Deborah Boswell, long-time President of Professional Speech Services of Alabama, spoke at last week’s Intentional Tuesdays event about the power of your voice. As a woman who measures over five feet tall on a good day, I was ready for this presentation with my trusty pen to take notes. Deborah mentioned some key takeaways that you probably haven’t heard before. Here’s the rundown:
Focus on your breath. You don’t have to scream to be loud! Try to talk from your diaphragm instead of your throat or chest to command the room.
When you’re nervous, you probably have shallow breath. Take some deep inhales and exhales before a presentation. Personally, I listen to a Lizzo song or some words of encouragement from Brene Brown. You can view some more mindfulness resources here.
First impressions count. Think about your posture and what you’re wearing. I have been moved mid-presentation because multiple people thought I was breaking out in hives. Turns out, I was just nervous, so now I wear a turtleneck.
Be concise. No one likes a long meeting that could have been summed up in a quick email. Executives don’t have a lot of time on their hands, and the average person’s attention span, according to research by Microsoft, is shorter than eight seconds. That’s less than a goldfish.
BLUF. Don’t bluff, but keep the Bottom Line Up Front. Capture their attention at the beginning so they stay with you for important information.
Conjunction junction, what’s your function? Diluting clarity, according to Deborah. Break up your sentences.
If you are the expert, behave like the expert! Stay confident; you’ve got this.
Wish you hadn’t missed Deborah’s presentation? Want to watch it again? Check out our new Youtube channel for her presentation and others!
One simple way to promote diversity and inclusiveness in our community is to support Birmingham’s local black-owned businesses. Here are eight businesses run by women in the Birmingham area you can support today.
Naughty But Nice Kettle Corn Co.
Naughty But Nice Kettle Corn Co. puts a fun spin on a classic snack. Tanesha Sims-Summers, founder and CEO, describes her company as being, “…known for PoPing addictive handcrafted kettle corn. All of our flavors are lightly sweet and lightly salted to give each flavor a unique and distinctive taste. We strive to create an experience that families, friends, PoPcorn and kettle corn lovers will never forget. We keep it interestingly different! We love PoPping up at community events, special events, weddings, corporate and university events, birthday parties or on your couch for a Friday Movie Night! It’s Not Just Popcorn with Naughty But Nice Kettle Corn Co., It’s FUN, FRESH & FESTIVE; from the hand crafted flavors to our commitment to PoPpin with a Purpose with our community partners, our team is always finding ways to make the world a sweeter place one kernel at a time.”
The owner/operator and master cake artist of CakEffect, Komeh O. Davis, has a true passion for art that spills over into her cake creations. She describes her company as being, “…the little cake shop with a grand effect. We specialize in custom designer cakes for many events or occasions. With a background in visual arts, canvas art is transformed to cake. All cakes are baked to order and to the customer’s specifications. CakEffect specializes in sculpted two-dimensional and three-dimensional cakes. CakEffect provides beautiful, delicious cakes to many satisfied customers each year. We have an association of artists and bakers who are capable of meeting personal and corporate needs. Our deliciously moist, artistic, and elegantly designed cakes will be remembered by you, your family and friends as a wonderful touch to your event.”
Where: 1021 Brock’s Gap Parkway Suite 109 Hoover, Al. 35244
Drexell & Honeybee’s is a donation only restaurant with the mission of, “we feed the need.” They serve hot plates to everyone whether they can afford it or not. The owner, Lisa Thomas-McMillan says that, “food is about the joy of serving others.” There isn’t a price tag on any of their meals or even suggested prices. Customers only pay what they can whether that be a small or large donation or even just a thank you. When you enter their restaurant, “you’ll walk past booths and four-tops full of cornbread, fried chicken, and collard greens.” With food this tasty, you’ll find yourself craving it every day.
The Curated Arch is Birmingham’s premier permanent makeup studio. The owner, Kim Thompson, says, “my mission at The Curated Arch is to help women feel their most beautiful! I don’t take this lightly. It’s truly an honor to work with every single client.” They specialize in lashes, brows, and skincare, relying on over twenty years of experience and training. Why choose her services? Her “method and tools have been meticulously designed and redesigned to aid their trained artists in producing very precise hairstrokes, perfect symmetry, and a beautiful eyebrow shape that goes with the natural shape of their client’s face and bone structure.” They also choose to use products with great ingredients that won’t harm your skin!
