Tag: covid

May Showers Bring Summer Flowers

Observing this past month of May where we celebrated Mental Health Awareness, it is vital to reflect on the general state of wellness impacted by the pandemic and quarantine. We do not want to labor into another disparaging article about the statistical impacts that sudden loss, sustained periods of doubt and uncertainty, and isolation (among other effects) have had on our health outlook. Instead, we want to encourage you to remember the incredible obstacles we have overcome through the course of quarantine 2020, as we return to a semblance of what our life was before.

While some are bold to make the leap, others are understandably hesitant to re-enter an inevitably changed world. They are weary of returning to a state of blissful ignorance and remain cautious of their people interactions despite substantial progress in projected health outcomes. They still carry trauma from the suddenness of the quarantine order, shutting down our economy and livelihood many depended on. And, this fear of dire consequence drives a delayed expectation of gratification that has permanently changed how we approach mindfulness, connecting with others, and how we seek enjoyment outside of our professions.

In spite of this, we are seeing major improvements in public mental health acceptance. Undeniably, the time spent in isolation or confinement awakened space to identify and face some areas of trouble we faced prior to 2020. We had to put in the tough effort to derive comfort from ourselves and continue to build self-originated hope. Whether we carried in mental health issues from our past or were confronted by new ones, it is more visible to us how our stress, low self-worth, or low trust impede our day-to-day tasks.

Going forward, we must continue to prioritize mental health wellness and take action, not retrospectively, but because we deserve positivity and assurance about our progress. We deserve to pursue happiness in tandem with our responsibilities. We deserve to disrupt business to introduce intervals of peace, creativity, and freedom. These are all necessary pursuits.

 

 

By Nikita Udayakumar

Introducing Our First Podcast Guest

We’re less than a week away from our podcast launch, and we couldn’t be more excited. The most challenging part of creating the podcast was the editing. CEO April Benetollo and civil litigator Liz Huntley had such a rich discussion on the important topics of early childhood, race, and equity that we struggled to pare it down into a digestible podcast.

Huntley shares Momentum’s goals of equity and inclusion. “We’re always better when we’re at the table with diverse opinions, diverse views, diverse experiences, diverse demographics, because when we bring all of those together it lets us be the best we can be whether it’s a company or a law firm. My biggest advice is that there’s no stopping point. The Sky’s the Limit. Follow your Passion. Do what it is you want to do.”

Momentum is a longtime admirer of Huntley. We recently awarded her a Woman of Impact award at our Vision 2020 Conference in March. She received this award based on her commitment to not only her own work as an attorney, but also as CEO of a nonprofit, The Hope Institute, that works with schools to develop character education curriculum/programs. She shared her inspirational story in More Than a Birdand she continues to share her message and story across the country through her advocacy work.

Huntley has appreciated education since she was a child herself. She took comfort in reading and gained encouragement from her schoolteachers. In the books she read, she realized that people like Abraham Lincoln found their voice as a lawyer, and in this profession, they were able to make lasting changes. Her drive, along with her dedication, natural intellect, and hard work, propelled her to graduate as Valedictorian of Chilton County High School, earn a full ride to study political science at Auburn University, and graduate with a J.D. from the University of Alabama Law School, after serving as an editor for their Law and Psychology Review. 

As an advocate for children, she serves on multiple boards of directors and trustees for various nonprofits while running The Hope Institute. She believes community engagement is a powerful force. Being a game-changer is all about recognizing that moment in time where you have the ability to do something that’s really going to impact somebody’s life. It doesn’t have to be an isolated moment, although many times it can be. How you seek out those game-changing moments is through community service; that’s where they happen, in nonprofit organizations that serve families or children or whomever.” When she was a child, she participated in an early childhood education program, funded by a grant for her community, so she truly appreciates the lasting impact of programs she now offers through her organization. 

Interested in learning more about our other podcast guests? Click here to meet Myla Calhoun and Bobbie Knight.

Birmingham’s Moving Upward

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.
  • Lee Thrash, Donor Relations Manager, United Ability
    • 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.

