Tag: stronger together

Co-mentoring Through the Decades

Each Executive and Upward class is split into co-mentoring groups, which consist of a diverse selection of women leaders in Birmingham. If you are interested in finding a mentor, Momentum has a free matching program.

Some of our groups have been connected for over a decade.  Tricia Kirk, Katherine Bland, Connie Pruett, Rusha Smith, all from class 6, and Katherine’s wife Peggy Vandergrift. According to Katherine, “We are family. We celebrate life’s blessings and we lift each other up through difficult times. My Momentum family has supported me and inspired me, especially when I was diagnosed with Ovarian cancer.”

Alumnae with similar profiles will not be put together. For example, there will never be a group with 5 lawyers or accountants. What’s surprising about the group?

“You would never put this group together. We come from different walks of life, career paths, rural and urban upbringing, ideologies, and so much more. But, we respect and embrace our differences,” Katherine Bland.

Others are newer but just as engaged. Mo Shorts, Alaina Ploski, Carly Miller, Danielle Hines, Efstathia Andrikopoulou, and Felicia Pike are in a group from the Upward class. Their advice?

“Be intentional. It is worth it.”

“All members need to be equally invested for this to work.”

“These women are unbiased third parties and they can give you great perspective on the challenges you face. Even if you are nervous, you will feel better putting it out there for consideration.”

Both of these groups remained consistent throughout the pandemic. How was this possible? The Upward group stayed connected through a daily group text. They also had virtual meet ups until it was safe to meet in person. One participant shared, “I am geographically far from my family and friends, so having this group has been a true gift – knowing I have friends close by and people to reach out to if I need. Simply by existing, the women who make up my group have supported me through what has been a very strange time.”

Having a strong group of supportive women means you can call someone up for a drink or a walk at any time. “What seemed so big, with them, is now so small. They have a way of putting things in perspective.” Momentum’s mentoring program pairs mentees and mentors who share a specific goal or skill they want to work on together. Although you are only required to have a six month relationship, many pairs stayed connected beyond that time period.

The Executive group had even more ideas for connecting through COVID. “We continued our gatherings through Zoom. We even bought the same appetizer tray from the grocery store so we were still ‘sharing’ our appetizers. When it was safe, we had a gathering outdoors and recently moved to outdoor dining in restaurants,” Katherine Bland.

Despite a bizarre year, we are thrilled to hear of moments of support and encouragement. Women need true connection now more than ever. Reach out to Mindy Santo, Mentor Coordinator, for more information. Here’s to a better 2021!

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

Breaking Down Focus 2021 – What Comes Next?

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.

 

Takeaways from Risha Grant (Learn about her here)

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.

 

Helpful Journaling Guides:

A Journal Prompt for Every Emotion You Feel

Start a Work Diary And Leverage it for Career Growth

 

#2: Fuel respectful discussions with others

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.

 

Persistence Through the Decades

Chelsea Brewton, Upward Class Two

Finding a good time to interview 98 year old Harriet Cloud, grandmother of Upward 2020 alumna Chelsea Brewton , was challenging because her schedule was completely packed. Once we talked, you could tell that despite a busy week, she was calm and collected. She has been dedicated to healthcare since she graduated in 1944, and she is a “lifetime learner,” according to her granddaughter. Just the other day, Harriet was looking to take classes on web design to develop a site for her business, Nutrition Matters. Harriet’s tenacity and curiosity are unique attributes that have allowed her to stay up to date as the field of dietetics has changed over the past seven decades.

Harriet Cloud, Founder, Nutrition Matters

Harriet had her eyes on the goal from the start. She majored in dietetics at Kansas State, interned at John Hopkins, taught at a nursing school, got married, and then moved to Birmingham, where she had eight children. She took time off to be at home with her babies but started working again as they got older.

Harriet was employed by the Jefferson County Health Department as their only nutritionist in 1958. She developed a heart for underserved populations as she assisted clients with food stamps and frequently traveled to housing projects in the city. She also began her foray into extracurricular leadership as chairman of the nutrition council at United Way.

“If you want to be a leader, you can be a leader.”

However, it helps to have support. Even though many women were facing discrimination in the workplace at the time, she only received support from her male colleagues. Harriet partially attributes this anomaly to the fact that the field of dietetics is made up of many women.

When asked if it was challenging to manage eight children and a position at the health department and UAB, she responded, “not really.”

Her grit and determination carried her through twenty-seven years in dietetics at the Sparks Center at UAB where she developed leadership grants and taught graduate students. According to Harriet, she would tell her classes, “I got up at 5 am, and I hope you did too,” when explaining the importance of hard work. Shortly before she accepted the position at the Sparks Center, she completed a master’s in nutrition at the University of Alabama. This degree gave her more access to opportunities there and eventually led to her becoming interim director. She encourages students to continue to learn and gain degrees as they lead to more career opportunities.

Looking back on her career, Harriet attributes her strength to self-esteem, a spiritual base, optimism, and persistence. She has been successful in her pursuit of leadership, but she acknowledges that many women face a variety of challenges in that pursuit. For example, the field of dietetics has a low percentage of Black women, and workplaces have to acknowledge why this gap exists and how to promote diversity in the short-term.

Working mothers still face the dilemma of balancing childcare and their careers. Harriet is a proponent of daycare coordinated by employers, but she recognizes that this mission has a long way to go.

Harriet’s main takeaway from 76 years of working is that you need to like what you do. When you take a job, always look for other opportunities or projects you can pursue. We’re excited to see what Harriet will accomplish in year 77 of her career!

Looking Back on 2020

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.

You can also watch “encore performances” of many of our session speakers on our new YouTube channel.

Q2 – Validating Virtual

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.

Media partners Social U and Bham Now did a great job keeping Momentum visible through the summer. If you haven’t already, please follow us on Facebook, Instagram, LinkedIn and Twitter. In case you missed the articles in Bham Now, you can find them here.

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.

Upward 2020 “Drive Through” Graduation

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.

 

 

 

April Benetollo
CEO

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.

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.