Tag: Momentum

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.

Meet Mentor/Mentee Pair Joy Carter and Coleysia Chestnut

A mentor is a valuable resource to have in your professional and personal life. I got to sit down and chat with Joy Carter and Coleysia Chestnut on their mentor/mentee relationship that they have developed over the past two years. 

Joy Carter, APR, is Communications Manager for AMERICAN Cast Iron Pipe Company, a Birmingham-based manufacturer of iron and steel pipe, fire hydrants and valves. She is a PR/communications graduate of Auburn University and is Accredited in Public Relations (APR). She serves on the executive boards of Momentum and the Literacy Council of Central Alabama and is active in the Public Relations Society of America and the Public Relations Council of Alabama.

Coleysia Chestnut is on the Engineering Workforce Management team at BBVA. She has a Master’s degree in Strategic Communication from Troy University and BS in Urban Planning from Alabama A&M University. She is a published author of The Exhale Journal and advocates for equity and inclusion of minority groups within corporations. Above all else, her most proud accolade is being the mother of her sweetest 2 year son, Randall.

How did you meet and decide to become a pair?

Coleysia:

I had completed my masters degree in Strategic Communication in 2017 and had just started my communications role shortly after. I decided to attend Birmingham Business Journal’s Mentoring Monday event, which is essentially “speed mentoring.” Individuals have the opportunity to speak with as many mentors as they want within an hour span but only have about 7 minutes with each mentor. I saw that Joy was going to be one of the mentors and I came prepared with a list of questions. I was 8 months pregnant at the time. After meeting, we went to lunch. Joy was actually one of the few who made it to the hospital when my child was born; I thought it was amazing that she came. 

Joy:

I was so impressed with Coleysia at the event. They said, “go,” and I looked up and she was making a beeline for me. She sat down with her notebook and began asking her questions. I was just immediately so impressed with her. I really enjoyed the very short conversation we had. Afterward, she called to follow up to ask“Will you be my mentor?” She was very specific in asking for the relationship. She was the catalyst. Her tenacity and drive impress me. I often tell her it is a co-mentoring relationship; I learn from her, too, in her role as a communications professional. It’s been a wonderful co-mentoring relationship. 

What have you learned from each other throughout your relationship? 

Joy:

She always comes prepared to our meetings with a question or something she wants to talk about, but it often leads to questions that I have for her. As a young professional, she is so very smart and she is so good with technology. Each time we get together it is an opportunity for me to learn from her. At our most recent get together I was most interested to talk with her about a diversity and inclusion project she is a part of at BBVA, and she shared with me some really good resources for that. Every get together is an opportunity to learn from each other. 

Coleysia:

Joy teaches me a lot about navigating the corporate arena. I remember being frustrated because I wasn’t moving up in my role and felt like I should be in a different place in my career–she reminded me that it was okay, because I was still fairly new and if I used this time to soak up as much information as I could and focus on mastering my current role, opportunities for advancement would soon follow.  There are always things that I will run by her, like “something about this does not seem fair to me, what is your opinion on it or how would you handle it?” Given her HR experience, she offers a different professional perspective outside of my network which I really do appreciate. Overall, I rely heavily on Joy for giving me advice about navigating corporate America and how to accomplish professional goals. 

How have you appreciated being a pair that isn’t exactly alike?

Joy:

Thinking back to our last meeting, and talking about diversity and inclusion, it was knowing I could have that conversation with her, and we were both coming from a place of respect and wanting and needing to talk and share. I wanted to listen and ask for her perspective and insight. It’s extremely beneficial to have the relationship we do, where we can have an open conversation. 

Coleysia:

I think Joy is amazing for me because a lot of times when black people–and black women in particular–when we speak up, it can sometimes come across as whining. With Joy I felt safe to talk about some of my concerns with the racism we’ve been encountering. It may come off as a “vent,” but sometimes it’s important to have someone you can talk to about racism in the workplace. Who better to talk to about that than with someone who has agreed to be your mentor? It creates a safe environment for me to talk. Across the board, Joy is my safe space where I can talk about things that matter to me as it relates to work and even things outside of work. 

Why do you think it’s important to promote diversity within professional environments and relationships?

Coleysia:

It’s important to have different perspectives. When I approached Joy, I didn’t approach her as a white woman. She was the communications manager of a pretty big company and that was something I was interested in. At the beginning of our relationship there had been some discriminatory issues with my previous company. As she helped me navigate that experience, I’m sure she got a lot of insight on roadblocks and challenges experienced by a minority female. Exposure to these injustices are critical, so when someone has the opportunity to have a voice of an organization, they can consider the impact and tone of communications to ALL employees. As we share experiences together, we learn a little bit about some of both of our cultures that may impact the work environment. Just as she may learn from some of my stories, I learn from hers by being a woman navigating through her previous roles. Granted there are injustices for black people as a race, but women are also marginalized in my opinion in the work environment. Getting her insight and guidance through that was very valuable. I can’t thank Joy enough. 