Get Woke with Your Vote

As the election nears, social media platforms have become inundated with voting content. Although advancements in technology have made voting information more accessible than ever before, it can still be confusing to find the deadlines and addresses you need in the sea of posts. Whichever side of politics you’re on, one thing is clear: this election is incredibly important. It’s been over 100 hundred years since the last pandemic struck the US, and the elected president will influence the outcome of the current pandemic in our country.

Only half of all eligible voters in the US exercise their right to vote. Convincing these voters to participate in the upcoming election is daunting, but powerhouse Birminghamian Dejuana Thompson is determined to make a difference. After a stint as Senior Advisor for the Small Business Administration, Thompson founded Think Rubix, LLC, which works alongside nonprofits, businesses, and governments to enact social change.

One of their projects is Woke Vote, works to, “invest in the activation, long-term engagement, training and development of new organizers, and mobilization of historically disengaged voters of color.” Data-driven research has proven their tactics have resulted in unprecedented increases in voter turnout.

Their program has gained national acclaim as a proven catalyst for voting, and their focus on community engagement couldn’t come at a better time. Recent racial unrest both locally and nationally is discouraging and overwhelming, but people now have the opportunity to elect politicians who reflect their values and opinions.

Still unsure of your voting status? We’ve gathered some resources to ensure you have the information you need!

  • Confirm your registration status and/or find your polling location here
  • Find your elected officials here
  • Here are the official amendments included in the Alabama ballot. Want an easier to read version? WBHM explains them here
  • Any additional questions? Rock the Vote has all the answers

How to Fit a Retreat into a Basket

Momentum’s executive programs usually begin with a two-day retreat, relaxing near a forest or pond. This year, we had to get creative in welcoming our new class! With a little help from Alabama Goods, Momentum logistics manager Katherine Thrower arranged locally sourced happies to create a “retreat in a basket.” Unlike the traditional fruit basket, each item had meaningful significance that was referenced in our sessions (don’t worry…we made room for snacks!). The whole Momentum team took part in dropping off baskets at each participants’ house to ensure they would feel celebrated!

“The retreat is about making them feel special because they are special,” says CEO April Benetollo. Each participant was analyzed based on their background, professional experience, and stage in life. If they were selected this year, “it’s the right time for them to be doing this.” This well-rounded group connected in breakout sessions and interactive activities to start the year off right. While the retreat focuses on emotional intelligence and awareness, the executive program shifts into different themes throughout the year.

Have you ever wondered what makes Momentum’s programming unique? We don’t just proofread your resume and send you on your way with a handout on teamwork. Momentum was founded with the goal of creating intentional relationships and personal growth.

  • The retreat sets the forecast for the rest of the year, asking participants, “Who are you?”
  • The next quarter focuses on the participant’s strengths and talents, asking, “How could you be directed to bring you more joy and value to your job/community?”
  • After that comes the real work. “How do you get there?” Momentum offers negotiation skills and resilience training to prep participants for the final stage.
  • Looking forward, the question remains, “How do you take that beyond you? What can you bring to your job, community, family, etc.?” Participants are encouraged to volunteer or join a local board to become more engaged with their community. In terms of professional growth, class members learn tactics to claim visibility, accept recognition, and share expertise with future game-changers.

Whether you’re in a program or not, Momentum has a place for you! Join us as a mentee or mentor today to meet more inspiring women in your community.

Staying Active During COVID-19

Two weeks ago we discussed the importance of stimulating your brain and keeping track of your mental health during the pandemic. Not only is your mental health a vital part in staying successful in your personal and professional lives, but maintaining your physical well-being is too. Here are a few tips on how to stay active during COVID-19 while still staying socially distant. 

