Intersectionality has been a commonplace phrase in the feminist realm since Kimberlé Crenshaw coined the term in 1989. Essentially, it refers to the notion that the combination of different identities – age, race, gender, class, sexuality, nationality dramatically influence the way people experience the world. The intersection of these identities contributes to the obstacles and/or privileges that those who share some but not all identities may experience.
Too often, human resource stakeholders fall into the trap of the one size fits all approach. Its appeal in simplicity sacrifices efficacy. These one size fits all approaches for women in leadership aim to solve the challenges for white, middle-class, cisgender women. The Western default. Which leaves out doubly or triply marginalized women as a result. As organizational demographics evolve, they leave out more women than they aim to benefit.
According to research conducted by LeanIn.Org and McKinsey & Co. in 2019, women make up 38 percent of frontline leader-level positions in the United States and Canada. White women hold 27 percent of these manager roles and women of color only hold 12 percent. The disparity is even greater at the executive level. White women hold 18 percent of roles while women of color hold 4 percent.
These discrepancies are due to a large disfunction of systemic and cultural barriers, not just failed women advocacy programs. Infusing intersectionality into policies and practices aimed at advancing women in leadership can help.
How can we do better?
Embracing intersectionality means embracing variety which adds an element of complexity. To ensure an environment where everyone can thrive because of their differences, follow these three steps:
1. Ask the Experts
The ideal approach is to have a diversity and inclusion expert with a focus on human-centered design to solve persistent and painful challenges with an empathetic perspective. Applying these principles to intersectionality and women’s advocacy efforts ensures the correct focus. The women leaders that are the goal are experts in their own experiences and challenges. Opening a dialogue creates space for these women to tell you exactly what they need without any guesswork.
2. Diverse Populations Deserve Diverse Solutions
It is necessary to tailor approaches to fit different populations to achieve satisfaction. Equality is about giving everyone the same level of support, but equity requires different supports for different situations.
3. Use Multi-Dimensional Metrics to Track Multi-Level Impact
Lean on metrics, track engagement, retention, promotion, salary, and representation to measure the success of empowering women leaders. It is important to look at the data from a demographic perspective to see if the efforts positively impact all women. If efforts to advance women leaders are working for certain groups disproportionately, it is important to investigate and reevaluate accordingly.
In July 2020, Harvard Business Researchers surveyed a group of 2,500 working parents to assess the importance of the (declining) childcare industry in supporting the reopening economy, following the Covid-19 outbreak. The study held by fellow professionals and mothers – Alicia Sasser Modestino, Jamie J. Ladge, Addie Swartz, and Alisa Lincoln – aimed to examine the impact felt by the 50 million parent U.S. workforce with children under the age of 14. The results presented that 20% of working parents across low and high-income brackets had to leave work or reduce their hours because of the lack of childcare. Of them, nearly a third claimed it was down to the “more capable parent,” while less than a quarter decided based on income bracket.
Why is this an issue?
The survey displayed a heavy lenience towards traditional gender roles, and found that 26% of women surveyed were expected to step-down from their work roles. In addition, the expectations of the role of an active mother and breadwinner have only surmounted for single mothers and women of color. The survey showed that women were more likely to reduce hours at work if they were Black, or if they were single, divorced, separated, or widowed. The report subsequently argued for businesses to assume the responsibility for arranging childcare, as opposed to individual employees. Seeing the weighted and incredibly meaningful contribution of women in the workforce – plus, the possible addition of 5% to the U.S. GDP – it is crucial for companies to address these inequities for working women parents.
In September 2020, the Birmingham Business Alliance compiled a list of resources to support parents managing their work and homeschooling pressures, including YWCA’s School Support Program, The Levite Jewish Community Center Day Camps, and YMCA and similar community center services. Wyndy offers an app to connect local nannies and sitters to parents in need of childcare services. Additionally, Childcare Resources’ is a Central Alabama agency connecting families to over 700 childcare programs that fit their needs.
What are your goals for your career? For your life? We like to use the S.M.A.R.T. method to break down large goals into smaller pieces. As you check off each shorter goal, they begin to snowball and eventually you have attained the larger one!
