Tag: women in leadership

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

COVID-19 Sent Women’s Workforce Progress Backwards

How has the COVID-19 Pandemic affected women in the workforce?

The collapse of the childcare industry and reductions in school supervision hours as a result of COVID-19 are driving hundreds of thousands of  mothers out of the workforce.  Four times as many women as men dropped out of the labor force in September 2020… approximately 865,000 women compared with 216,000 men. The lack of childcare infrastructure and family-oriented workplace policies present challenges for women. National inaction in conjunction with  already unstable childcare infrastructure will have a negative impact on women’s employment and labor force participation rates. In turn, this will negatively affect current and future earnings of women.

The losses in availability of childcare as a result of the pandemic is leading to a decline in women’s total wages. It is estimated that there could be approximately $64.5 billion in lost wages per year if the current predicament persists. Without a coordinated national response, these consequences will have ripple effects that will hurt communities and stifle the economic recovery.

Interruptions in childcare affect women more than men. Women have been forced to reduce their work hours, leave work to care for children, and spend more time on education and household tasks. Women with young children have reduced their work hours in rates that are four to five times greater than the reductions of men. These disproportionate reductions have doubled the gap between the number of hours worked by women and by men, thus leading to a significant reduction of women’s income. The impact of loss of child has appeared to be borne entirely on the backs of mothers of school age children.

How has the pandemic affected women of color?

Women/mothers of color face intersecting oppressions exacerbated by the pandemic. Women of color are more likely to have lost their job than their white female counterparts and have higher numbers of being on the front lines as essential workers. This has caused a disproportionate reduction of wages for women of color and an increased health risk.

Black women in particular experience many more job disruptions due to inadequate childcare.

Unfortunately, there are too many factors that make it impossible to predict exactly how families/women will be impacted by the shifting landscape of public health, employment, and caregiving due to COVID-19.  The impact of this level of disruption to women’s ability is proving to be substantial. Maternal labor force participation has been increasing over time. This slight decline would undo the past 25 years of progress.

What is Momentum doing to support?

Momentum Leaders is working actively to help combat the negative implications that the pandemic has on women in the workforce. Since March 2020, Momentum has invested in equipment, staff time and media to provide content to inspire, educate and connect women through this tough time. Webinars, panel discussions, mentor matching podcasts, blog, email newsletters, and all social media have been made free, making it accessible to anyone in the community. Momentum has hosted virtual events that have focused on wellness strategies for the challenges of coping with what 2020 has thrown at us. We continue to support women in the workforce through our Upward Early-Career Program, Men with Momentum, Mentor Matching Program, and Biennial Conference. Momentum is working to expand our reach beyond the Birmingham metro area, to reach an even broader audience!

Defining Intersectionality

The Case for Intersectionality

Intersectionality has been a commonplace phrase in the feminist realm since Kimberlé Crenshaw coined the term in 1989. Essentially, it refers to the notion that the combination of different identities – age, race, gender, class, sexuality, nationality dramatically influence the way people experience the world. The intersection of these identities contributes to the obstacles and/or privileges that those who share some but not all identities may experience.

Too often, human resource stakeholders fall into the trap of the one size fits all approach. Its appeal in simplicity sacrifices efficacy. These one size fits all approaches for women in leadership aim to solve the challenges for white, middle-class, cisgender women. The Western default. Which leaves out doubly or triply marginalized women as a result. As organizational demographics evolve, they leave out more women than they aim to benefit.

According to research conducted by LeanIn.Org and McKinsey & Co. in 2019, women make up 38 percent of frontline leader-level positions in the United States and Canada. White women hold 27 percent of these manager roles and women of color only hold 12 percent. The disparity is even greater at the executive level. White women hold 18 percent of roles while women of color hold 4 percent.

These discrepancies are due to a large disfunction of systemic and cultural barriers, not just failed women advocacy programs. Infusing intersectionality into policies and practices aimed at advancing women in leadership can help.

How can we do better?

Embracing intersectionality means embracing variety which adds an element of complexity. To ensure an environment where everyone can thrive because of their differences, follow these three steps:

1. Ask the Experts

The ideal approach is to have a diversity and inclusion expert with a focus on human-centered design to solve persistent and painful challenges with an empathetic perspective. Applying these principles to intersectionality and women’s advocacy efforts ensures the correct focus. The women leaders that are the goal are experts in their own experiences and challenges. Opening a dialogue creates space for these women to tell you exactly what they need without any guesswork.  

2. Diverse Populations Deserve Diverse Solutions

It is necessary to tailor approaches to fit different populations to achieve satisfaction. Equality is about giving everyone the same level of support, but equity requires different supports for different situations.

3. Use Multi-Dimensional Metrics to Track Multi-Level Impact

Lean on metrics, track engagement, retention, promotion, salary, and representation to measure the success of empowering women leaders. It is important to look at the data from a demographic perspective to see if the efforts positively impact all women. If efforts to advance women leaders are working for certain groups disproportionately, it is important to investigate and reevaluate accordingly.

