Equality on Independence Day

Photo courtesy of Ishtodo

Reflecting on our celebration of independence on this 4th of July holiday, let’s remember that the Declaration of Independence is predicated first and foremost on the premise of equality.  Now in our 242nd year since that declaration was signed, many groups of people in this country that should be governed “for the people, by the people” are still woefully under-represented in public office, still suffer social injustice, and experience profound economic inequalities. That said, our history shows progress. Among the legislative milestones:

  • Abolition of slavery, 1865
  • African-American (male) right to vote, 1870
  • Women’s right to vote, 1920
  • Civil Rights Act, 1964
  • Equal Rights Amendment, 1972*
  • Americans with Disabilities Act, 1990

Of these milestones, it is worth noting that only the Equal Rights Amendment, which guarantees the “equality of rights under the law shall not be denied or abridged by the United States or by any state on account of sex,” has failed to become law. The ERA was reintroduced before Congress in 1982, and has been introduced again every year since then. Passage of the ERA requires a 2/3 majority vote in Congress and ratification by at least 38 states.  In May of this year, Illinois became the 37th state to ratify the ERA, although five states who previously ratified it have rescinded their ratification. The struggle is real!

Opposition to the ERA is largely based on the argument that the proposed language would eradicate much of the “protection of women” under current law. Chief among these, and the most inflammatory in our political climate, is the argument that passage of the ERA would be used to roll back current restrictions on abortion, the role of women in combat, the separation of public restrooms/locker rooms, etc. Each of these is political speculation, but certainly effective in suppressing ratification.

Some believe that the protection of women is already guaranteed under the 14th Amendment. Whether you agree with that or believe that the ERA should be ratified and signed into law, the debate underscores the great extent to which men in power, whether for or against ratification, are still making the decisions on what women can and cannot do for their livelihood, their families, and their health.

Evidence that women are far from equal in this country abounds:

We clearly have a lot of work to do to advance women in leadership and to shape policy that will protect women, their families, and the economic outlook for our country. In the next month, Momentum will present a new three-year strategic plan to our Board of Directors. Together we can greatly improve conditions for the women in our state through engaging men in determining policy, developing leadership in emerging women leaders, collecting the data to show our problem areas and progress going forward, and unifying our strength as women leaders in service to our communities.

Happy Independence Day.

 

Mental Health in the Workplace

Holly Moore, Contributing Writer

Mental Health does not discriminate, and it’s a real issue in the workplace. According to a recent article, mental health costs employers $17 billion and 217 million lost days of work in one year, which are no small numbers. Addressing mental health issues creates more a productive and effective workforce

Work life balance can be quite the struggle, exacerbating mental health issues. Too many people, particularly women, are juggling too much between work and home. The affects are bleeding into every part of their lives. Most of us seek meaningful careers. In order for our work to reach its full potential, we need to have healthy relationships with work.

Photo: Rob Bye

If high-impact, high-quality work is expected on a day-to-day basis from employers, then employers should also be paying attention to holistic health and wellness. We’re only humans; our bodies and our brains need a break sometimes in order to function at full capacity, especially when there is great pressure from a society that defines us by our work.  Employers need to take care of their employees so that employees can turn around and do the best they can for their respective companies. We want employees to thrive, not just survive.

The benefits of addressing mental health in the workplace are extensive. Most employees spend the majority of their days at work, and if they’re more content at work then they’ll be more content overall in their lives. If they’re stressed at work, then it will be seep into other areas of their lives as well.

Photo: Pim Chu

It’s common knowledge that one in five people deal with an easily-diagnosed mental illness. Think about how many people in your office that would include. Maybe it’s the guy in the cubicle next to you. Maybe it’s you. Most employees don’t feel that they can be honest about this reality. While many employees feel as if their illness doesn’t affect their work, they are also afraid that speaking up about it could mean that they will lose their job altogether. In addition, they may have seen how the stigma affected other coworkers who came forward and they are not willing to repeat it.

 

 

Photo: rawpixel

David Butlein said it best in a recent Forbes article , “stress inhibits creativity.” He explained that if our bodies are in fight or flight mode then we’re focused on “just trying to reduce the pain of stress and overwhelm” rather than finding new, innovative ways to accomplish the same goals and objectives. Our culture thrives on creativity, and in order for creativity to flourish, there needs to be room for rest and mistakes. If employees are buzzing with eighteen million different thoughts about work, life, social calendars, stress, family, illnesses then how will they create the next big idea, a safe environment, an equality focused space? Many work places are adopting meditative rooms, offering yoga classes, and including wellness programs in their employee benefits packages. There are countless ways to go about supporting staff well.

