Tag: Women

ALUMNA SPOTLIGHT: BRITTNEY SMITH

 

What did you gain from your Momentum experience?

Relationships. I had the opportunity to meet so many incredible women who are making an impact in Birmingham. Some of them even went on to become friends, which is something I count as my greatest gain. Another thing that contributed to my Momentum experience was the specific professional season I was in. There’s a point in every career where you have achieved quite a bit, but there’s still much more to go in terms of navigating the journey and taking ownership of your career, and Momentum helped me take more control over my career journey.

What is one piece of leadership advice you have been given that has helped you in your career?

Early on in my career, someone shared with me a piece of advice that still applies no matter what stage of your career you’re in, and that’s the need to trust that your God-given ability will always make room for you. If you give your best in whatever position you’re in, do right by people, and be authentic, the right opportunity will always come to you. When I think about people that have given me advice I think it’s especially important, that when the door of opportunity is opened you’re ready to walk through it, and also leave the door open for other people to follow. 

If you knew then what you know now, what would you tell your 18-year-old self?

The first thing I would say to my younger self is that success is a journey, and never compare that journey to others. The other thing I would add would be to learn at every stage and step of your career. No matter how difficult the job or the season may be, there is always something to learn.

What challenges do you think the next generation of women leaders faces?

The first thing that came to mind would be balance. In the new normal of work, more and more companies are allowing people to work remotely, though that’s a huge plus, it increases the difficulty of drawing an important line between work and home. Both men and women have different home priorities, but it is especially true for women. 

The second thing that came to mind is connectivity. Relationships are incredibly important and it’s much harder to fully connect in a gratifying way in a virtual world. Women need to find ways to be intentional and overcome that obstacle to build and maintain relationships as we move away from traditional work experiences. 

What do you think organizations need to do differently for more women to rise into executive roles?

Mckinsey & Co. produced a report in partnership with the Lean In organization back in 2019. According to the report, for every 100 men hired or promoted into a first-time manager role, only 72 women are hired into that same position. These numbers are even lower for women of color. That’s a gap. When I think about potential solutions, I immediately think of sponsorship. Companies have the opportunity to consider putting more thought into building out a framework for sponsorship specifically for women and underrepresented minorities. Most people are willing to mentor, and I think that mentoring is an incredible opportunity, but women need sponsors, advocates, people willing to invite us to the table and have our voices heard to truly experience growth. 

What three words do you think should characterize every leader?

The first one is integrity. Good leaders should do what they say they’re going to do. People should be able to trust their words. A good leader will do the right thing, even when no one is looking. The second word that comes to mind is vision. I think the ability to cast a vision as well as bring others into that vision and help them see how they fit into the vision is a sign of a good leader. The last thing I associate with a good leader is empathy. Good leaders can connect with people and share the feelings of others.

How do you manage your career, home, and community life?

This is something I am in the process of restructuring how I balance all of those. One of the things I have been doing is making sure I know my priorities. For me, my priority is my family. I always want to be the person that thinks of my family and uses them as the drive for my success, not the other way around. One of the things that helps me balance my priorities, which I learned through one of the Momentum courses is taking a survey of all of my activities and responsibilities and ranking them based on what I can control. It’s also important to take the time during the day to accomplish the things that I need to accomplish so that it doesn’t carry over into my personal life. 

What advice do you have for aspiring leaders?

My advice would be, talent is a start but it’s not enough. Sometimes we focus so much on the base talent of intellect or creativity and that’s great. What’s equally as important is development. Invest in your development. Develop your environment, and that includes your network, your skillset, and your character. 

3 Ways to Celebrate Women’s History Month

March is Women’s History Month. What began as a local celebration in Santa Rosa, California has grown into a nationwide acknowledgment of women’s accomplishments throughout history. This month-long celebration seeks to highlight women’s groundbreaking contributions as well as uplift women to help get them through issues still lingering today.

We’re already planning how we’re going to celebrate here at Momentum. Looking to find ways to celebrate Women’s History Month too? Don’t worry, we’ve got you covered.

  1. Read up on the history of women’s rights – What is Women’s History Month? Why is March Women’s History Month? This resource gives you all the answers you need
  2. Write a letter to a woman that inspires and motivates you to be the best woman you can be. A simple thank you to a family member, coworker, or friend to remind them of how awesome they are this month and every other month. Don’t forget to write one to yourself! Because you’re pretty awesome too!
  3. Whether you’re looking to educate yourself more on the women’s movement, or simply take stock in the amazing accomplishments made by women, be sure to read and share works by female authors this month. Momentum’s current pick is the historical fiction novel, The Vanishing Half, by American author Brit Bennett. You can pick up a copy of this book at a female-owned bookstore, Thank You Books, in Crestwood!

