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”.

The Great Equalizer

Ashley Gann, Chief Meteorologist for CBS-42, business owner, public speaker, mother of 3.

As a full-time Chief Meteorologist and a parent, in the blink of a pandemic eye I also became a full-time teacher, cook, housekeeper, gardener, and field trip organizer. My home has become the school, playground, office, and TV set. I’m a planner and a crisis communicator by trade. I forecast future weather for crying out loud, but I never saw this coming. No one else saw it coming either, which is why this global pandemic has become a great equalizer.

While there is much uncertainty amidst all of the change, there is also so much opportunity. We have adapted to new workflows, processes, systems. Some have had to make a complete career pivot. Some have taken on delivery jobs just to make ends meet. From the C-Suite to the frontlines, the shutdown and social distancing have affected everyone. For some, the change may feel like a small ripple. For others, more like a tidal wave.

Let’s get one thing clear…Depending on the plates that you’re spinning, some days are probably a haze. You’re struggling to hang on between the homeschooling or care-taking, the house chores and work responsibilities. The cooking, the cleaning, the disinfecting– it all piles up. It’s a lot. In that, there will be things that go back to normal soon, like kids going back to school. We will be able to send spouses out of the house to run errands again. Our walls won’t seem to be pushing in on us as much as we move forward.

As we emerge on the other side, I do hope businesses take a hard look at how this pandemic has forced change. I believe this could open up doors for women by creating more flexibility and empathy in the workplace. This may be a solution for retaining talent long term. For women, climbing the corporate ladder often is stymied due to a lack of options and being forced to choose between personal priorities (children, spouse, aging parents…) and a promotion. Remote-working strategies can produce greater productivity, create long term loyalty, and pave the way for future growth. This is a game changer!

In this global pandemic, the rigid walls of corporations have had to morph into malleable support systems for their employees. We’ve all gotten to see inside each other’s world. I think we’ve been more honest with one another and we’ve seen more authentic bonds being made, because it’s hard to ignore the golden retriever stealing the show on your daily Zoom call from home. We’ve allowed for grace and we’ve been able to see each person in a new way. I believe this could be a defining moment in how we move forward in retaining the best and the brightest in business. We are redefining what collaboration, communication, and productivity look like.

We are proving, through these new work models, that we can have our cake and eat it too. We can attend high powered meetings one minute, while scrubbing dishes and teaching our children the next. I have come to realize a woman can be as successful in her office with a view as she can be at her dining room table covered with crayons. The view may look different, but giving women choices on how they take flight will give them the greatest chance at soaring as high as they can. We must not dismiss these work from home changes as temporary, but see how that can radically redefine workplace culture and ultimately attract the very best to your brand and business. Giving someone options and flexibility is a tremendous value-add for every organization.

Upward Resources – 2020


In order to get the maximum benefit out of each Upward session, you will need to complete a “pre-work” assignment. Each month the assignment will be posted here. Some assignments must be turned in to Momentum. Others are prep-work for the class and should be printed, completed, and added to your binder. Specific instructions will be given for each assignment.


March Session

Momentum Conference Vision 2020

All conference information and session handouts are still available through the Guidebook mobile app.

Go to the Session Tracks in the menu, select a category, select a session, and look for the handout after the session description and speaker info.



Each of our keynote speakers has great information, video, books, and other resources  on their respective websites.

April Session

Learning and Development “Selfies”: Understand Your Purpose and Take Control of Your Career Development

Facilitator: Dawn Burke

The concept of “career” has changed dramatically in the modern workplace. Careers are no longer a lifetime pursuit of one distinct career path, but rather a pursuit of many talents, skills and roles, resulting in more fulfilling work.

In this interactive session you’ll learn:

  • What research teaches us about the importance of continuous career development
  • How to create a written career development plan incorporating “purpose” in your planning
  • How to overcome obstacles and accelerate your career development

Recorded ZOOM Session (Dawn’s content starts at 19:00 min)

Dawn’s wrap up (the last 20 minutes)

Session Handouts:

May Session

Working in Teams

Facilitators: Andrea McCaskey, April Benetollo, and Momentum Alumnae Jeannine Bailey,  Kathy Boswell, Leigh Davis, Elizabeth Hamilton, and Christy Thomas. 

In this session we tackle building trust on teams, working through conflict, unwritten rules, managing up, remote teamwork, giving and receiving feedback, and working across multiple generations. The format is via Zoom with breakout discussions led by Momentum Alumnae.

Recommended reading:



Decoding the CARES Act

Lauren Millard, CDFA
Morgan Stanley

Many small businesses are under extreme financial pressure as a result of the shelter in place order across the state. Though many of those restrictions are easing, the economic restart will be slow. Alabama Gov. Kay Ivey’s order to lift some restrictions still includes a “safer at home” message for employers. Restaurants are still restricted to deliver and curb-side service, and salons, barber shops, entertainment venues, and health clubs must remain closed.