So let’s work together. Let’s make this whole employment thing a relationship again, a give and take, a trust system built on relationships, hard work, and communication. Let’s agree to keep the conversation going about mental health. It takes bravery, but it is worth it.

 

 

 

 

Practical Tips for Leadership

Holly Moore, Contributing Writer

We see people honored for their leadership ability all the time. Some for their cutting edge ideas, others for their work ethic,  their resilience, or their ability to motivate others. Sometimes in the “everydayness” of our individual lives we forget that we can actually enhance our credibility as a leader. At the end of the day, we know that leadership is not the result of one singular thing. It is a culmination of experiences and intentions. If leadership were a building, who you are would be the foundation, relationships would be the supporting beams, and intentions would be the roof. Each of these can be strengthened with attention to the details that define how you “show up” as a leader.

 

Here are a few tips to help you build a stronger image as a leader:

  1. Be on time. This will may not naturally warrant you respect, but being late will give you a reputation.
  2. Under promise and over deliver. People who promise things that they cannot deliver give others reason to doubt their integrity. Far better to deliver more than you said you could and leave others pleasantly surprised.
  3. Be honest and transparent in your communication. People appreciate this. Communicate with clarity and give people the right information at the right time. In the absence of information, people make up their own stories–and they usually are not good!
  4. Don’t make excuses. Do your best. Work hard. If you made a mistake, apologize and move on. Don’t let it happen again and most definitely, do not let it define you.
  5. Know your convictions and stand for them. Sometimes we are to fearful to speak about the things that we care the most about. People will trust you more if they know what you believe about an issue, even if they do not agree.
  6. Be aware of your every action. When you are a leader, your team is watching your every move. Be aware of the message your attitude conveys. Having a bad day? Be careful when and how you let it show through at work. Our emotions are contagious. They affect the work we produce, our ability to influence others, and can spread to affect the whole team.
  7. Show empathy to those around you, no matter where they are on the  ladder: above, below, or next to you. Offer support, encouragement, and a helping hand whenever and wherever you can. You never know who is having a hard time at home or struggling personally. Care for them at work and remind them they aren’t alone. You never know who needs that extra support. Your team will be all the better for it, and you will be seen as an even stronger leader.

Every step you take gets you closer to your leadership ideal. Being mindful of your steps can get you there faster. Based on your actions today, are you becoming a better leader? What will you do differently tomorrow?

The Leadership Challenge

Each year when our executive leadership class graduates, we throw down the leadership challenge:

With the leadership skills you’ve honed, the network you’ve established, and the increasing influence you’ve gained as a Momentum graduate, how will you create positive impact?

With their graduation, Momentum’s Class 15 is prepared to take on bigger, bolder challenges at work, at home, and in the community. Our hope is that they have a renewed sense of excitement about what they can accomplish. May their experience in Momentum remind them of their potential while reaffirming who they have already become.

We are all familiar with the expression “to whom much is given, much is expected.” So we ask of leaders everywhere, how do you put your leadership to work outside of immediate responsibilities for career and family? Where will you invest your time and money? How will you use your life lessons, your network, your influence to solve new challenges and pay it forward? Be creative. Find something that suits your passion, whether that’s within your organization, a non-profit, or something in a community initiative that hits close to home.

Leaders are busy people. Many people ask for their time. Yet the really accomplished leaders always find ways to align their passions, abilities, strengths, and schedules to do more. If you haven’t quite found the “more” that you want to do, here are some ideas to get started.

1. Form a Women’s Resource Group at your office. Women must lift, support, encourage, and learn from each other if we want to be our best selves. Women’s Resource Groups create a safe space to ask questions and share experiences that can be difficult to discuss in mixed company.

2. Adopt a mentee. Find someone who you can support and guide through the ups and downs of working life. You might just be surprised to see how you also benefit from the experience. Your relationship can be a short or long one. Boundaries are really important, so spell out the guidelines. If you are unsure how to go about finding a mentee, Momentum can help.

3. Volunteer with a nonprofit that supports women. Momentum can introduce you to a number of “mission partners” right here in Alabama who would value your time and experience.