The Kids are Alright

 

In July 2020, Harvard Business Researchers surveyed a group of 2,500 working parents to assess the importance of the (declining) childcare industry in supporting the reopening economy, following the Covid-19 outbreak. The study held by fellow professionals and mothers – Alicia Sasser Modestino, Jamie J. Ladge, Addie Swartz, and Alisa Lincoln – aimed to examine the impact felt by the 50 million parent U.S. workforce with children under the age of 14. The results presented that 20% of working parents across low and high-income brackets had to leave work or reduce their hours because of the lack of childcare. Of them, nearly a third claimed it was down to the “more capable parent,” while less than a quarter decided based on income bracket.

Why is this an issue?

The survey displayed a heavy lenience towards traditional gender roles, and found that 26% of women surveyed were expected to step-down from their work roles. In addition, the expectations of the role of an active mother and breadwinner have only surmounted for single mothers and women of color. The survey showed that women were more likely to reduce hours at work if they were Black, or if they were single, divorced, separated, or widowed. The report subsequently argued for businesses to assume the responsibility for arranging childcare, as opposed to individual employees. Seeing the weighted and incredibly meaningful contribution of women in the workforce – plus, the possible addition of 5% to the U.S. GDP – it is crucial for companies to address these inequities for working women parents.

Temporary Solutions

In September 2020, the Birmingham Business Alliance compiled a list of resources to support parents managing their work and homeschooling pressures, including YWCA’s School Support Program, The Levite Jewish Community Center Day Camps, and YMCA and similar community center services. Wyndy offers an app to connect local nannies and sitters to parents in need of childcare services. Additionally, Childcare Resources’ is a Central Alabama agency connecting families to over 700 childcare programs that fit their needs.

Gender Wage Gap: Fact or Fiction?

“Women earn less because they take time off for motherhood.”

The census data collected by the National Women’s Law Center in 2019 calculated that women lose an average of $16,000 a year due to the “motherhood penalty.” Mothers in the U.S. earn 24.8 percent less than their paternal counterparts. Mothers also have to deal with employers that harbor certain biases. Employers have stereotypes about the value of mothers as employees. They are perceived to be less committed to the job, less dependable, and more emotional. This discriminatory thought process plays a significant role in the limitations for working mothers.

This bias includes these mother’s coworkers as well. A 2018 study conducted by Bright Horizons, which operates over 1,000 early education childcare centers in the United States, found that 41 percent of employed Americans perceived working mothers to be less devoted to their work than single women. Over one-third judge working mothers on their inflexibility. The number of women worried about announcing their pregnancies bosses and coworkers has nearly doubled from 12 percent to 21 percent since 2015.

“Women choose lower-paying careers so it makes sense why men make more money.”

Women do choose lower-paying careers in comparison to their male counterparts. Those careers being paid lower is part of the problem. Young girls are steered away from certain subjects from childhood by their parents, teachers, and peers. From a young age, boys are expected to be better in math and science. These fields typically result in higher pay. Girls are encouraged to enter into “traditional” careers as a result of this bias.

Women don’t choose low-paying jobs. Society values women’s work less. Job industries dominated by women pay less than those dominated by men. For example, teaching, especially early childhood, is a field dominated by women. The work is insanely hard and demanding, it requires certain skills and educations, and the success of future generations depends on their shoulders. Yet, because these teachers are mostly women, the pay is not proportional to the demand of the job.

“Saying a woman makes 77 cents for every dollar a man makes is an exaggeration!”

Comparing the difference in annual earnings between men and women finds that women make about 23 cents less per dollar than men on average. These statistics are even less favorable for women of color who on average earn significantly less than their white coworkers. Looking at weekly earnings between men and women, the figure is a little smaller, around an 18 cent difference.

When the Equal Pay Act was passed in 1959, women were only making 59 cents on the dollar. That figure rose to 77 cents by 2004 and has increased by less than half a penny annually.

At some point or another, every woman has heard these three statements in her career. The issue with these statements is that they make women intentionally feel like second-class citizens in a patriarchal society that perpetuates fictional beliefs that harm women in the corporate sector. 

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!

A New Way to Network

The term, “Zoom etiquette,” would make no sense just a few months ago, but now, connecting appropriately in virtual meetings is a must. Momentum fortunately got to host its biennial conference just before COVID-19 hit Alabama, but many organizations have had to forgo their usual in-person gatherings. However, Birminghamians are still finding ways to network despite an international pandemic. Here are some upcoming (and fun) events geared toward professionals in our community:

Rebound Bham: created by a host of nonprofit and government organizations, this series shows small business owners how to persevere and grow during this time next event Roadmap Goal Setting Workshop, August 27  at 9 am

Virtual Cocktails & Conversations: Join after work and connect with “social go-getters” in Birmingham, September 1 from 6-8 pm

CTRL + SHIFT: A Virtual Conference for Dreamers and Doers: “take control and shift the paradigm on the outcomes in our community,” August 28 from 12-6 pm 

Connect with Birmingham leaders in marketing, graphic design, and anything artsy through Creative Mornings, an international program with speakers and networking opportunities

Birmingham at the Wine Loft: connect in a casual space and get started on your next great idea! November 10, 6-8 pm

The Women’s Network of Birmingham: get to know a diverse group of women professionals in the city through their networking event on September 10 at 11:45 am through Zoom

Mixtroz: this Birmingham startup expertly features a myriad of opportunities to connect and grow your network. Ashlee Ammons, co-founder, attended our conference in March!