Where: Inside Phenix Salon Suites at 709 Montgomery Highway Suite 101 Birmingham, AL 35216
SisterGolf not only teaches women how to play golf, but it also instructs women on how to use their knowledge of the game to their advantage in their professional lives. The owner, Shella Sylla, says, “The mission of SisterGolf is to expose and educate female business professionals on how they can use golf as a tool for developing mutually beneficial business relationships, and creating connections for professional advancement in the Corporate workplace.” What a great way to multitask!
You can schedule your next appointment with SisterGolf here.
Where: 2539 John Hawkins Parkway, #329 Hoover, AL 35244
Valia Rose Events is a full service event planning company that specializes in events from weddings to corporate functions. The owner, Joanna Sheppard, says, “Valia Rose Events creates custom, seamless and sophisticated event planning experiences for each of our clients. Because we forge a bond with our clients, The details cultivated into our designs reflect the personal styles of our clients. Every logistical element serves a purpose for a celebration that speaks to you, your family and your guests for generations to come. Valia Rose Events provides a high touch collaborative approach to the planning process. Our distinctive full service planning , design and management services guarantee a perfect event production.”
Expanding on the background of her business, Sheppard explains, “Planning an intimate event for a dear friend as a hobby later resulted in the conception of Valia Rose Events. The organic growth emerged from the desire to create magical moments, enlightened guest experiences and memories to last a lifetime. There is love poured into every Valia Rose fete that attracts clients worldwide.”
Where: 240 Oxmoor Circle Suite 106 Homewood, AL 35209
With southern roots and a northern upbringing, Yolanda Carter, best known as Yogi, has been exposed to many different cultures and art forms that can be seen throughout her work. Yogi DaDa specializes in hand painted wooden earrings, but since establishing her business in 2012, her art has expanded into various forms such as canvas pieces, prints, custom ties, cufflinks and more. In addition to her art, Carter is also a poet, Emmy nominated vocalist, sign language artist, public speaker, teacher, and Djembe (African drum) player. To say she’s well-rounded would be an understatement.
The old saying that, “one man’s trash is another man’s treasure,” was taken to heart by Janelle Sweeney as she created Janelle’s Attic Gold, a retail store where you can find all things vintage including clothing, furniture, and decor. Each item she finds has a story from the past, waiting for you to give it new life. Her eclectic assortment will add charm to any space or wardrobe.
Do you get overwhelmed sifting through large thrift and antique stores? Janelle has already done the hard work for you with organized selections of dishware, dresses, furniture, and more!
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”.
There used to be lots of debate about the effectiveness of employee resource groups (ERGs.) These days, most HR experts and business analysts agree that ERGs, when managed correctly, have a positive net effect on the enterprise.
What exactly is an ERG? It’s a group of employees who meet in the workplace based on shared life experiences. The goal is to build their network, share experiences, exchange resources, and support each other. Oftentimes the ERG is comprised of employees who represent a minority within the enterprise: women, people of color, Latino/a, and LBGTQ. An impressive 90% of Fortune 500 companies have ERGs.
No doubt that employees who are part of a well-managed ERG find value in the meetings. The overall organization benefits, too. As employees in under-represented groups find a sense of inclusion, belonging, and value, they are more likely to stay with the company and some will pursue leadership roles within the organization. According to the 2018 McKinsey study “Delivering through Diversity,” companies with diverse leadership are better able to:
Attract top talent
Improve customer orientation
Increase employee satisfaction
Make better decisions
ERGs are not just for the Fortune 500, either. In fact, in small to mid-size companies, an ERG can be launched very quickly. All it may require is a conversation with the CEO, HR, and an outline of why/when/where/how/who. In larger organizations it can take a little more time. Generally speaking, the larger the company, the more likely you are to need a clear charter, schedule, budget, executive sponsorship, and answers for legal counsel regarding risk management.
