Tag: women leaders

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

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.

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.

 

The Benefits of Diversity and Inclusion within the Workplace

 

Employees are prioritizing diversity and inclusion strategies more than ever in order to ensure their teams are prepared for success. Diversity in the workplace leads to a variety of benefits, both internal and external. In order to effectively implement these strategies and receive the benefits, you have to understand what diversity and inclusion mean in a corporate setting. 

What is diversity in the workplace? 

Diversity in the workplace refers to the intentional employment of a workforce comprised of people from diverse backgrounds, religions, genders, races, ages, ethnicity, sexual orientation, education, as well as other qualities. 

The benefits of diversity in the workplace:

1. Wider Talent Pool

Gone are the days where employees are seeking a typical 9-to-5 job with a good salary. Most people nowadays are looking for a job where they can grow, feel accepted, and be challenged. Implementing diversity allows companies to attract a wider range of candidates looking for an innovative place to work. 

2. Fresh Perspectives

Hiring people from various backgrounds, ethnicities, nationalities, and cultures brings a new set of perspectives to the company which can lead to increased critical thinking, problem-solving, better productivity, and increased innovation. 

3. Increased Innovation

Workplace diversity leads to increased innovation. Companies with a lack of diversity suffer from homogenous thinking, meaning that their thought patterns are so similar it is hard for individuals to create something new. A heterogeneous group of employees contributes to unique perspectives which can lead to breakthrough ideas.

4. Better Employee Performance

Diversity and inclusion are harmonious. When the company culture reflects a healthy mixture of cultures, backgrounds, and opinions, employees are more likely to feel comfortable, relaxed, and ultimately themselves. This leads to happier employees which increases productivity. 

It’s critical that companies understand the importance diversity and inclusion play resilience and success. Effective diversity and inclusion help better employee support, build culture, and create a flourishing workplace. Employees will feel more engaged as a result and show up to work feeling safe, connected, and heard

Momentum February Webinar – “Ignite Your Spark”

On February 23, 2021, Momentum hosted a Webinar with Jeannine Bailey, the Talent and Employee Management Manager at Alabama Power. Along with Momentum’s Katherine Thrower, Manager of Logistics and Events, she guided a conversation with Birmingham women about finding purpose and passion outside the office.

 

About Jeannine Bailey, MBA, SHRM-SCP

We are happy to highlight Jeannine who was part of our Executive Class 15 (from 2015). Jeannine is a seasoned Human Resources, Public Relations, and Communications professional. She began her career with a rich 10 year background in Broadcasting, working for stations across cities such as: Salisbury (MD), Colorado Springs, Boston, Hartford (CT), and recently for iHeart Radio in Birmingham. She carried this experience into positions involving PR and Fundraising. Then, joined Alabama Power (Southern Nuclear) in 2013 as Communications Director. She moved up to a Human Resources Director (in 2017) and to her current position in March 2020. In this role, she leads the talent management team to grow internal and external resources,  employee engagement strategies, and employee development opportunities.

 

To view the recording video, please visit this link:

http://https://youtu.be/elcsWIMEIWw

Madam Vice President

Kamala Harris walking alongside a young Ruby Bridges. Photo by artist Bria Goeller.

The glass ceiling was shattered last Saturday as Kamala Harris was announced as the first female vice president-elect in U.S. history. Not only is she the first woman, but also the first Black and South Asian American that will hold the position. All politics aside, it’s important to recognize the history being made right before our eyes. The representation and diversity Harris will bring to the White House alone is reason enough to celebrate this historic win no matter your beliefs, gender, background, or political alignment. She’s broken through the barricade that women have been stuck behind for centuries, along with those women that paved the way before her like Harriet Tubman, Ruby Bridges, Shirley Chisholm, and Ruth Bader Ginsburg to name a few. 