Joy:

We all bring different strengths and talents to our jobs, communities, and families. For that reason, we need to do a much better job in corporate America and in our communities of working towards more inclusion. In what we have seen in the last few months, we have a long way to go, but these conversations, which are perhaps awkward or difficult to have, are so important in moving us forward. Having relationships, like the one Coleysia and I have, provide safe places to share and learn together. We need that in our workplaces and in our communities.

One of the efforts that Coleysia is working with at BBVA, Team Talks, allows people to have these conversations. It’s really sad that decades after the Civil Rights movement we are still struggling to make more progress, as Coleysia said, for our black communities, for women in the workplace, and other groups as well. Relationships, like ours, are the basis for the conversations that we have to have to accelerate progress. It’s not enough to say, “We’re making progress.” We’ve got to move faster towards diversity in our companies and diversity at upper levels of management. There needs to be change, and it needs to happen faster. 

Do you have any advice for someone looking to get into a mentor/mentee relationship?

Coleysia:

If I could, offer advice as a mentee, because I do feel as though it is primarily the role of the mentee to promote this relationship. You need to assess yourself so you know what skills you lack and will know what to look for in a mentor. If there is an opportunity, I would first acknowledge that you realize who they are and have done your research on that person. When you do approach them, you need to be direct and communicate what you want to get out of your relationship. Be open to the answer being no. When you have someone that is in the position that you would like to be in one day, you need to understand that they are probably very busy. When I approached Joy I wasn’t arrogant in asking her to drag me along on her career journey it was more, “If you have time, I would like for you to share some of your knowledge with me.” Be prepared and be very intentional. Set expectations for yourself and know what you want from that person before you approach them. 

Joy:

The word intentional is great. And, yes, it is the responsibility of the mentee to reach out. As I said, when Coleysia and I met she was very direct in asking me to be her mentor. She is always prepared with something specific she wants to talk about. Again, that always leads to me asking questions and learning from her as well. Identify what you need from the relationship and the professional, and then identify who could best help you achieve that. I was very flattered to be asked to be her mentor. Don’t be afraid to reach out to a professional and to make that ask, because they should be extremely flattered they are being asked to serve in that role. With that comes the responsibility of making and sharing time, and appreciating the co-mentoring relationship that is a win-win for both of you. 

Momentum offers mentor matching as a free service to our community. If you are interested in learning more about the program and being paired with a mentor, click here for more information.

Petite Can Mean Powerful

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!

Affecting Change to Eradicate Sexual Harassment in the Workplace

Holly Moore, Marketing Intern

In light of the multitude of recent reports regarding sexual harassment, we need more than conversations on the topic. We need actions that can eradicate comments and activities of this nature from the workplace. With so many of these scandals in the news, we know the problem is pervasive and transcends industry, age, race, religion, geography, and economic class . Recently there has been a reaction on Twitter regarding these events with the #metoo movement. Many individuals had the courage to share their personal experiences of sexual abuse, harassment, and impropriety, which has encouraged others to follow suit in coming forward. Now we need to turn talk into action to make the workplace a safe environment where everyone can bring their “best selves” to work.

According to the American Association of University Women (AAUW) sexual harrassment generally “describes unwelcome sexual advances, requests for sexual favors, or other verbal or physical conduct of a sexual nature,” but it is not limited to that. It is also a pattern of improper belittling tones, sexist comments, subtle actions, or a hostile, sexualized work environment. Part of this definition comes from a recent article, which also includes the following tips for victims.

Credit Image: © Frank May

For the individual dealing with sexual harassment in a work environment:

In the wake of much criticism of the women coming forward– “why now?” and ” how can she prove it?”– we need more conversation about why it’s so hard for victims to come forward. Many victims fear career suicide; they cannot afford losing their jobs or the retaliation that they may receive while fighting for their rights. According to Kathy Caprino, CEO of Fairygoddess, on top of retaliation, there is also the bystander effect (meaning others were watching and did not take action therefore the victim does not feel that their experience will be heard) as well as the influence and pressure of a male-dominated culture.
Here are a few tips for the individual who is the target of sexual harassment:

1. Record every incident (even if the actions on their own seem small and seemingly unimportant) and all the details of who was involved, when and what occurred. Make sure to write them down in a non-work device, so that you will have them in case you are let go without warning.
2. Follow your company’s formal complaint channel, but act quickly. Many lawyers say that victims wait too long to come forward and their cases become time-barred.
3. The complaint channel activates “the company’s legal obligation to do a prompt, thorough investigation, make findings, protect the victim and punish the perpetrator. If that does not solve the problem and there’s more sexual harassment and if there is retaliation, which is illegal, then she [or he] needs to reach out to a lawyer,” says Caprino. Most lawyers provide a free initial (confidential) consultation that will inform the victim of their rights.
For the bystander
 