Congress passed additional funding to the Corona Virus Relief and Economic Security (CARES) Act this week. There are temporary provisions within the CARES Act that could positively impact cash on hand and reduce taxable income, specifically deferral of employer SS taxes and expansion of losses. These are in addition to the loans and enhanced unemployment benefits available to small businesses. The Act is cumbersome to comb through, so here’s a resource to help make sense of it from your friends at Morgan Stanley.

Resources That Encourage

Morgan Harper Nichols


  • Stuff Mom Never Told You was created to depict how being a woman affects daily life. The hosts interview women of all different backgrounds and careers, delving into honest conversations about their struggles and triumphs. Most recently, they’ve interviewed a nurse working with COVID patients and they released an episode about coping with the pandemic based on your level of intro- or extroversion.
  • How I Built This has been one of my favorite podcasts for a long time. The host interviews incredibly successful entrepreneurs (think Ben & Jerry’s, Burt’s Bees, Canva) about how they founded their company and grew it into a million-dollar business. Due to the pandemic, the host has added COVID-related topics to his list of interview questions. It gives a unique perspective on running a business during this season.
  • Unlocking Us was created in March by Brene Brown, a researcher, mom, and Netflix alum who doses out real talk for a living. She unintentionally started the podcast in the midst of the pandemic, but this made her become more vulnerable with her listeners as she explains how COVID has impacted her life. The Momentum team is currently listening to this podcast as we navigate this crisis.


  • I initially signed up for The Daily Good because their emails are the most aesthetically pleasing I’ve ever come across. They offer a calm start to your morning, with recommendations for podcasts to listen to, artists to explore, and articles to read. If you’re not a fan of emails, The Good Trade stores all of their articles relating to fashion, beauty, self, home, and culture.
  • Club Duquette is “a modern mom and pop quality lifestyle brand with clothing, supplies, and good vibes for all people.” After recovering from a terrifying health scare, Morgan and Duquette Johnston decided to follow their dreams in 2016 by opening up shop in Woodlawn. As artists and musicians, they offer a carefully curated array of goods. Even though they took a risk, they sold out on day one and were featured in Vogue, The New York Times, and more. Every Friday, Morgan sends out a newsletter with a Spotify playlist, movie recommendations, and fun articles to read. Sign up at the bottom of their website!
  • 99U by Adobe sends out weekly newsletters geared toward creative professionals, but the articles can be useful to anyone! They have given great advice on leading a team remotely, managing expectations while working from home, and how to collaborate from a distance.

Instagram Accounts

  • Lisa Congdon decided to pursue art professionally at the age of 40 after she’d been working at an education nonprofit. She began taking art classes with her brother when she was struggling to find the right career, and she never went back. She’s been commissioned by Facebook, IKEA, MoMA, and more! Although she has posted encouraging, colorful drawings for years, she recently started a COVID journal, which she posts every day in her stories. Some days she draws a lovely portrait of her breakfast and some days she can’t think of anything to say, and her honesty is refreshing.
  • Morgan Harper Nichols started her social media as a way to reach out to people who are struggling. Followers message her with their story, and she posts a beautiful response in the form of a poem with artwork. She has also been posting COVID-related content and offers inspirational words.
  • The Lily News is “elevating critical stories about women and gender”. They provide relevant content about women in politics, healthcare, art, and more! They stick to more encouraging stories and have started to mix in fun illustrations about the pandemic.

Take Time to Assess

Every leadership journey begins with deepening your understanding of yourself and how you relate to an ever-changing environment. We have all gone through some big changes as a result of the Corona virus. Now that most of us are working from home (WFH), it’s a good time to reassess your personality and what WFH strategy will work best for you.

A fellow leader and friend of Momentum, Gayle Lantz, shared a complimentary assessment to determine your WFH style and how you can be most productive. It only takes 10-15 minutes to complete, and the assessment at the end had some good pointers for me.

Take the Work from Home Style Assessment

I hope you will find it helpful, too. Not everyone has the same work from home style, so we all need to approach it in the way that works best with our personalities.

Here are a few other free self-assessments that we’ve found to be helpful:

16 Personalities
Very similar to the Myers-Briggs personality test. The paid version is actually well worth the $30, IMO.

Fun and currently very popular among professionals. 

Who Am I
This is an interesting visual test where you choose your answers from a bank of pictures rather than words. I recommend skipping the non-essential consumer questions at the end. 


Why Doing Good Feels Good

April Benetollo
CEO, Momentum

If you are like me, you may be feeling powerless to change much about a global pandemic and pending economic crisis. Many people feel overpowered by dark imaginings and back into the shadows of apathy, depression, and anxiety.

One antidote is to identify local ways to channel your thoughts towards helping others. It’s a scientific fact that doing something positive for others has tangible benefits for the giver. Studies show that regular acts of benevolence make us feel better, improve mental health, and can even increase life expectancy.


Here are a few suggestions for doing good things locally during the corona virus quarantine. Guaranteed you’ll feel better when you do!