1. Get Outside

One of the easiest ways to stay active during COVID-19 that everyone has access to is simply going outside. Explore your neighborhood by going on a run, taking a walk, or riding your bike. If you want to get out of the neighborhood, Birmingham has plenty of parks, hiking trails, and other outdoor activities. Oak Mountain and Red Mountain state parks have great hiking and mountain biking trails that are suitable for all ages. You could even take a walk around the Birmingham Botanical Gardens which has 67.5 acres of over 25 thematic gardens with various sculptures and quiet paths. The Birmingham Zoo is also back open again with limited hours of operation. Before visiting any public outdoor space, be sure to check their websites for their COVID-19 guidelines and restrictions. 

2. Workout from Home 

Another way to stay active is to workout from the comfort of your own home. COVID-19 has forced the world to become more connected than ever which includes opportunities to try out new workouts online. Many gyms that normally operate on an in-person basis now have guided workouts available through their apps for members. One free way to attend a workout class from home is by using YouTube. YouTube has thousands of videos on different workout options ranging from a 5 minute cardio session to an hour of a full body workout. My favorite kind of workout is one that makes you feel like you aren’t working out at all. There are plenty of videos that accomplish this through dance party workouts that allow you to have fun while still working up a sweat. 

3. Look into Gyms Again

As life tries to go back to “normal”, many gyms have reopened but with new guidelines and restrictions. If you do decide to get back into the gym again stay cautious and practice good hygiene. A few ways you can do this are by washing your hands frequently, wiping down the equipment before and after you use it, wearing your mask, and spacing out away from others. It is also advised that you bring your own water as opposed to using the water fountains, and avoiding using the locker room by planning on using the bathroom at home and skipping your post-gym locker room shower. Before you go, it is important to look on the gym’s website for their specific guidelines so you can assess if you will feel comfortable or not.

Until There Are Nine

Ruth Bader Ginsburg was notorious for her persistent fight to advocate for women, but her legacy goes beyond the work she accomplished as a Supreme Court justice, and she was not always esteemed for her fierce determination. As a student at Harvard Law School, she was criticized for “taking a man’s place,” even though she ended up tying for first in her class. Many women in the US are currently struggling to work from home while managing their children’s schoolwork. The Notorious RBG was no stranger to this dilemma. When her husband was diagnosed with cancer while they were both in law school, she took all of his notes and typed all of his papers in addition to her own, all while taking care of her newborn daughter. She faced discrimination in the workplace and had a hard time finding a job, but once she got started, she was on a roll.

Ginsburg, like most women, was also scrutinized for her personality. She was too serious, too forgiving. Too progressive, not progressive enough. Her appointment was eventually supported by feminists, but some gawked at her close friendship with the late conservative justice Antonin Scalia. Their relationship served as a reminder to the country that relationships can transcend political boundaries. They frequently traveled together, attending operas and riding elephants. However, his views did not bleed into hers, and she went on to become the leading liberal justice on the Supreme Court.

She was an expert of making the most of what she had. As a frequent member of the minority vote in the Supreme Court, she made history for her eloquent dissents, some of which eventually inspired new laws. Some of the highlights of her legacy precede her time in the Supreme Court. She co-founded the Women’s Rights wing of the American Civil Liberties Union, became the first tenured female law professor at Columbia, and co-founded the first women’s rights law journal, all during the 1970s, when most boardrooms had no room for women. In her later years, she became a pop icon, inspiring teens to become politically involved as she demonstrated her workout routine on late night television.

Ginsburg inspired men and women both through her actions and her words. As the second woman to ever be nominated to the US Supreme Court, she knew that it would take serious work for women to be effectively represented.

“When I’m sometimes asked ‘When will there be enough [women on the Supreme Court]?’ and I say ‘When there are nine,’ people are shocked. But there’d been nine men, and nobody’s ever raised a question about that.” -Ruth Bader Ginsburg

Although she is no longer with us, her story is not over. Her work continues to inspire efforts toward representation and equal pay. She persisted, and we must continue to persist.

What’s Good

Sick of reading yet another news story about murder hornets and wildfires started by gender reveals gone wrong? We’ve collected some good news about women from around the world to brighten your news feed.