One sticky question is whether or not the meetings should be open to those who are not part of the group. Operating from a standpoint of inclusiveness, our opinion is a resounding YES. It’s important for all employees to feel they can participate in the discussions, benefit from training, and lend their own opinions. In groups where the meetings are closed, suspicion generally runs high.
If you are thinking of starting an ERG, one of the best things you can do is consult with others who have started down that path.
Momentum hosts quarterly meetings called the Women’s Resource Group Exchange. During these meetings, representatives from a diverse group of companies gather to share their experiences and resources. If interested in attending, email us for more information. ERGs require some effort to do well, but the pay-off for both employees and the enterprise can be big.
In honor of black history month, and on the cusp of women’s history month, we salute the women who overcome a long history of bias, prejudice, and discrimination to succeed in their careers. According to a 2015 study by the Center for American Progress, a stunning 70% of mothers in black families are the main bread-winner for their families (compared to 24.7% of white mothers and 40.5% of Latina mothers.) At the same time, black women experience a wider pay gap than white women compared to white men (black women earn 63% of when compared to white men, where white women earn 75% of what white men earn.)
To level the playing field, much has to be done to raise awareness and train employers on the gaps that exist. Those cultural shifts can take a long time. Updating workplace policy is the other piece in the engine of progress. Ensuring that employees have access to paid sick leave and family leave has shown to increase participation in the labor force and reduce reliance on public assistance for women who still carry most of the burden of caring for children and aging parents. We also need employers to regularly educate management on unconscious bias in hiring, managing and promoting minorities.
In the 2017 Women in the Workplace report from McKinsey and the Lean In organization, women of color are the most underrepresented group in the corporate pipeline. The study asserts that gender and race are inseparable, and that companies need to dig deeper into the experiences of women of color when shaping their unconscious bias training and employee management policies.
Rosilyn Houston is Senior Executive VP and Chief Talent & Cultural Executive for BBVA Compass and a Momentum alumna. She had these thoughts to share for this post:
“The stats McKinsey recently released are undeniable truths. Now that we know the facts what are we going to do about it to bring about change? Black women have to jump multiple hurdles and run through walls that may not exist for non-blacks as we face both unconscious and conscious bias in the workplace.
This is not just a black woman challenge, it is a challenge for all of us. Just as we need white men to be interested in gender equity in high places in our organizations, we need all men and women to recognize the struggles of women from all cultures and do some things differently.
I propose the following:
1) Hire a talented and qualified black woman to lead on your immediate team. 2) Mentor and/or sponsor a black woman leader. 3) Advocate for and introduce a talented black woman leader to your network.
All talented and hardworking women deserve the opportunity to bring her best into the workplace and to impact an organization’s bottom line. Black women need the support and opportunity to work on high risk projects, be exposed to key leaders, and mentorship. In my opinion, working together to take tangible steps to change the status quo is what we need to to close the gap and walk the talk.”
Working women of color especially benefit from the support of other women to embrace who they are. Momentum alumna Deb Grimes, Chief Diversity Officer at UAB, offers this advice: “Being a women of color is not about comparing yourself to others, it’s about focusing on your uniqueness and encouraging others to do the same. Always remember, you are too awesome to just fit in…dare to be different!”
The upcoming Momentum leadership conference is focused on the theme “Better Together, Uniting Leaders.” To make real progress toward workplaces that reflect the diversity of the population, we have to come together to champion the advantages. We need men to support the advancement of women. We need white women to support the advancement of black women. We need black women support the advancement of Latina women. We all need to triple-check our unconscious bias and commit to supporting top talent in leadership roles.
Luncheon keynote Carey Lohrenz is the first female F-14 Tomcat Fighter Pilot in the U.S. Navy. Breakfast keynote Bonnie St. John is the first African-American to bring home medals in the Winter Paralympic games.
Our conference theme, Better Together │ Uniting Leaders, will be well-supported by these speakers.
Carey Lohrenz knows what it takes to win in one of the highest pressure, extreme environments imaginable: in the cockpit at Mach 2. Having flown missions worldwide as a combat-mission-ready United States Navy pilot, Lohrenz is used to working in fast moving, dynamic environments, where inconsistent execution can generate catastrophic results. The same challenges are found in business: markets change, customer needs evolve and if you do not adapt quickly your company is at risk.