Great leaders know that as they add things to their plate, they also have to let go of some things. Taking on a bold new project or a even a small volunteer opportunity is a great time to take inventory of your time and get rid of anything that zaps your energy or wastes your talent. Refill the space with something service-oriented that aligns with your passion, and you’re sure to feel a net gain in self-worth!

Congratulations to Class 15

It seems like yesterday that we greeted our new class at the September retreat. It’s so hard to believe it’s been a year already! We are so proud to celebrate another Momentum class of outstanding women leaders. Class 15 is our largest and most diverse class to date.

A few adjectives I would use too collective describe Class 15 include intelligent, driven, aware, supportive, articulate, caring, and FUN. Together we honed skills in negotiation, mediation, stress management, work/life management, emotional intelligence, personal branding, presentations, leadership lessons, and leading healthy teams. We laughed, we cried, we worked hard.

 

These women deserve the highest accolades for their dedication to this year’s demanding program schedule, managing the extra demands with their already over-booked schedules.

We are fortunate, indeed, to call Class 15 “alumnae.” Congratulations.

Here’s  a look at their program year: Play Video

The ABCs of Breaking Bias

I recently attended a lecture hosted by the Athena Collective entitled the ABCs of Breaking Bias. The guest speaker was Dr. Stefanie Johnson, from the University of Colorado at Boulder. This is such an important topic, because understanding unconscious bias, and how we can keep it in check, is fundamental to getting the best talent to take on the challenges in our companies, organizations and communities.

I was glad to see that the audience was made up of men and women of many ethnic backgrounds and ages. Dr. Johnson helped us all to see that unconscious bias is in all of us. It is primal, rooted in the tendency of humans to observe the world around them and unconsciously use the data collected to make thousands of micro-decisions every day–decisions that may or may not be sound, depending on that individual’s experiences. Women exhibit gender bias just as men do. Minorities make biased decisions based on race each day. No one can be totally free of unconscious bias, but Dr. Johnson presented four easy ways to rein it in with her “ABCs” of breaking bias:

A is for Admit it. As mentioned above, we all exhibit unconscious bias, so let’s just admit it without blame or shame. I would add to the A-list two more words: raise awareness when you observe unconscious bias and address it.

B is for Blind it. The Boston Symphony became the poster-child for blinding unconscious bias when it began using blind auditions in an effort to test gender bias on its hiring of musicians. They started by holding auditions behind a curtain, and even went so far as to have musicians remove their shoes, since the clicking of women’s heels even tipped off the hiring committee as to their gender. The result ? The blind auditions increased a woman’s chances of moving past the first audition by 50%, and accounts for 30% of female new hires, according to a research study in the American Economic Review. Similar “blinding actions” can be taken by companies, educational institutions, and healthcare professionals by removing names and other bias-tipping factors from resumes, reviews, records and recommendations.

C is for Count it. What gets measured gets done, so if we can quantify how unconscious bias negatively affects our workplaces, we can make the case for change. For example, tracking metrics on the diversity of candidates before and after implementing blind screening practices can be a great way to demonstrate that unconscious bias exists. It’s equally important to show data to motivate policy makers to  invest in a more diverse talent pool. Fortunately, an increasing number of reliable research studies point to strong correlations between diversity positive key performance indicators.

S is for Support it. Humans find safety in sameness, so human nature causes us to surround ourselves with people like us. Yet we know that it’s the diversity of any ecosystem that defines its strength and longevity. Workplaces, educational institutions, and communities are no exception. One of the most frequently cited studies supporting diversity is Why Diversity Matters from McKinsey & Company. While the study asserts that the link between diversity and high performance is a correlation, and not necessarily causation, there is a very strong, logical case that diversity gets more talent to the table and helps teams avoid “group think” in important decisions.

Even if we stop short of making sweeping organizational changes to address unconscious bias, each on of us can check our own biases on a daily basis. For example, when describing a person, how often do you include details about gender, race, or age, even when they are absolutely irrelevant to your story? Double-check that you are not somehow implying something unintentional. Consider the images conjured in your mind when you read the following:

  • I was behind this old guy parking his car.
  • I was behind this woman parking her car.
  • I was behind this black man parking his car.
  • I was behind a business man parking his car.