Here’s a great example from Mindy Santo, our Mentoring Coordinator, who wants to promote our mentoring program. Her goal: Increase awareness of Momentum’s mentoring program by featuring topics on our social media platforms reaching readers within and outside our network to help women progress toward their goals of skills development, like; leadership, professional presence, or entrepreneurship within their organizations.
Mindy’s SMART goal breakdown:
S-pecific increase awareness of Momentum’s Mentoring program through our social media platforms
M-easurable reach goal by end of Q1
A-ttainable increase our Mentor and Mentee pool of candidates by 20%
R-elevant reach readers within and outside our network to help women progress toward their goals of skills development, like; leadership, professional presence, or entrepreneurship within their organizations
T-ime-bound feature one topic every Thursday on the benefits of mentoring
By defining Mindy’s mission, she is able to tackle her goal one piece at a time and hit her target.
“Mentoring has touched me in so many ways. From the gift of personally being mentored so I could do my thing, to connecting with courageous women who want to be mentored because they want to do their thing — no matter if they’re moving up, out, or laterally — and finally to the exceptional Mentors who are willing to help their Mentees accomplish those things (who may surprisingly get something in return!). All of these people have special meaning.”
The courage to show up, open up, and give yourselves grace during the moments of discomfort
Setting expectations AND meeting them
An unexpected mutual exchange between Mentee AND Mentor
Bringing you’re A-game to serve AND be served
A selfless act of generosity
Fulfilling and SO worthwhile
Paying it forward
Realizing you are a step ahead of someone with your life experience, and that you all have skills and talents in certain areas that can be beneficial to someone else
Have you challenged yourself to reach a goal? Do you need a little guidance? Momentum’s Mentoring Program may be a perfect fit for you to help you climb to your highest potential. Check out our website or reach out for more information!
“Women earn less because they take time off for motherhood.”
The census data collected by the National Women’s Law Center in 2019 calculated that women lose an average of $16,000 a year due to the “motherhood penalty.” Mothers in the U.S. earn 24.8 percent less than their paternal counterparts. Mothers also have to deal with employers that harbor certain biases. Employers have stereotypes about the value of mothers as employees. They are perceived to be less committed to the job, less dependable, and more emotional. This discriminatory thought process plays a significant role in the limitations for working mothers.
This bias includes these mother’s coworkers as well. A 2018 study conducted by Bright Horizons, which operates over 1,000 early education childcare centers in the United States, found that 41 percent of employed Americans perceived working mothers to be less devoted to their work than single women. Over one-third judge working mothers on their inflexibility. The number of women worried about announcing their pregnancies bosses and coworkers has nearly doubled from 12 percent to 21 percent since 2015.
“Women choose lower-paying careers so it makes sense why men make more money.”
Women do choose lower-paying careers in comparison to their male counterparts. Those careers being paid lower is part of the problem. Young girls are steered away from certain subjects from childhood by their parents, teachers, and peers. From a young age, boys are expected to be better in math and science. These fields typically result in higher pay. Girls are encouraged to enter into “traditional” careers as a result of this bias.
Women don’t choose low-paying jobs. Society values women’s work less. Job industries dominated by women pay less than those dominated by men. For example, teaching, especially early childhood, is a field dominated by women. The work is insanely hard and demanding, it requires certain skills and educations, and the success of future generations depends on their shoulders. Yet, because these teachers are mostly women, the pay is not proportional to the demand of the job.
“Saying a woman makes 77 cents for every dollar a man makes is an exaggeration!”
Comparing the difference in annual earnings between men and women finds that women make about 23 cents less per dollar than men on average. These statistics are even less favorable for women of color who on average earn significantly less than their white coworkers. Looking at weekly earnings between men and women, the figure is a little smaller, around an 18 cent difference.
When the Equal Pay Act was passed in 1959, women were only making 59 cents on the dollar. That figure rose to 77 cents by 2004 and has increased by less than half a penny annually.
At some point or another, every woman has heard these three statements in her career. The issue with these statements is that they make women intentionally feel like second-class citizens in a patriarchal society that perpetuates fictional beliefs that harm women in the corporate sector.
We are still on cloud nine from last Wednesday, March 31st, presenting the Momentum Conference, Focus 2021. Our goal: to combat the physical and psychological toll from 2020 through a more positive focus in 2021. The multifaceted conference featured inspiring keynote speakers, Momentum Lessons in Leadership, and messages from our sponsor partners. We explored our strengths in innovative teamwork, work-life management, making bold career moves, and supporting inclusive cultures.
