer.

.  As women continue to break down traditional barriers, their influence is more powerful than ever. It’s time for companies to address the needs of their largest, and perhaps most overlooked customers: women.

Interested in learning more about female spending power? Check out the article in the Harvard Business Review that inspired this post.

Financial Independence

Lady Liberty Financially Independent

In the spirit of independence and the 4th of July, we want to share some thoughts about financial independence. Last week, the Momentum blog posted on money and fearlessness. The post challenged traditional stereotypes regarding finances, particularly a woman’s tendency to rely on a man as the “breadwinner.”

Financial independence is increasingly important for women. Data suggests that 9 out of 10 women will be solely in charge of their finances at some point in their life.

Not only do women have a longer life expectancy than men, but they are expected to work fewer years in the workforce while being paid less than men. Yikes.

Consider these statistics on American women from The Simple Dollar:

  • According to the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD),
    women possess a lower level of financial knowledge than men.
  • In another study by Financial Finesse, a survey found that 65% of women have control of their cash flow (as opposed to 83% of men), 45% of women have an emergency fund (64% for men), and 48% of women pay their credit card balances in full (70% for men).
  • 87% of American elderly in poverty are women.

The site goes on to present a guide to achieving financial independence:

  1. Understand your cash flow.
  2. Determine your goals and set a budget.
  3. Eradicate debt.
  4. Save!
  5. Protect yourself.

For further tips, here is a great Ted Talk about financial literacy delivered by Alexa von Tobel.

However, perhaps the most important tip falls back on this idea of fearlessness. Don’t be afraid to seek financial advice, negotiate your salary, or overstep cultural gender roles. Seek out financial knowledge to better understand what you do not know. Take care of you. Financial independence will never occur without the discipline, humility, and drive required to change.

The principles are simple. The results will change your future.

On money and fearlessness

Kayleigh is a college junior and marketing intern at Momentum.

Last night, I read the chapter “Fearless About Money” from Arianna Huffington’s book, On Becoming Fearless… In Love, Work, and Life.

I was intrigued by this quote:

“Even today, a surprising number of us (women) still think that it’s the man’s job to make and understand money. Far too often we delegate this responsibility and don’t learn enough about money- so of course we fear it. That’s where we have to start. We can never be fearless about money until we demystify it and take charge of it.”

 

Arianna Huffington just might be right. I believe my apprehension about money stems from my lack of understanding it. As a college student, I have only dipped my toe in the vast pool of finances. I have quickly come to realize that being an adult is expensive. As a female, I have always been encouraged to marry a “breadwinner.” The principle isn’t inherently bad, but what if I don’t? What if I stay single? Or marry someone with fewer career aspirations? What if I’m widowed or go through a divorce? These are all common scenarios, and all would require the means to provide for myself regardless of circumstance.

If I’m not careful, fear can creep in and alter my perspective on money. Money has tremendous power as it is viewed as a sense of security and the ultimate measure of success.  If allowed, money can put reigns on people’s lives by binding them to safety instead of pursuing a life of passion. However, as Mellody Hobson once said, “angst won’t be satiated by the size of your bank account.”

So, where’s the balance?

Arianna Huffington says the balance is here: “We need to put  money into proper perspective in our lives, stop avoiding it, learn about it, and stop making it more important than it is.”

As women, I believe the best thing we can do is strive for financial independence, harness the spending power available to us, and, perhaps most importantly, give back. True fearlessness about money will only come from living a life driven by purpose, not financial security.