 

What Women Business Leaders Should Know About Taxes, Loans, & Grants

Katie Roth is a writer, artist, and entrepreneur. Originally from Alabama, she now resides in the UK with her husband and two dogs, and works with clients and other business owners in Europe and the USA.

Women in business still face too many hurdles, and unfortunately 2020 has only exacerbated them. Common issues like securing adequate funding or accessing much-needed resources have been complicated by the coronavirus. COVID-19 has brought about unprecedented challenges not just for women, but for the global business community. As we all learn how to manage our new reality in 2021 and look forward to a slow emergence from the grips of the virus, it is time for people to give real thought to how they might bring about new success in business once more.

It’s with that in mind that we’re looking at some important things Alabama’s women business leaders should know regarding taxes, loans, and grants.

Taxes

Regarding taxes for business leaders, there aren’t necessarily points to make that are specifically relevant to women. However, there are some simple reminders worth keeping in mind for anyone who is starting or attempting to grow a company.

The first reminder is that Alabama is considered to be a particularly favorable state when it comes to personal tax — which can free up some funds to manage business expenses. Just this year, an article ranking state income tax rates listed Alabama in a tie for 10th place (meaning 10th lowest), with a rate of 2-5%. Given that some states have personal income tax rates of 10% or more, it’s a good idea for women to consider launching businesses in Alabama. The slight but meaningful financial cushion allows for more business investment opportunities.

Additionally, registering as an LLC can compound the benefits you get from the favorable tax situation. LLC structure in Alabama is such that a business with this sort of official standing is actually not taxed as its own entity. Instead, owners simply pay income tax on what they make from the business. This means that rather than having a hefty, separate tax on business earnings, you can simply enjoy that same 2-5% rate on business-related income. That said, LLCs are subject to something known as a “business privilege tax,” which relates to the company’s net worth. Still, it’s worth running the numbers on the idea, because particularly for a newer or smaller businesses, the net benefit of the LLC structure can be significant.

Loans

Where loans are concerned, Alabama is again an appealing state for new, small businesses. Recent years have seen lenders give out nearly $1 billion in loans to small businesses— spread out over more than 50,000 individual arrangements. These numbers, given the size of the state and the number of people working in small businesses, justify the notion that Alabama has actually been one of the better states to secure a business loan.

As for specific loan funding for women-led businesses, we’d recommend keeping an eye on a Birmingham support program known as “Upward,” which was designed specifically to help women leaders in business — particularly now as we all look to move forward from COVID. It’s just the sort of resource that has become invaluable to such leaders in communities where women in business are seizing more opportunity — offering leadership coaching, help with goal setting, network support, and more.

Grants

In the grant department, there is more business aid to be found with specific regard to the coronavirus crisis. In July, we saw the announcement of the $100 million “Revive Alabama” grant, which was designed to help fund struggling small businesses. The $100 million was pulled out of $1.9 billion that Alabama received in total from the federal CARES Act, and it was made available to businesses earning less than $5 million annually and employing no more than 19 people. The hope is that additional grant packages of this sort will be made available to small business leaders once again if and when the federal government signs off on another relief package.

There are also some more accessible grants available. Most notable among these is the Amber Grant. Launched by WomensNet, this is a $10,000 grant given out to at least one woman in business each and every month. It also involves an additional $25,000 bonus given to a single “winner” at the end of each year. It’s an excellent example of what a program meant to stimulate innovation among women entrepreneurs can look like.

Funding a business and managing its finances is difficult, but for women in Alabama looking to endure the coronavirus and thrive in business thereafter, being aware of everything discussed above can amount to a helpful head start on the financial front.

Meet Alumna LaKisha Mack

Momentum would like to congratulate LaKisha on her recent promotion to Senior Associate Dean for Finance and Administration in the School of Medicine.

LaKisha joined the School of Medicine (SOM) Dean’s office in 2014 as the Associate Dean for Finance and Administration to ensure organizational alignment in the areas of Finance, Human Resources and Facilities. Since then, she has worked with countless faculty and staff across the SOM, allocating and approving budgets, conducting financial forecasting, interpreting policies, and managing federal regulations regarding funded research. She collaborates with our health system colleagues and SOM department administrators and plays an integral role in SOM leadership recruitments and retentions.

In her new role as Senior Associate Dean for Finance and Administration she will ensure policy compliance for the SOM and the university, participate in strategic planning and collaborate with the university and health system on all administrative and financial activities. She will continue to oversee the development of the SOM Dean’s Office budget, and will also lead implementation of the University’s Resource Centered Management (RCM) budget allocation model within the SOM and coordinate the Academic Enrichment Fund (AEF) funding and approval process

LaKisha’s UAB career began more than 20 years ago, in the O’Neal Comprehensive Cancer Center, where she was a financial assistant in the Center’s clinical studies unit.  Following that, she spent more than 10 years working in various roles across Central Administration, the School of Health Professions, and the Department of Medicine, both in the Division of Gastroenterology & Hepatology and the Chair’s office.

