7 Steps to Gracefully Transition into a New Career Path

With the future unknown and millions out of work, it is more important than ever to reevaluate our careers and think about how we’re going to support ourselves if we’ve been laid off. Instead of going into fear and becoming immobilized with the not knowing, I’m encouraging people to use this as an opportunity to turn inward and reflect on next steps to begin laying the groundwork if it feels time to reinvent your career.

I’ve laid out a simple step-by-step process to guide yourself easily and more gracefully into a new career path based on my personal experience changing careers from working in the corporate world to becoming an entrepreneur. Click here to read the full article on Highest Path.

5 Tips for DEI Practitioners to Effectively Manage Cultural Diversity

As we grapple with race and equity in America as DEI practitioners, we are all thinking about how to translate this work into the organizations we work with. Cultural diversity has become a buzz word that many of us strive to address but often times miss the mark because it can be too vague or too overwhelming to talk about. Simple stated, cultural diversity can be defined as a group of people from various racial backgrounds co-existing within a larger culture. In this piece, we’re going to look at what types of things we should be thinking about to increase racial diversity in the workplace particularly amongst Black people, so we can create richer, more diverse and inclusive environments and ultimately drive more impact for organizations through equal representation.

Click here to read the full article on Highest Path.

black and white hands

Reflections on a Murder. How to Stage a Non-Violent Revolution in America

After avoiding the nine minute video of the murder of George Floyd for over a week, I decided to force myself to watch it, knowing it would forever scar my psyche. As I sat there watching an innocent man suffocate to death by brutal force at the hands of a police officer, so many thoughts and emotions came up for me, as I assume it must for any sentient being who watches it.

 Officer Chauvin kept his knee on Floyd’s neck while he stared at onlookers screaming at him to stop, conscious of the fact he was being caught on video. It was almost as if he was flaunting his power to say, “See if you can stop me,” egged on by the sick, twisted gratification of being able to kill a man while others helplessly stood by. What type of hate inside an individual could lead to killing a man in such a violent way for no reason? I watched as the other officers did nothing to stop Chauvin from killing George Floyd as he called out for his mama with futility. The cold hearted indifference, inhumane violence and the complicity of it all was and is heartbreaking.

And then I felt the rage and anger surface in me along with a deep sadness about the low point we have arrived at in America. All of us live in a society where this type of murder is a regular occurrence – over 1000 people die by police shootings per year, committing 10% of homicides per year in the US. Police officers are more likely to use force, including lethal force, against Black, Latinx, Indigenous, and Asian people than against White people. We live in a society where innocent people can be killed on camera at the hands of those who are there to protect them with little to no justice being served. And of course all of this is built on a foundation of racism, bigotry and hate that goes back to the time this nation was born. The wounding is deep, it is profound, and it is systemic. george floyd and police

Therefore, it is no wonder that millions of people have been compelled to take to the streets to protest this outrageous act. It is understandable why people in other countries are taking to the streets in solidarity. We are currently witnessing the collective outpouring of people coming together to say enough is enough. We do not want to live in this type of society any longer. We do not agree to this behavior. We are demanding a new societal agreement – one that is based in human rights, moral decency and social justice. 

Systemic Racism Intersects with Systemic Inequity

So where will all this lead us? Clearly there is no direction or leadership from the President beside dog whistles and a call for military action. The authoritarian tendencies he has alluded to could very well lead us down a dark path. Democracy itself is under attack from those who have sworn to defend it. Never have we faced such an enemy from within, even in the darkest days of the Civil Rights movement. But the day of reckoning has come – and the people are making their will known. 