“Everyone knew. But no one said anything,” is how John Baldoni, an executive coach and educator, began his article on the subject, which seems to be a theme in most workplaces. According to Baldoni “silence equals complicity” because in most cases the harasser is not the only one aware of what is occurring. This is not simply a corporate level issue; individuals also have responsibility in these situations. Baldoni explains how currently there are few prevention answers. Either the victim can complain to HR (where the complaint will most likely never be addressed) or they can talk and engage in conversations about it, but neither of these actions are a sufficient response. Neither of them affect any kind of change. So Baldoni shares helpful tips for the individual seeking change.
1. Hold each other accountable as individuals to stand up and protect one another.
2. Believe the victim and take the complaints seriously, whether you have the power to do anything about it or not according to this article about how to navigate sexual harassment in the work place.
3. Don’t engage in sexist jokes. Draw the line; show your coworkers you don’t put up with those ideals and attitudes.
 
For companies that want to be better about sexual harassment policies:
 
Victor Lipman, executive coach and author, wrote in an article  saying that “companies should be preventers, not enablers” of these kinds of behaviors. While there are many discussions regarding whether or not non-disclosure agreements regarding this topic should be legal, there are actions that companies need to take to mitigate the problem.
1. Make a policy regarding the issue and publish it for all employees to see. Baldoni says to make it as clear as possible during new hire training so that they know without a doubt what the policy is.
2. Make it a zero-tolerance policy. One-strike, you’re out.
3. For the HR department and management, do more than simply create a new policy in a rule book. Discuss these policies so employees know that they carry weight.
4. While anti-retaliation policies are illegal, ensure that everyone at your company explicitly knows this.
5. Remove mandatory employee arbitration clauses (they are illegal and forbid lawsuits) but they also silence victims and they protect sexual offenders.
In order for the culture to change, adjustments have to be made on every level of a company from every policy that is made to every employee’s actions to the CEO’s actions and opinions to a company’s newest hire. While there are many different ways to accomplish this, Dana Walden, chairman and CEO of Fox Television Group, said that “There must be women in the highest ranks on every corporate board. Our recruiting and our training has to be oriented to ensure that we’re identifying and nurturing future generations of female leaders.”

Taking Time to Lead

Working women are so incredibly busy with demanding careers, sometimes working harder than their male colleagues to prove their merit. At the same time they are often caring for children, parents, siblings, or neighbors…sometimes all of the above, and all at the same time. It can be incredibly difficult to set aside the necessary time for self-reflection and to build relationships with an objective network of equally smart, driven, successful women.

img_5013That’s why each MOMENTUM year-long leadership class begins with an off-site retreat to set the tone. Last week we loaded up a big bus and headed to the Marriott Shoals in beautiful Florence, Alabama to start the work on us.

Phones off. Completely disconnected. Time to focus, breathe, and get to know the women that will become part of a powerful network.

 

img_5067We asked Gerriann Fagan, one of three facilitators during the retreat, to share her take on our time together. Gerriann is President of Warren Averett Workplace with 20 years experience in career development and coaching. She is also an alumnae of MOMENTUM. Having been on both sides of the participant/facilitator in the program, Gerriann has a unique perspective to share.

“When I participated in MOMENTUM’s Class 10, I began a journey with new friends and colleagues. In the few years since we graduated, my classmates and I have been through many challenging as well as joyful times: advances in careers, new career choices, life changes and big moves. We’ve been there for each other. MOMENTUM widened my perspective and gave me invaluable insight into the importance of having space in your life.

img_5033This year (2016) was the 2nd year I co-facilitated the MOMENTUM Retreat. It is fascinating how unique and different the groups are and how quickly they gel. This class was completely at ease listening, sharing and advising one another.

If someone came into the program with a goal of advancement, she found someone who had blazed a similar trail. If she was ready to make a life change, there was someone who had done that too. Challenges, hopes and dreams were swirled around easily and quickly in opening exercises.

Thinking about my experience with MOMENTUimg_5009M through the eyes of a participant – I didn’t know what I was getting into or what I’d get out of it. I was really surprised at how the experience enriched my life and career, and how much continue to get out of it to this day. Through the eyes of a facilitator, I am amazed at how Birmingham continues to nominate such impressive women to MOMENTUM, class after class.

I found Class 14 to be especially open, collaborative, and driven. Beautiful things happen when we take the time to lead. It’s going to be fantastic to see where these women will take us.”

Gerriann Fagan
President
Warren Averett Workplace