A rare breed of storks in northeast India were on the verge of extinction just 7 years ago. A local woman founded a nonprofit to employ women to change local perception about the native species and help facilitate growth. The women also receive training and education as a part of their work. Now, the population has increased 500% and continues to grow!

The Fortune 500 set an all-time record for women CEOS! In 2000, there were only 2 women represented; now there are 37. There’s certainly room to grow, but we’re on an upward trajectory.

MotionMobs, led by Birmingham entrepreneur Taylor Peak, was featured in the New York Times for their work in contact tracing. Businesses in Birmingham like UAB are using their technological services to keep tabs on the spread of COVID-19. “The best part—the app is free and available to all Alabama residents,” reports Bham Now. We love to see local women making history!

 

Rwanda recently set the record for their government being represented by the highest percentage of women in the world at 64%. This exciting news comes after decades of hard work and perseverance following the Rwandan genocide almost 20 years ago. “John Mutamba, an official at the Ministry of Gender and Women in Development, said: ‘Men who grew up in exile know the experience of discrimination. Gender is now part of our political thinking. We appreciate all components of our population across all the social divides, because our country has seen what it means to exclude a group.'”

$100 million dollars was donated to Meharry Medical College, Howard University College of Medicine, Morehouse School of Medicine, and Charles R. Drew University of Medicine and Science, all HBCUs, as an effort to increase opportunities for black doctors and to improve minority health. The donation from former NY mayor Mike Bloomberg was the largest ever received by these universities. Over half of the students attending those 4 schools this year will receive funding from this grant!

Recently, “Birmingham-Hoover ranked #2 among large metros with the most successful women entrepreneurs,” according to Bham Now. Women entrepreneurs like Ashlee Ammons of Mixtroz recently attended our 2020 Vision Conference to network with other leaders in Birmingham. Did you miss the conference? You can watch presentations from some of our speakers through our Intentional Tuesdays recordings, available on Youtube.

 

Finding Financial Confidence

As COVID continues and stimulus checks remain unpredictable, it is more important than ever to find financial stability and security. DeLynn Zell, CEO of Bridgeworth Financial, gave a detailed presentation last month on how to control personal finances during the COVID crisis. Some of her suggestions include creating a budget, establishing savings, and making a financial plan. 

Unfortunately, women have historically earned less than men. “Women are three times as likely as men to say they can’t afford to save for retirement and have significantly lower rates of financial literacy. Women also make up the majority of caregivers, and are three times more likely than men to quit their jobs to care for a family member.” Despite men spending more time working from home, women are still bearing the brunt of the labor. According to Forbes, mother’s work hours fell four times as much as father’s in April, widening the already existing gender gap. Most men worked the same amount of hours, but women were expected to take on additional caregiving and homeschooling responsibilities. The future remains uncertain, but women across the country are finding unique ways to support each other. 

Here are some ways women are gaining strength:

  1. Being vulnerable. “Talking about and sharing more stories about the success of women who took chances, made missteps and still ended up on top are vital to helping more women go after their dreams and not be so focused on seeking perfection,” said Sarah Kauss, Founder & CEO of S’Well. Mentoring relationships are a great way to swap stories and bring encouragement.
  2. Improving emotional intelligence. According to the US Senate Committee on Small Business & Entrepreneurship, “Investors ask men about opportunity and the potential for gains while women are questioned about the potential for losses.” Reframing challenges and gaining confidence can help narrow the gap. Jean Ann Larson, Chief Leadership Development Officer at UAB, gave an insightful presentation on the role of emotions in the workplace.
  3. Speaking up. “College-educated women make about 90% as much as men at age 25, but only 55% as much at age 45.” Of Momentum’s Alumni, 79% agreed or strongly agreed that Momentum had a positive influence on their attitude to negotiate in the workplace. Delphine Carter, Founder of Boulo Solutions, works every day to help women find new careers. Her advice on achieving professional goals is for women to proudly share their accomplishments in a comfortable way, allow themselves to be whomever they want and, as importantly, learn to support each other on that journey.