A main highlight was the return of our fabulous keynote speakers from Vision 2020, Risha Grant and Robyn Benincasa.
Speaking on her experience trailblazing diversity and inclusion practices at Regions Bank, she urged us to “turn our brains off auto-pilot” to identify and address our biases. To focus on equitable change we have to understand we have to understand how our individual behaviors, actions, support for certain workplace policies, and attitude to change hinder or support our efforts to social progression.
Click to see her additional tips for carrying this internal reflection in a mindful way and more about sustaining personal progress on the Focus 2021 Resource Page.
Takeaways from Robyn Benincasa (Learn about her here)
Robyn shared her iron approach on how leaders should carry courage and guts through their journeys “adapt, overcome, and win” against tough challenges in their environment. She related this to the motivation necessary for her to continue to ascend the 19,000 ft. summit of a volcano.
Remember, GUTS means:
Go the distance, quietly persevering
Unwavering in patience and faith
Taking calculated risks
Shattering the norm
How Can We Keep the Fire?
#1: Continue to encourage self-exploration through journaling
There is no feeling freeing than the flow of unprovoked thought. To meaningfully access to our subconscious beliefs and attitudes, we must first displace the filtering, perfectionist monitoring of even the things we write to ourselves. Personal journaling can help us address the start of a negative thought and pull it out from the root.
The key to communicating is first and foremost active listening. We do this by tuning our attentiveness, our patience, and our receptiveness of what others confide in us. This should be a mutual practice among the members of a discussion group and should reflect a bare foundation of respect and empathy. It is challenging to engage in conversations about inclusion that might have never been confronted before, but if we are patient with others and ourselves it will empower us to have brave conversations.
#3: Give yourself some grace
We must understand that we do not all innately hold the perfect solutions to the problems we confront in our 3D world. We are positive people, passionately moving forward, building on our knowledge and reflecting that personal growth outwards.
One of the greatest things about Momentum is the powerful alumnae network. Periodically we interview these amazing women about their experience in our program.
Brittney graduated from the University of Alabama at Birmingham with a degree in Communications Management/Business Management in 2010.
Brittney began her career as a program and compliance specialist for the Jefferson County Committee for Economic Opportunity and later joined Virginia College as a Student Career Development Coach. She joined Birmingham Business Alliance in 2015 as a Program Manager, Workforce Development. And in 2019, Brittney began at Protective Life as a Corporate Recruiter and transitioned into her role as a Diversity & Inclusion specialist in January of 2021.
As a Diversity & Inclusion Specialist at Protective Life, Brittney Smith partners with HR & business leaders to develop and implement D&I strategy and programming designed to promote inclusion and increase diverse representation across the organization. She also leads Protective Life’s D&I outreach efforts, including establishing recruitment partnerships with colleges, universities, and professional organizations and leading Protective Life’s Summer Internship Program team.
Brittney is a board member of the Jefferson County Public Education Foundation Board of Directors, as well as a member of the Rotaract Club of Birmingham. She is a former board member of Better Basics Inc. as well as an inaugural member of Momentum’s first Upward cohort.
What did you gain from your Momentum experience?
Relationships. I had the opportunity to meet so many incredible women who are making an impact in Birmingham. Some of them even went on to become friends, which is something I count as my greatest gain. Another thing that contributed to my Momentum experience was the specific professional season I was in. There’s a point in every career where you have achieved quite a bit, but there’s still much more to go in terms of navigating the journey and taking ownership of your career, and Momentum helped me take more control over my career journey.
What is one piece of leadership advice you have been given that has helped you in your career?
Early on in my career, someone shared with me a piece of advice that still applies no matter what stage of your career you’re in, and that’s the need to trust that your God-given ability will always make room for you. If you give your best in whatever position you’re in, do right by people, and be authentic, the right opportunity will always come to you. When I think about people that have given me advice I think it’s especially important, that when the door of opportunity is opened you’re ready to walk through it, and also leave the door open for other people to follow.
If you knew then what you know now, what would you tell your 18-year-old self?