However, systemic racism is not the only issue here. Racism intersects with economic inequality which intersects with gender discrimination which intersects with climate injustice. Which intersects with human rights of all vulnerable communities, such as Latinx, Transgender and Indigenous peoples. Capitalism itself is being tested as it has morphed into a system built to benefit 0.1% of the population, while the other 99.9% work to ensure the enrichment of the billionaire class. We might view the rioting, looting and vandalism through that lens – a collective middle finger, so to speak, to a system that is intended to keep most of us enslaved.

black people protest

 For decades this seemed to work without much push back or resistance from the working class. Many of us were and are still content to distract ourselves with consumerism, social media and celebrity news. Many of us are content to work our entire lives, pay our fair share of taxes to afford a nice house, drive a nice car and send our kids to overpriced universities. Many of us are fine working for companies that make billions each year, knowing full well that a few people at the top are making 1000 times more than we are and not paying taxes. A majority of people in the United States have been suffering from a lack of access to food, shelter or basic health care for decades, without anyone really doing anything about it. 

Many of those people come from the same marginalized communities who are disproportionately targeted by militarized police and a prison industrial complex that basically amounts to modernized slavery. So perhaps what is enfolding in front of our eyes is the collapse of the entire system or as Cornell West recently stated, “We are witnessing America as a failed social experiment….it’s capitalist economy could not generate and deliver in such a way that people could live lives of decency.” If we are to demand justice, we must look to the root cause – a corrupt capitalistic system and fascist government which cares only about defending this corrupt system at all costs, and if necessary, with military force.

Learning Lessons from a Velvet Revolution

This moment reminds me of what took place only two years ago in a small country you’ve probably never heard of – Armenia. As a post-Soviet country, it has seen many trials and tribulations, including a massive earthquake that killed tens of thousands in 1988, a severe economic depression that took place after the fall of the USSR, a war with neighboring Azerbaijan, and a take-over by powerful, oligarchic regimes that lasted for nearly thirty years. Armenians are also all to familiar with experiencing deep racism and hatred – 1.5 million Armenians were massacred in the first genocide of the 20th century at the hands of the Ottoman Turks. 

Although a small country, it has historically been supported by Russia. Putin has ensured that Armenia stay obedient and subservient to Russian forces. It gave rise to the oligarchs and corrupt officials that maintained power for decades. The people of Armenia tried several times to stage peaceful protests to no avail and resulted in lives lost. However, two years ago, a man named Nikol Pashinyan decided to step up and lead a non-violent revolution. He began walking in a town called Gyumri, 120 km away from the main capital of Yerevan. He walked through village streets and urged people to join him. And they did. By the time he reached the capital, thousands of people were walking beside him and they joined thousands more in Yerevan as people began to stage peaceful protests all around the city. 

yerevan velvet revolution 2018

Over a period of two weeks, mothers came out and put their bodies on the line. They brought their babies and parked strollers to block intersections. Young musicians sat in the middle of streets and played music. At night, people banged pots and pans to show solidarity for the movement. People had nothing to lose and everything to gain and they stepped into their sovereignty and took back their power as a collective. Thousands put their bodies in front of tankers, police cars and prevented them from reaching crowds. At one point, they even captured Nikol and put him in jail, but that emboldened protestors even more. Within days, the Prime Minister resigned and the oligarchic regime came to an end. 

There is much to learn from this peaceful, non-violent revolution that took place in a tiny, remote corner of the world. What was once thought an impossibility became possible. In the same way, Americans at this moment cannot and must not sit back and allow the corrupt, oligarchic, pro-fascist regime that exists today in the United States to continue. We cannot and must not allow our country to descend into fascism. We cannot and must not allow a military dictatorship to rise up from this perceived people’s revolution. We cannot and must not stand or defend an administration that has repeatedly demonstrated its abhorrence for black, brown or vulnerable communities. We cannot and must not continue to feed a system that is sick to its core, one that is collapsing in front of our eyes as we speak.

The Time is Now to Take Back Our Power

It is time to design a new societal contract that is based on racial, climate, and economic justice. It is time to reimagine what our world might look like if it was rooted in values of love, compassion, kindness and tolerance. We must hold a vision of what our society could look like if we adhered to the notion that “all men are created equal,”  as it states so clearly in the Declaration of Independence. We must believe that change is imminent and that We the People will be the bringers of that change – not leaders who continuously fail to address these challenges in any meaningful way. It is up to the masses to continue to demand a new path forward and work tirelessly to bring about the healing necessary to jumpstart the process in the right way. We must continue to build on the non-violent vision of Martin King Luther Jr. and the activists of the Civil Rights movement, the Women’s Rights movement, the Gay Right’s movement, and the Transgender movement.