This election year happens to fall on the 100th anniversary of the 19th Amendment, which established American women’s right to vote when it was ratified on August, 18th 1920. While the ratification of the 19th Amendment was a huge step for women, it has proved to be only the beginning of a long-winded fight for equality that we are still fighting for today, 100 years later. During her acceptance speech, Kamala Harris stepped out onto the stage in an all white suit. Her suit was much more than a fashion statement — it was a deliberate choice, standing as a recognition to those women who came before her and those who will come after. White has long been recognized as a color of purity and hope and is associated with the suffrage movement dating back to 1913 when 8,000 women wore white to march in Washington D.C. the day before President Woodrow Wilson’s inauguration. They did this to protest and demand an amendment allowing women the right to vote. Since then, there have been numerous occasions where women holding political positions wore white as a nod to those suffragettes who came before them and essentially paved the way to where they are today. 

While Harris recognized the ones that came before her, she also brings a new hope to the future generations of leaders to come. By having diversity — not only with gender, but race — well-represented in leadership positions within our country, inspiration is created for younger generations to know that their voice can be heard; they are more than capable of achieving their goals, whether that be running for president of their 8th grade class, or running for President of the United States. During her speech she stated, “While I may be the first woman in this office, I will not be the last – because every little girl watching tonight sees that this is a country of possibilities.” Harris did not become the first female vice president-elect without continuing the legacy of the women before her, and now the little girls who dream of being a leader can use Harris as a stepping stone on their own ladder to success. 

Women should not still have to fight for equality in this country, especially 100 years after we were granted the right to vote. However, we will continue the fight until everyone recognizes the capability and power a woman holds.  As the Notorious RBG said herself, “Women belong in all places where decisions are being made,” and that is exactly where we will be from now on.

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!

Making Sense of Meditation

When I think of meditation, I picture myself sitting cross-legged on the floor with the sound of wind-chimes and the smell of essential oils. However, meditation doesn’t always look like this. Regardless of your lifestyle, you can find a form of meditation that fits with your personality and schedule. I’ve just started to learn more about other types of meditation, but it can be challenging to navigate the best form of meditation for you.

Sommerville Johnston, Licensed Professional Counselor, Somatic Experiencing Practitioner, wilderness instructor and founder of Aspen Roots Collective, guided us during a Wellness Wednesdays session last week through a unique form of meditation called mindfulness. According to Headspace, a popular meditation app, “Mindfulness is the quality of being present and fully engaged with whatever we’re doing at the moment — free from distraction or judgment, and aware of our thoughts and feelings without getting caught up in them.” Some mindfulness exercises ask the participant to notice their surroundings and current feelings to engage with the present moment. My mind tends to wander during those exercises, so I was excited to hear that Sommerville had a different approach to mindfulness by using imagery. Visualization meditation asks the participant to imagine a calming image, like a tree or nature scene, and to associate your personal emotions and feelings with that image. The goal is to find peace and stillness as you picture feelings of stress, grief, etc. falling down like leaves from a tree.

If the idea of nature is calming to you, you might also enjoy walking meditation. From the outside, it looks the same as any other jaunt through the woods or neighborhood would. However, there is a specific technique you can use to interact with your emotions and surroundings. Simply shifting your gaze from the ground to the birds in the sky or wildflowers on your trail can also help shift your thoughts. Intentionally breathing, listening carefully to what’s around you, slowing your pace, and adjusting your posture can all create a more positive experience.

Once you find your technique, you can incorporate meditation and mindfulness into any activity, so you don’t have to necessarily schedule it as one more thing to accomplish on your never-ending to-do list. Movement meditation can be done through gardening, taking a quick stroll on your lunch break, doing laundry, or taking up socially-distanced yoga.

Still not convinced? The National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health reviewed several studies and found that, “A 2013 review of three studies suggests that meditation may slow, stall, or even reverse changes that take place in the brain due to normal aging.” It can also be helpful in dealing with chronic pain, stress, high blood pressure, and headaches. This list only begins to describe the benefits and types of meditation, but it’s a good starting point on your journey of self-care.