The first thing I would say to my younger self is that success is a journey, and never compare that journey to others. The other thing I would add would be to learn at every stage and step of your career. No matter how difficult the job or the season may be, there is always something to learn.
What challenges do you think the next generation of women leaders faces?
The first thing that came to mind would be balance. In the new normal of work, more and more companies are allowing people to work remotely, though that’s a huge plus, it increases the difficulty of drawing an important line between work and home. Both men and women have different home priorities, but it is especially true for women.
The second thing that came to mind is connectivity. Relationships are incredibly important and it’s much harder to fully connect in a gratifying way in a virtual world. Women need to find ways to be intentional and overcome that obstacle to build and maintain relationships as we move away from traditional work experiences.
What do you think organizations need to do differently for more women to rise into executive roles?
Mckinsey & Co. produced a report in partnership with the Lean In organization back in 2019. According to the report, for every 100 men hired or promoted into a first-time manager role, only 72 women are hired into that same position. These numbers are even lower for women of color. That’s a gap. When I think about potential solutions, I immediately think of sponsorship. Companies have the opportunity to consider putting more thought into building out a framework for sponsorship specifically for women and underrepresented minorities. Most people are willing to mentor, and I think that mentoring is an incredible opportunity, but women need sponsors, advocates, people willing to invite us to the table and have our voices heard to truly experience growth.
What three words do you think should characterize every leader?
The first one is integrity. Good leaders should do what they say they’re going to do. People should be able to trust their words. A good leader will do the right thing, even when no one is looking. The second word that comes to mind is vision. I think the ability to cast a vision as well as bring others into that vision and help them see how they fit into the vision is a sign of a good leader. The last thing I associate with a good leader is empathy. Good leaders can connect with people and share the feelings of others.
How do you manage your career, home, and community life?
This is something I am in the process of restructuring how I balance all of those. One of the things I have been doing is making sure I know my priorities. For me, my priority is my family. I always want to be the person that thinks of my family and uses them as the drive for my success, not the other way around. One of the things that helps me balance my priorities, which I learned through one of the Momentum courses is taking a survey of all of my activities and responsibilities and ranking them based on what I can control. It’s also important to take the time during the day to accomplish the things that I need to accomplish so that it doesn’t carry over into my personal life.
What advice do you have for aspiring leaders?
My advice would be, talent is a start but it’s not enough. Sometimes we focus so much on the base talent of intellect or creativity and that’s great. What’s equally as important is development. Invest in your development. Develop your environment, and that includes your network, your skillset, and your character.
Employees are prioritizing diversity and inclusion strategies more than ever in order to ensure their teams are prepared for success. Diversity in the workplace leads to a variety of benefits, both internal and external. In order to effectively implement these strategies and receive the benefits, you have to understand what diversity and inclusion mean in a corporate setting.
What is diversity in the workplace?
Diversity in the workplace refers to the intentional employment of a workforce comprised of people from diverse backgrounds, religions, genders, races, ages, ethnicity, sexual orientation, education, as well as other qualities.
The benefits of diversity in the workplace:
1. Wider Talent Pool
Gone are the days where employees are seeking a typical 9-to-5 job with a good salary. Most people nowadays are looking for a job where they can grow, feel accepted, and be challenged. Implementing diversity allows companies to attract a wider range of candidates looking for an innovative place to work.
2. Fresh Perspectives
Hiring people from various backgrounds, ethnicities, nationalities, and cultures brings a new set of perspectives to the company which can lead to increased critical thinking, problem-solving, better productivity, and increased innovation.
3. Increased Innovation
Workplace diversity leads to increased innovation. Companies with a lack of diversity suffer from homogenous thinking, meaning that their thought patterns are so similar it is hard for individuals to create something new. A heterogeneous group of employees contributes to unique perspectives which can lead to breakthrough ideas.
4. Better Employee Performance
Diversity and inclusion are harmonious. When the company culture reflects a healthy mixture of cultures, backgrounds, and opinions, employees are more likely to feel comfortable, relaxed, and ultimately themselves. This leads to happier employees which increases productivity.
It’s critical that companies understand the importance diversity and inclusion play resilience and success. Effective diversity and inclusion help better employee support, build culture, and create a flourishing workplace. Employees will feel more engaged as a result and show up to work feeling safe, connected, and heard
They say hindsight is 2020. I don’t know about you, but looking back on this past year, things are kind of blurry.