In the Department of Medicine, LaKisha was the Division Administrator and Director of Operations, building an infrastructure to support faculty growth and operational leadership across all three-mission areas – clinical, research and education.

A native of Long Beach, California, LaKisha attended Samford University where she earned a Bachelor of Science degree in Business. She and her husband Donald have one daughter, Morgan.

What made you move to Birmingham?

I grew up and spent all of my time in California. I never really had the opportunity to travel much so when it was time for me to select a college I wanted to go out of state. At the time my grandparents lived in Birmingham, so I decided to migrate there for college. I always had the intent of going back home to California after I finished my degree, but then I met my husband and have been in Birmingham since. 

Why did you want to go through Momentum?

I actually did not know that I wanted to go through Momentum — it was recommended to me by my immediate supervisor and I really didn’t know what to expect. Therefore, while I did not originally seek out Momentum, I am glad I agreed to the recommendation because it certainly has offered me the opportunity to become much more self-aware of my areas of strengths and development both professionally and personally. 

What stood out to you the most about your Momentum experience?

The camaraderie amongst all of the women really stood out to me. We were a group of 30 women who started the program without knowing each other at all. Throughout the process, we really got close as a cohort. It was very profound for me to be in a room with women who were all going through similar situations as me both personally and professionally. 

How do you think your experience with Momentum prepared you for your new role?

First and foremost, it helped me build the self-confidence needed to know my self-worth. I now I know that I am just as capable, qualified, experienced and knowledgeable  to seek opportunities for which I would not have gone after before. I am just as competitive as anyone else with the same level of experience. Going through the Momentum experience has put me in the position to know my self-worth and that I have the ability to be able to speak and toot my own horn which I would not have done before. 

What advice would you like to give to women aspiring for leadership roles?

Go after what you want and do not let anything hold you back. If you feel like you have the tools for leadership positions, don’t let anything get in the way of accomplishing your goals. If there are areas of development within yourself then work on those and be self-aware, but know that you as a woman are just as capable to go after leadership positions as anyone.

Until There Are Nine

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

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

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

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

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

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

What’s Good

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

 

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.

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.

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!

Mentorship: a workplace necessity or a necessity for success?

For the community of business professionals, the idea of mentorship is a hot topic, especially when discussing women in the workplace. We are all aware of the “leaky chasm” where more women are graduating from university than ever before and yet the number of executive leaders is slim. Mikki Taylor, a well-known writer and speaker, said that “many women live like it’s a dress rehearsal. Ladies, the curtain is up and you’re on.” In view of mentoring, it is important for women to take their steps with purpose. It is time we become bold and seek out mentors and mentees. Mentoring future women leaders is a necessity for the workplace as well as personal success.

According to Forbes,  only fifty-four percent of women have access to senior leaders who act as mentors or informal sponsors. The lack of mentors for women is believed to be one of the major reasons we don’t see more women in leadership. Increasingly data show that when more women sit at the decision-making tables, better decisions are made. In order to continue fostering growth, women must begin asking for help and sharing their insight. Mentorship is a wonderful path to begin paving better roads for the future of equality in leadership.

There are countless benefits for both parties involved in a mentoring relationship. According to a recent Forbes article, “it is a broader network of relationships and circumstances that shape individual success.” With many decisions that are made, there are discussions that come before them. When making a change in career choice, almost everyone will phone a trusted friend to hear his or her input and discuss options and concerns. Mentoring is important because there is an educated decision to trust someone who has more experience, a different perspective, and wise recommendations. While the responsibility for life decisions ultimately resides within each of us, we are wise to seek counsel from someone with experience in the issues we face.

The value of mentoring is a two way street, with mentors standing to benefit from the relationship as well. According to a Forbes article, the benefits of  mentoring include new insights into the workforce, valuable connections, new perspective, and the personal satisfaction of sharing experiences. In addition to the personal and professional benefits of a mentor relationship, those who mentor are twenty percent more like to receive a raise.

The guidance, honesty, and input of a mentor can help a mentee become their achieve their personal best. Many mentees desire this relationship to gain knowledge and a specific skill set, but this article points out that they also often receive a broadened perspective, gain connections, learn more about business politics, and gain the confidence to stand on their own. For young professionals who may feel inadequate, take the advice of Sara Blakely, the Founder of Spanx: “Don’t be intimidated by what you don’t know because it can also be your greatest strength and ensure that you do things differently from everyone else.”

A three-tiered mentoring program is an essential part of Momentum’s mission to advance women in leadership. Each year we pair class participants with senior mentors. Upon graduation, participants receive training on successful mentoring and are paired with a teen, college student, or young professional looking for a mentor. Momentum has fostered over 800 mentoring relationships to date.

If you have experiences, opinions or advice on mentoring, we’d love to see your comments here.