Based on the fact that the speaker qualified who was parking the car, we immediately form a stereotype of the story to follow. Having qualified who was parking the car may reinforce the unconscious bias that an old person, woman, or black man would not park a car as well as the business man, when in fact, those things have nothing to do with that individuals ability to park a car. Why not simply say, “I was behind this person parking their car and noticed that the gas cap was open.”

Admit bias, blind it, count it and support efforts to counter it. Dr. Johnson’s “ABCs” for breaking bias are great building blocks for more diversity in our workplaces and communities.

 

 

 

Equal Pay Day is Here

We are 99 days into 2018, and today marks the day the average woman has earned what it only took a man until December 31st to earn. At the current rate, the gender pay gap is not expected to close until 2059. Depending on the studies you read, economists and think tanks issue lots of proclamations about the reason the pay gap exists. From the mommy penalty to unconscious bias, it can be difficult to find consensus on the root cause. One thing most economists can agree on is that it is in the economic best interest of our country to to actively address inequities in pay.

According to a 2017 study by the Institute for Women’s Policy, “the United States economy would have produced additional income of $512.6 billion if women received equal pay; this represents 2.8 percent of 2016 gross domestic product (GDP).” Not only that, but the poverty rate for all working women would be cut in half. Pay parity represents 16 times what the federal and state governments spent on families in need in 2015. That means if women earned the same as men, the government would pay out less and families would have much more, a win/win for everyone.

There are many things we can do to close the pay gap, starting with transparency in pay rates and a ban on using prior earnings as a negotiating point for salary. A partnership between the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission and the US Department of Labor issued a rule to take effect in September of 2017 requiring companies with 100 employees to start disclosing how much people are paid when they report on gender, race and ethnicity. In June of 2017, Trump reversed that rule. Despite being introduced in every congress since 1997, the Paycheck Fairness Act has yet to pass. Women can negotiate with the best of the boys and will still suffer the gender pay gap as long as there is a lack of transparency in what employers are actually paying their people.

Accepting Nominations for 2018-19

Momentum is now accepting nominations for the 2018-2019 executive leadership class. If you would like to nominate an outstanding woman for consideration, please ask her to fill out the application and list you as the nominator. Applicants may also self-nominate.

Why consider Momentum? Because it’s a leadership development experience beyond compare! Momentum has developed a truly unique program to advance qualified women into leadership roles in their companies and communities. Each year at our opening retreat, we ask the class if they have any doubts, fears or concerns. It’s quite common to hear:

  • Can I really spare a full day every month for training?
  • What if I get in and find out I’m not in the same league with the other participants?
  • I’ve already done lots of leadership training; is there anything new here to learn?
  • How will I benefit from learning from women when I work mostly with men?

Take a look at what our graduates say about their experience on the other side:

Margaret Ann Pyburn, Exec. VP, Cobbs Allen
Momentum Class 2017

“You do have time to devote to becoming a better leader, mentor, and parent. Plus, you now have 25 of the most incredible new life-long friends who will listen, encourage, and hold you accountable. You name it, you can do it. Momentum makes you a stronger, better person for Birmingham, your company and your industry.”

 

Mary Beth Briscoe , CFO University Hospital & UAB Medicine
Momentum Class 2017

“Participating in Momentum provided me with an opportunity to learn new leadership approaches, improve my professional development skills, and network with inspiring women leaders. This program equipped me with not only new skills but with a network of friends to support me along the way.”

 

Rosilyn E. Houston, SVP Talent & Culture, Chief Talent & Culture Executive, BBVA Compass
Momentum Class 2014

“Momentum gave me permission to breathe, literally, and exposed the powerful qualities that I possess as a woman and as a leader. I now lead with conviction, intentionality, and courage. I’m more confident in who I am, and add value to other aspiring women leaders by teaching what I have learned through the program. Momentum is the platform to transform aspiring leaders into world-changing leaders!”

 

Anne Marie Seibel, Partner, Bradley, Arant, Boult, Cummings
Momentum Class 2013

“As a professional woman actively managing work and home responsibilities, it is easy to become isolated. Momentum was a reminder that I was only one of many women in the community who were walking similar paths. I was immediately enriched by the experiences, advice, and life lessons of the talented women in my class. That experience allowed us to connect and develop bonds that will carry forward for years to come.”