What I do know with great clarity is that the COVID-19 pandemic has tested us, pushed us, made us pivot, and strangely brought us closer together even as we must stay physically distant. What a strange time. While the pandemic is not over, 2020 will be over very soon. There are days I want to forget it, but most days I feel deep gratitude for what I have learned and what we have been able to accomplish together. It is in that spirit of gratitude that I offer a retrospective Momentum 2020.
Q1 2020 – Your Vision, Your Future
Q1 was all about preparing for Momentum’s most expansive conference ever. It’s hard to believe that as we were loading into the BJCC, we were fielding calls about whether or not the conference would happen, getting updates on speakers, learning to wipe down everything we touched, insist on elbow bumps, and more. Still, we had 1,200 attendees, hosted nearly all of the scheduled breakouts, introduced three amazing keynote speakers, and had 100% participation by our EXPO hall partners. Since the conference, I’ve had many women tell me how fondly they remember the experience, and how grateful they were to be able to attend. In case you missed the conference, or just want to relive those two special days, watch the conference recap below.
Like many organizations, Momentum made the pivot to virtual practically overnight. The whole team really rallied to implement the tools and processes we needed to continue to deliver classes and content that would do online what we normally do in person: educate, inspire, and strengthen support networks for women to advance in leadership. We are so grateful to all of our session speakers who volunteered their time to offer their content online during our Intentional Tuesday and Wellness Wednesday series. We hosted a total of 20 online events in Q2, with anywhere between 25 and 200 participants. We could have never accomplished the online programming, YouTube channel, online resources, COVID-19 service projects, and expand our mentor matching program without the addition of our Mentor Coordinator, Mindy Santo, and four fabulous interns: Audrey Smith and Loren Leach from Samford, and Allie Hayes and Nikita Udayakumar, from UAB.
In July we hosted a drive-by graduation for Class 17 so they could pick up their diplomas, enjoy a toast, and say good-bye (masks on!)
We were so happy to see the group together once more, and they were grateful for the experience.
In Board of Director news, we thanked Cheri Canon for her service as Board President, welcomed Nancy Kane as our new Board President, and announced Michele Elrod as our new President-Elect. Additionally, we welcomed four new talented board members: Natalia Calvo-Senovilla, Tiffany DeGruy, Tere’ Edwards, and Karla Wiles. We feel very fortunate to have such an engaged and supportive Board of Directors who give their time and talent to Momentum.
Q3 – Momentum Matters
Q3 was a testament to Momentum’s relevance in so many ways. Data was just starting to emerge on the number of women downsizing their careers or leaving the workforce all together due to COVID-19, as highlighted by McKenzie in their Women in the Workplace study. At Momentum, we decided to add another tool to our virtual programming toolbox: the Momentum Matters podcast! ‘
The podcast allows us to remove geographic barriers and reach listeners everywhere to inspire, educate, and raise awareness for the challenges working women face on their path to leadership. Getting set up for the podcasts, which we also video for our YouTube channel, was more complicated than we thought. After the first interview, we knew it was well worth it to be able to share the stories of the inspiring women leaders who are part of the Momentum network.
Q4 – Onward and Upward
We’ve had no shortage of amazing women leaders to interview for Momentum Matters! Our fall focused on race and equity, with intriguing conversations with Elizabeth Huntley, Bobbie Knight, and Myla Calhoun. January will highlight health, both physical and psychological.
In October we celebrated the graduation of our second Upward class with a drive-through graduation. This group of 60 dynamic emerging leaders did not miss a beat when their Momentum classes went virtual and have remained engaged by joining the Momentum Alumnae Program.
“Thank you for making the Upward program so valuable. I admit, I had my doubts as the pandemic raged and the class went virtual. Happily, I was proven wrong! The experience showed me that where I had seen fear, I can now see opportunity and excitement instead. I also realized that intrinsically, I am not missing anything. All of us experience self-doubt and have work to do.”
Chelsea Brewton, Upward Class of 2020
We have seen a steady stream of membership renewals and Honor Roll gifts since our November mailing went out. To those who have already taken this step, we truly appreciate your support. You keep Momentum going!