Support our frontline medical workers. The teams treating COVID-19 patients have all the same stresses and worries about this pandemic that we do, plus they are short-staffed, have short supplies, are risking their lives daily, and there is no end in sight. I have spoken with friends in the medical field, and they said the community support really does make a difference. Packing a giant basket of snacks, sending Insomnia Cookies, or catering a meal for a frontline medical team you know personally would make a dark shift brighter. You can also donate babysitting credits through Wyndy–you’ll be helping a medical worker with childcare and supporting a local startup at the same time! Find out more about how you can help on the following sites:

Give blood. Cancelled blood drives and school closures have created a real shortage in available blood supplies, according to Jess Merrill, a spokesperson for the American Red Cross. Blood banks are still taking donations by appointment and are in great need of healthy blood donors. Find a location.

Donate to a Food Bank. The Community Food Bank of Central Alabama can do more with purchasing power from monetary donations than food items, so consider giving online here. If you have pantry items that you will not be using, check out to find a collection site near you.

Volunteer for Meals on Wheels. Volunteering for Meals on Wheels is a great way to make a huge impact in a short amount of time. By delivering meals, you bring nutritious food and a friendly visit to eight to 10 seniors and people with disabilities in your community.

Grocery shop for an elderly or at-risk neighbor. Our neighbors may not always ask for help when they need it. We may need to take the first step to say, “Hey neighbor, am going to the store today. What can I get for you?” The more we can help our elderly and at-risk neighbors at home, the greater chance they’ll have of getting through this. This eldercarelocator can help match you with an elderly person in your community who may be in need of periodic assistance to get prescriptions, a ride to doctor’s appointment, or essential grocery/hygiene items.

Share your expertise. There are so many avenues to share your professional experience to the benefit of others, and now is a great time to do it! Consider signing up for Momentum’s mentoring program, offering to conduct a webinar for your alma mater, or volunteer to speak to your kids’ school class. Educators are looking for innovative ways to engage students during this period of adjustment to online courses!

During.a time of crisis, we all have the opportunity to be a “first responder.” Be proactive, make it part of your routine, and reap the many personal benefits of doing good for others.To learn more about local response to the COVID crisis, visit

Leadership Programs in AL

Momentum was featured in Bham Now’s list of leadership development programs you can apply to now in Birmingham! We are currently accepting applications for our Executive Class until April 30. This 9-month program develops leadership skills, confidence, and connections among Alabama’s most promising women. It begins this September!

With a combination of 360° assessment testing, following a personal leadership plan, co-mentoring, and expertise from top leaders, the curriculum is designed to:

  • Provide tools and resources to inspire and educate women to serve in leadership roles
  • Network these leaders to learn and work on problems together
  • Enhance the image of executive women in business and community
  • Attract and retain the nation’s brightest women to help solve business and community challenges

Dr. Lisa Graham and Dr. Julie McDonald were also featured in the article for their Dare to Lead workshop, based on Brené Brown’s research. These inspiring women created their business with the singular goal of helping professionals flourish at work and in life. They led a breakout session at our Vision 2020 Conference in March.

Equal Pay Day Matters More in a Crisis

Today marks Equal Pay Day, the time on the 2020 calendar it took for women to catch up to what their male counterparts earned by December 31, 2019 doing equal work. The data on this topic is extensive. Women, on average, earn .80 for every dollar their male colleagues earn, costing women an average of $10,000 dollars a year. The situation is even worse for women of color.

The pay gap matters even more in a time of crisis. Earning less over time means women have fewer resources to weather critical events. Women are the breadwinners in half of the households in America. That means families depend on their paycheck.

In Alabama, the gender pay gap is even wider. Women earn 73% on the dollar comparing average median income. According to the AAUW, that puts our state in 48th place for equal pay. At the current rate of change, the projection for when women will earn equal compensation is 2059.

The pay gap is not just a matter of individual salary negotiation. Unconscious bias runs deep through all levels of the employee lifecycle: recruiting, hiring, promotion, and compensation.

Equal Pay Advocate, Lilly Ledbetter

Closing the gap will require action on several fronts:

  1. Public policy protections on the national and local level, such as the  Equal Pay Act and Lilly Ledbetter’s Fair Pay Act.
  2. Greater protections at the state and local level, such as salary history bans and wage reporting by gender.
  3. Build pay equity into your management training. As a leader, you have both the influence and the responsibility to advocate for fair hiring, promotion and compensation practices. The Society for Human Resource Management has great resources for managers here.

The pay equity gap isn’t a women’s issue, it’s an economic issue that affects our society at large. On a national level, if women were paid fairly, we could cut the poverty rate in half and inject $512.6 billion into the U.S. economy. At the state and local level, pay equity would help us recruit and retain top talent, as well as fuel our local economy and improve prospects for education and investments for thousands of families.

Let’s use our Momentum network to accelerate the rate of change in Alabama.