Martin Luther King jr Protest

How we do that is up to us. Will we continue to only fight for justice or is there a different way? Can we achieve the same goal through non-violence – through dialogue, active listening, acknowledging the past, apologizing for our complicity and asking BIPOC communities for forgiveness? Could these acts be enough to jumpstart the healing that is so necessary for us to move forward? How can those with privilege lead the way, initiate those discussions and engage more actively instead of putting the burden of fighting for justice on those that have been disproportionately affected by racism, bigotry and police brutality? These are the questions all of us should be pondering and taking steps to initiate within our  communities. Once the fires, tear gas and pepper spray have subsided, we must roll up our sleeves and get to work. It will require everyone’s active engagement – our artists, healers, the indigenous peoples, musicians and our religious leaders to unite us around a common cause. We can and must work together, leading our own way, lighting our own path. The time is now.

Women who work from home

Working from Home is Here to Stay. 7 Tips to Ensure Women in the Workplace Thrive

Any society that fails to harness the energy and creativity of its women is at a huge disadvantage in the modern world. -Tian Wei, CCTV News

It’s becoming clear that the global pandemic is quickly turning into an economic crisis for women with unemployment rates rising to numbers not seen since the Great Depression. The unemployment rate for women stands at an unprecedented 15.5%, the first time ever that U.S. women have faced a double-digit unemployment rate. For Black and Hispanic women, it’s worse: 16.4% and 20.2%, respectively.

The unemployment rate for men is 13%; for white men, it is 12.4%. 

A lot of this disparity goes back to the gender gap – most of the non-essential businesses such as nail and hair salons, hotels and restaurants employ lower-wage jobs held by mostly women. For those women who are still employed, they are finding themselves having to juggle working from home and raising their children, which is essentially a second full time job.  And with school closures potentially extending to the fall or winter, there doesn’t seem to be any end in sight. If mom guilt weren’t already a thing, it’s now definitely something women are having to contend with.

So how do women deal with the economic, mental and physical challenges they are faced with during this time of upheaval? With companies announcing permanent work from home scenarios, is there any upside and what can companies do to adjust to the new reality for both men and women? How can companies ensure that women aren’t stuck with a double-double shift as Sheryl Sandberg recently pointed out? 

working women

“Over my lifetime, women have demonstrated repeatedly that they can do anything that men can do, while still managing traditional women’s work at the same time. But the same expansion of roles has not been available to men.”  Anne-Marie Slaughter

Here are some ways companies can begin tackling this issue (and a few tips women can put into practice in the meantime.)

1. Run Meetings More Efficiently

One thing that we can all agree on is being on back to back Zoom meetings is just as draining and soul-killing as in-person meetings, if not more! Many organizations are meeting heavy, oftentimes involving too many people and not using meeting times efficiently. Of course keeping in close contact with your team is important when everyone is working from home, but it’s important to find a balance. Take an audit of all the standing meetings you are responsible for – are all of those necessary or can you cut down the frequency or length of those meetings? Are you sending out detailed agendas beforehand? Are people coming to the meeting prepared? Or does it take half an hour just to warm up? Establish meeting protocols that ensure you’re using your time wisely, where everyone’s voice is heard, and decision makers are present (otherwise you might repeat the same meeting twice!) Running meetings efficiently can save a lot of precious time for all employees, but especially for mom and parents that are homeschooling and have to provide child care at the same time.

organized online meetings

2. Increase Paid Time Off

If organizations are going to expect employees to perform well and keep productivity high, then they are going to have to invest in their health and well-being. Paid vacation in the United States sadly trails most other industrialized nations. The key reason why the U.S. lags so far behind is because it is the “only advanced economy that does not mandate any paid vacation time for workers. Given the extra pressure and stress of having to homeschool and provide child care while juggling a full time job from home, companies must increase vacation days for their employees, and put a vacation policy in place if it does not currently have one.