If you have not yet renewed your MAP membership or would consider a year-end gift, please take a moment do so. Memberships and Honor Roll gifts are an important part of Momentum’s ability to serve a growing number of women leaders statewide.
What we make of 2021 is up to us. As leaders, our community, our teams and our families look to us to be the example, charter the course, and set the pace. May we all reflect on the lessons learned in 2020 and lean hard into our resilience for a prosperous and meaningful 2021.
The glass ceiling was shattered last Saturday as Kamala Harris was announced as the first female vice president-elect in U.S. history. Not only is she the first woman, but also the first Black and South Asian American that will hold the position. All politics aside, it’s important to recognize the history being made right before our eyes. The representation and diversity Harris will bring to the White House alone is reason enough to celebrate this historic win no matter your beliefs, gender, background, or political alignment. She’s broken through the barricade that women have been stuck behind for centuries, along with those women that paved the way before her like Harriet Tubman, Ruby Bridges, Shirley Chisholm, andRuth Bader Ginsburg to name a few.
This election year happens to fall on the 100th anniversary of the 19th Amendment, which established American women’s right to vote when it was ratified on August, 18th 1920. While the ratification of the 19th Amendment was a huge step for women, it has proved to be only the beginning of a long-winded fight for equality that we are still fighting for today, 100 years later. During her acceptance speech, Kamala Harris stepped out onto the stage in an all white suit. Her suit was much more than a fashion statement — it was a deliberate choice, standing as a recognition to those women who came before her and those who will come after. White has long been recognized as a color of purity and hope and is associated with the suffrage movement dating back to1913 when 8,000 women wore white to march in Washington D.C. the day before President Woodrow Wilson’s inauguration. They did this to protest and demand an amendment allowing women the right to vote. Since then, there have been numerous occasions where women holding political positions wore white as a nod to those suffragettes who came before them and essentially paved the way to where they are today.
While Harris recognized the ones that came before her, she also brings a new hope to the future generations of leaders to come. By having diversity — not only with gender, but race — well-represented in leadership positions within our country, inspiration is created for younger generations to know that their voice can be heard; they are more than capable of achieving their goals, whether that be running for president of their 8th grade class, or running for President of the United States. During her speech she stated, “While I may be the first woman in this office, I will not be the last – because every little girl watching tonight sees that this is a country of possibilities.” Harris did not become the first female vice president-elect without continuing the legacy of the women before her, and now the little girls who dream of being a leader can use Harris as a stepping stone on their own ladder to success.
Women should not still have to fight for equality in this country, especially 100 years after we were granted the right to vote. However, we will continue the fight until everyone recognizes the capability and power a woman holds. As the Notorious RBG said herself, “Women belong in all places where decisions are being made,” and that is exactly where we will be from now on.
It can be difficult to stay motivated as we push on toward a world without COVID. We may be biased, but we’re pretty proud of how our leaders are making a difference in our city. Our Upward program was created specifically for women in the beginning of their career to develop the next generation of talented leadership. Here’s just a few of our Upward alumnae who work diligently to create dynamic change.
Lauren Leach, Associate Vice President of Planning & Population Health, UAB Medicine
Leach has been working to coordinate unique solutions for working parents during the pandemic. After recognizing the need for childcare assistance for over 1,000 UAB employees, she helped strategize short-term relief.
When United Ability closed due to COVID, she had to adapt quickly to continue promoting their cause. “…everyone had to change the way they operated. It really showed us all how amazing the participants in United Ability’s programs, the staff, and families really are – how much we all care for each other.”
Monica Aswani, Assistant Professor, School of Heath Professions, UAB
Dr. Aswani joined COVID taskforce UAB United on the Incident Command Committee to help flatten the curve of COVID cases.
Brenessa Lindeman, Associate Designated Institutional Official for the Clinical Learning Environment, UAB
Medical care is a valuable resource during the pandemic, and efficiency is of the utmost importance. Lindeman worked to introduce new technology at UAB that adds apps to patients’ electronic records so clinicians can provide improved patient care.
Britney Summerville, Vice President of Community Engagement, Shipt
Summerville founded Birmingham Bound, a program aimed at growing Birmingham’s tech community. “The organization is also ‘spreading the word across the nation that Birmingham is a tech ecosystem that should be on their radar,'” according to Summerville.