Carey’s experience in the all-male environment of fighter aviation allow her to deliver insight and guidance from a wide range of leadership perspectives, with broad appeal to women and men in the audience.
Despite having her right leg amputated at age five, Bonnie St. John became the first African-American ever to win medals in Winter Olympic competition, taking home a silver and two bronze medals in downhill events at the 1984 Paralympics in Innsbruck, Austria.
In recognition of this historic achievement, St. John was quoted on millions of Starbucks coffee cups and was honored at the White House by President George W. Bush. In addition to her success as a Paralympic athlete, she is a best-selling author of seven books. St. John’s most recent book, Micro-Resilience: Minor Shifts for Major Boosts in Focus, Drive and Energy, outlines a quick, easy and immediately effective program of tools and techniques to give you a competitive edge in today’s dynamic world of changes and challenges.
Online registration for the conference is open now, with early bird rates through January 5th. There are group discounts for tables of eight, so bring your team or passionate professionals in your personal network. Seating is limited and is expected to sell out.
Momentum has received generous funding from two Benefactor sponsors to secure the keynote speakers: UAB Medicine and Wells Fargo Bank, N.A. The keynote speakers will be presented by conference co-chairs, Dr. Cheri Canon from UAB Medicine and Laura Oberst from Wells Fargo.
Dr. Canon is Professor and Chair of Radiology at the University of Alabama at Birmingham. Dr. Canon received the American Board of Radiology’s (ABR) Lifetime Service Award in 2013, and was appointed to the ABR Board of Trustees in 2016. Dr. Canon is a graduate of Momentum’s 2006-07 class, is President Elect of the Momentum Alumnae Program Board of Directors, and a Scholarship member of Momentum’s Honor Roll of Women’s Leadership. “My Momentum experience was transformative,” says Canon. “The program instilled in me the value of mentorship and a desire to advance women leaders; this conference provides the perfect platform for that.”
Laura Oberst is an Executive Vice President and head of Wells Fargo Bank’s Business Banking Group. Based in Minneapolis, she oversees more than 4,700 team members at 450 locations in 41 U.S. states. Laura serves on the board of directors for HealthPartners, Inc., the Greater MSP Economic Development Partnership, and the North Dakota Trade Office. A long-standing supporter of developing women’s careers, she has been actively involved in Minnesota Women’s Economic Roundtable and Deloitte’s 100 Wise Women initiative. In 2015, the Minneapolis/St. Paul Business Journal awarded Laura its Women in Business award.
We are honored to have these highly accomplished women to serve as our 2018 conference co-chairs. Our co-chairs play a vital role in the success of the conference, from keynote selection and conference planning, to addressing our 800 conference attendees during the event. Cheri Canon and Laura Oberst will certainly deliver with a balance of graciousness and gravitas!
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:
Recruit and retain top talent because people see leaders & co-workers who look like them, creating a more comfortable and secure work environment.
Better understand and serve customers, because the people who work there reflect the communities and markets they’re in.
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.
Momentum Alumna Anne Marie Seibel recently published a chapter in the book, “Her Story: Lessons in Success from Lawyers Who Live It.” Anne Marie should know. She is a very successful complex litigation partner in multi-forum, multi-plantiff cases at Bradley law firm. She is active in both professional and local communities, married to a research physician, and mother of two (read her impressive bio here.) How does she balance it all? As she explains in the book, she doesn’t. In fact, she doesn’t even try.
Here are three key take-aways from her chapter:
Ban balancing. As Anne Marie explains in the book, her goal is to manage all aspects of life, not balance them. When you are ambitious, there will always be more things you want to do than you have resources to accomplish. Life is not about striking the perfect balance, it’s about prioritizing goals and making tough decisions with limited resources. Anne Marie advises professionals to “spend time allocating the available resources to cover the responsibilities you have” so that you can focus fully on whatever task is at hand, knowing the other important priorities are covered.