 

Each year we receive many more applications than we can accept. Our selection committee strives for a broad range of organizations from different industries, as well as individuals with varied roles, backgrounds, ethnicity, and experiences. Participants will be notified of acceptance in June and classes will begin in September. All deferred applicants are strongly encouraged to reapply.

If you are considering advancing your career, developing leadership skills or know a woman who would benefit from Momentum, you can download the application here.

 

Smarter, Stronger, Better Together

We had an outstanding showing for the fourth biennial Momentum Leadership conference. We are grateful to each and every attendee, panelist, speaker and volunteer who invested the time to advance women in leadership. A very diverse group of over 850 professional women (and some men!) from the state of Alabama convened to learn about resilience, fearless leadership, and how we can all become better leaders. Throughout the day it was easy to see how we are smarter, stronger and better together.

photo credit Erin Tunnell
At the conference, Momentum announced a new leadership program targeted to early-career women. The program, called Upward, is designed to develop leadership skills for motivated professional women with approximately three to seven year’s experience. Momentum will induct its first Upward class in January 2019. We will be taking applications for Upward this summer, and participants will be notified of acceptance in the fall.
Our conference co-chair Cheri Canon also mentioned the strategic work we are doing with a new men’s advisory board, called Men with Momentum. Comprised of leaders from Birmingham’s most prominent businesses, these men are working with Momentum to chart the best course for keeping their top talent, women and men, rising through the ranks together.
While our post-conference survey will remain open for another few weeks, initial responses have been outstanding. Out of the 200 responses that have been entered so far, we have some great preliminary stats to share
  • A full 100% of respondents would be “very likely to recommend the conference to a friend or colleague.”
  • 74% said the conference “exceeded expectations” with another 25% saying it “met expectations.” The remaining one percent had no expectations (smile.)
  • 63% attended the conference for the first time.
  • 92% said the conference was the best or one of the best they have ever attended.
  • The keynote speakers, Bonnie St. John and Carey Lohrenz, knocked it out of the park with 80% and 95% “excellent” ratings, respectively.
  • 19% of attendees were Momentum alumnae, with 81% never having been through the program.
  • Most respondents expressed interest in the Upward program, Momentum’s executive leadership program, and/or having Momentum come conduct training or workshops at their organization.
Andrea McCaskey
Given the tremendous interest in leadership programming for women, Momentum also announced at the conference a key new-hire to our staff: Director of Programs, Andrea McCaskey. Andrea is leaving her current position as VP of HR at BioHorizons to join our team. She will direct our Upward program, executive leadership program, and all community events as well as corporate training. Given the appetite in Birmingham, that’s no small feat, but Andrea is up to the task!
While there is always room to do more, we couldn’t be happier with the success of this conference. We are so very grateful  to the 100+ volunteers, speakers and panelists who made it happen, and much appreciative of our generous sponsors for supporting the event. We plan to have many more local events leading up to our next biennial in 2020. Until then, here are a few ways you can lead with momentum:
1) Connect with us on social media: you’ll find us on Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, and Instagram.
2) Apply for the Momentum 2018-19 leadership class.
3) Learn more about the Upward early career program.
4) Request a mentor (or to be one!)
5) Bring Momentum to your organization. Email us to learn more.
If you would be interested in contacting one of our panelists or getting copies of one of the presentations, email us your request.
If you forgot to pick up your door prize and still have your prize voucher, or if you forgot your t-shirt and/or tote bag and still want one, email us…we have a few left.
If you were there but haven’t filled out the conference survey, please do!
With our gratitude,
 
The Momentum Team

Women’s History Month

Today marks the first day of Women’s History Month. I have actually been asked by my own son why we need a whole month dedicated to women’s history or black history? Why don’t we just have a history month? Deep breaths. “We celebrate women’s history month and black history month because history, as we have learned it, is white male. It is written by white males and documents the achievements of white males. The contributions of minorities like black people and all women, who often achieved great things despite their repression, are rarely noted or celebrated. Having a dedicated history month helps to rectify that.” He seemed satisfied enough with that answer.

During the month of March we’ll post on the achievements of women, particularly right here in Alabama. At each biennial Momentum conference, we recognize women leaders who have made a significant contribution to community, business, culture or politics. The 2018 awards were held this past Wednesday and honored six new women with a Woman of Impact award. You can meet the new honorees, and each of our past honorees, here.

Last year we interviewed five of our sixteen honorees to get their stories and advice on film. Here are a few inspiring clips from that project.