3. Enforce Paternal Leave

Another way that companies can create work/life balance for their employees is to enforce paternity leave benefits. Many companies now offer paternity leave (and for those who haven’t joined that bandwagon, it’s time they did), however many organizations don’t require men to take paternal leave and therefore many don’t take advantage of it. Research has been shown companies that enforce paternity leave benefits actually have more women on their boards. Doing so encourages fathers to share in the responsibility of childcare instead of putting the burden solely on mothers which limits career advancement, otherwise known as the “motherhood penalty.”

Enforcing Paternity Leave

4. Wellness Check-ins & Subsidies

One thing many companies like Google, Facebook and others do well is they offer yoga classes, on-site gyms, healthy food options and other perks to make sure employees stay healthy. Without these benefits available to employees, companies need to innovate in the way they ensure the health and well-being of their workforce. Managers can build in wellness hours by scheduling yoga or meditation classes for their team via Zoom or pay for online subscriptions. They can provide bonuses or monthly stipends to cover healthy food delivery to employee homes (and support local businesses at the same time). And managers can do wellness check-in’s with their employees to talk about how they are handling stress and social distance and asking about emotional wellbeing, provided they have the training to have those conversations in a productive way.

well being

Some things just cannot wait. Men have to stand up now for women’s equality.  – Rick Goings, CEO Tupperware Brands

5. Create a Culture of Belonging

Creating a sense of belonging and inclusion should have been a priority pre-pandemic especially for those organizations that prioritize their people and understand that their workforce is the most valuable asset they have. It’s become that much more important to prioritize this because let’s face it, it’s hard to feel belonging when we’re physically separated. Providing managers with the leadership skills necessary to create a culture where everyone feels safe to speak up, contribute and feel  their ideas matter is essential to ensuring high performing teams stay that way.

6. Don’t Be Afraid to Delegate & Ask for Help

Women are notorious for taking on more work responsibilities just to prove their value and worth. They tend to take on a lot of administrative and lower-level tasks. This creates a catch 22 – now you have double the work than your male counterparts and you’re not getting the higher visibility work that can help you get noticed for a promotion. It’s so important to make sure you’re asking for help and not taking on extra work just because you want to be “nice” and seen as a “team player.” Look through your list of responsibilities and delegate those that aren’t the best use of your time. Build accountability to ensure the work is being done in a timely and efficient manner by those you delegate to. Say no to projects or tasks that are going to be time suckers but not amount to any value for key decision makers and stakeholders who might be deciding on who gets the next promotion. This way you’re able to take on higher-visibility projects when they come up or ask your boss for opportunities to build your skills in a new area.

delegate tasks

7. Let Go of Perfection

Women can tend to be perfectionists and because of this end up putting more pressure on themselves to be perfect wives, mothers, daughters, sisters, friends and employees. In the new work from home reality, the pressure to be perfect could lead to a situation that just isn’t feasible. Needing everything to be perfect can lead to micro-managing workloads and getting too stuck in the details. It can be exhausting and isn’t a good way to leverage your time. Letting go of perfection and settling for “good enough” can be one way to relieve the pressure of having to impress everyone around you. Own your gifts and let go of having to prove your value through needing to be perfect.

Let Your Voice Be Heard

Whether you are in a decision making role or not, whether it affects you or not (I’m looking at you male allies!), you can begin to advocate for these changes in the companies you work for and the teams you manage. The companies that are going to survive and thrive will be listening to their employees and the ideas they bring to the table around how to handle these changing times. With all the capital they will be saving on real estate, they should be thinking about how to redirect those funds to increase their bottom line through investing in the health and well-being of their workforce and creating cultures of inclusion and belonging for everyone, including women.

Why we have too few women leaders | Sheryl Sandberg