Take the long view. There are many paths to success, and no particular time-table for achieving them. Time is one of the constraints we all have, and at least that’s a level playing field. Anne Marie advises “managing your own expectations and developing reasonable definitions of success.” One of the most important demands on time comes when you have children. Anne Marie cautions against viewing motherhood on one side and career on the other. Instead, she suggests looking at the role of a working parent as a conductor, “asking the wind section to play more loudly while the strings provide the background,” she writes. “All you are doing is adjusting the mix at any given point in time.”
Choose the right team. Every good manager knows how important the team is to long term success. Choosing a spouse or partner who genuinely shares your life goals, supports you at work, and does their share at home. Beyond your life partner, you need the right team at work, too. Get to know your colleagues well, don’t be afraid to ask for help when you need it, and always lend a hand when they need it. Be transparent about your long-term plan and any changes in priorities, goals, and resources. The more your colleagues understand all of your priorities, the more they can empathize and support you on your journey. Finally, says Anne Marie, “develop genuine networks of support–not comparison.” It’s senseless to spend time comparing isolated aspects of life and career with those of colleagues. It’s far better to seek others of “varied life experience and age” to gain from their perspective, and from their support.
In closing, Anne Marie reminds us: “When others ask how you are balancing it all, be sure to answer, ‘I’m managing just fine, thank you.'”
Recently, Fortune published an article entitled “Sallie Krawcheck: Why Corporate America Will Never ‘Get’ Diversity.” Sallie Krawcheck is an incredibly influential business woman in corporate America. In her article, Sallie Krawcheck attempts to explain why workplace equality fails to grow in the midst of growing awareness. She says,
“Here’s my theory: We tend to talk about the advancement of women as a macro issue—something to be tackled by corporations, industries, society. But in reality, so much of it comes down to the micro.”
She goes on to describe micro forces that hold diversity back and micro decisions that have the potential to push diversity forward. Micro forces include bosses and our individual implicit bias. Micro decisions can be anything from supporting organizations that are “doing it right” to starting your own business. Sallie Krawcheck argues we can only combat micro forces with micro decisions.
Sallie Krawcheck’s thought process behind diversity in the workplace intrigued me. Building diversity is one of the core values at her company, Ellevest. Through that difficult process, Sallie Krawcheck has come to realize that true power comes from the everyday decisions women like you and me make. If that is the case, then ask yourself this: what am I doing to implement my values into my daily decision-making? How am I pushing forward the mission I believe in?
At the end of the day, we can only be responsible for our own actions. Change starts small, but it has the power to grow into something quite dramatic. Start with you. Step into a mentoring role. Start the negotiation you have been shying away from. Find a network of people who hold similar values as you. Move in a direction that compliments the change you would like to see in the workplace. Change requires tenacity, but don’t be afraid to chase after it.
Ivanka Trump, a working young mother, proposed a $25 billion federal paid leave program as part of the president’s budget plan, according to the Washington Post. As of right now, the United States is the only developed country that does not guarantee new mothers or fathers a single day of paid time off. The proposal would guarantee six weeks of paid time off, which is less than other developed countries, but it is still progress.
Each state would be responsible for designing and running their own programs. So far, only California, Rhode Island, and New Jersey offer new parent benefits, with New York and Washington D.C. in the works.
As of today, workers in the United States can take up to 12 weeks of unpaid leave after a birth, as long as they’ve worked at a company that employs at least 50 people for a year. Currently, 58 percent of American companies replace at least some wages during maternity leave, and only 12 percent cover some leave for dads. The proposal includes working mothers, fathers, and adoptive parents. The inclusion of men in the proposal encourages equal responsibility in family planning.
Business leaders are hesitant to absorb the expense of paid leave, but there is value in providing financial support for mothers due to the research suggesting a large reduction in employee turnover.
The government’s initiative to improve benefits for working women by offering paid leave encourages me. The issue is gaining valued attention, since it would traditionally be addressed by Democrats and opposed by Republicans. As I begin my career, I don’t want to feel as if I am compromising work for my family, or vice versa. The paid leave program could create a sense of security for working mothers in the United States. I am grateful this is a topic of discussion in the White House. It shows the importance of having women like Ivanka Trump in positions of power. Women who will acknowledge gender issues and work against them.