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Submitted by anna on Fri, 02/16/2018 - 15:10
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One woman's journey over 5 years, 2 continents, 1 boyfriend, and many friends

Aerin Coleman was given an opportunity and took the chance. She always wanted to travel but could never predict the rewarding experiences that came about, nor the hardships she would encounter along the way. This is just one woman's story about courage, love, and fulfillment.

New Beginnings 

At 21 I interned with a firm that prided itself in its global opportunities. I was offered a fulltime position and spent the next 3 years working days, nights and weekends. One day my manager approached me with an opportunity in Oslo, Norway. The firm there had just won a major contract and needed U.S. resources with a background in US regulations to help with the transition in the project.

None of this was by chance. When I joined the firm, I knew that the opportunity to work abroad was an attainable one. At goal setting discussions, I always made sure to include an international rotation goal and specifically chose a mentor that would champion my desire to work abroad. So when the opportunity presented itself, it took 24 hrs to sign the papers and 3 months later my bags were packed and I was on my way to Norway.

Adopting a new lifestyle

Norway is beautiful. The people are beautiful. The streets are spotless and the public transportation is to die for. I quickly found a beautiful furnished apartment and began my foray into the Norwegian workplace. I quickly learned the in Norway the people “Work to Live”.

When children are sick you get sick leave specified for the children, in addition to your normal sick leave. 5 weeks paid leave is normal. Women also get one year paid maternity leave! 

I quickly got used to being the only one in the office past 5pm. All of the Norwegians were out the door with their cross-country skis at 4pm on the dot! The T-bane (pronounced Tay-bahn-ah) left right outside the front door and took you straight to the ski trails in less than 20min. 

Although I loved the working-to-live life, this often conflicted with another term Americans are familiar with, deadlines. I realized early on that I had to meet in the middle with the Norwegians. This was not a quick or easy journey. At the end of 2 years I had developed my teams and they had taught me how to work within their world. 

Exploring the corners of the world

Now for the good stuff!

For the first two years I spent every other weekend travelling. Flights are very inexpensive when you live and travel within the E.U. and Shenghen. Thanks to my amazing expat coworkers I always had someone to travel with. 

The most interesting place I visited was Amman, Jordan and the lost city of Petra. What I didn’t realize before I got there is that the city was an actual small city. We walked for miles and miles. The carvings were beautiful and you were able to walk straight up to the stone buildings. You do not realize the scale of the stone buildings until you walk up to the entrance and realize the entrance is two feet above you. Word to the wise if you ever get to go, beware of the “scenic view” signs. They will take you on long hikes up rough passages that end in gift shops with zero views!  

My favorite place? Porto, Portugal. The wine, the food and the people surpassed all of my travel expectations. A river flows through the city and cools it on the warm summer nights. We were able to rent an apartment with a beautiful view of the river and walking distance to some fantastic restaurants. Most restaurants are owned and operated by locals that make you feel like family. If you get a chance to visit Porto, make sure you arrange a wine tour of the Douro Valley. Many of the vineyards are small and family owned. If you schedule a tour group they will make sure that the vineyard is open. Make sure you also pick a tour with a river boat ride. You won’t regret it!

My least favorite place? Dublin, Ireland. It did not help that I visited in the middle of March. It was cold and foggy the entire time. My friend and I were smart enough to sign up for day trips to get outside of the city. By the end of the trip I was ready to leave. It may be worth a second chance, however you should definitely plan to go in the summer. 

Following my heart

Why would I leave Norway? Let’s back-up for a second. My time in Norway was originally supposed to be 2 years that quickly turned into 4 and then 5 years. I spent the time exploring the fjords of Norway, Christmas markets in Germany, and shopping in Italy. I also made friends with a vast variety of extraordinary expats from all over the world. 1.5 years in, I fell in love with a Norwegian man.

At the end of 4.5 years I had it all. A loving boyfriend, amazing friends, and travelling almost every weekend. I was living the dream life and I realized it was exactly that. A dream. 

You start thinking about what your future has in store. I quickly ran down the list:

Boyfriend: Never moving to the states. Wants to marry me? – Not a priority.

Job: Will they make an American a partner in the firm? – Nope.

Expat friends: When will they start moving home? – Inevitably going to happen.

It was time to grow up. My circumstances were not changing but could make a decision to move my life forward. I missed my family and realized that I wanted to be closer to them. 

Was the choice easy? HECK NO. Did I cry my eyes out in public spaces? On multiple occasions. I took an amazing new opportunity at a new company in a new role. Life will move on if you want it to or not, it is up to you to determine the direction.

P.S. I am loving the new direction.  

herdacity women travel blog
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Aerin Coleman

It's All About Who You Know

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Submitted by anna on Wed, 01/31/2018 - 14:57
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Q&A with Marny Lifshen

Senior executive women attribute a key part of their success to making and maintaining connections. But according to a study by LeanIn.org and McKinsey & Co. of 118 companies (2012), only 10% of women who held leadership positions credited their professional advancement to 4 or more connections. When looking at men in similar leadership positions, 17% of them associated their success to the same amount of connections made through networking. Marny Lifshen, author of the book "Some Assembly Required: A Networking Guide for Women" saw first-hand the negative effects that this lack of networking had on professional women. She recognized that women had different methods to building relationships but could use those strengths to build the same supportive group of mentors that may come more easily to men. We wanted to know more about her professional career, personal life, and what to drove her to follow her passion. 

What did you see that was lacking in the workplace that made you want to write a book specifically about networking for women? 

Hands-on mentoring and sponsoring of women was not as consistent as it was for our male peers – we don’t have a “good ‘ole boy” network to give us feedback, introduce us to the right people and give us opportunities. But mostly I just think that we make and manage professional relationships differently than men – and that’s okay. I wanted to create a guide for how to take advantage of our natural strengths as women, but also to acknowledge what we can learn from the guys – like actually leveraging the network we work so diligently to create.

What impact do you think the book has made since? 

I hope it has helped a lot of women to understand and embrace networking as a critical career tool, and to correct some common misconceptions about what networking is really all about.  I also hope that readers understand that we don’t have to do it the way the men do in order to be successful.

How did you discover your passion? 

I have been very lucky to have incredible mentors throughout my career.  Through them, I was exposed to great opportunities and experiences, met amazing people, learned new skills and developed as a leader.  It was by learning to say “yes” to new things that I found my passion for consulting, writing and speaking about networking, communication and branding. 

What was a defining moment in your career? 

I am not a natural risk taker. When I faced a cross-road in my career and was considering leaving the firm I had built and loved for 9 years, I was very unsure. I relied on my network to give me honest feedback and advice – and that is what gave me the courage to start my own business.  

In terms of your personal life, what place were you in at that time? 

I was a partner in a PR/Communications firm and loved it. But I was also a newlywed and wanted to have children. I couldn’t figure out a way to make my 50+ hour work weeks fit with my desire to be a mom. Going out on my own as a consultant gave me the flexibility I wanted and the opportunity to explore new professional paths. It was scary but worth it!  

What was the biggest challenge when you decided to start your own consulting business?

For me the hardest part was leaving the security of a full-time well-paid job for the unknown.  It was also hard for me to have the confidence that I could “make it” on my own, but a wonderful group of mentors convinced me I would succeed and encouraged me to take the leap!

 How are you able to apply your personal strengths to professional life?

I believe that consistency is a key to success. You can’t be one personal in your personal life and a different person in your professional life. You must be authentic in order to build real relationships and credibility. While I strive to always be professional and polished in a work situation, I am also my energetic and friendly self. Think about what makes you unique and memorable and make sure those attributes shine in your professional roles, as well.   

 What do you NOT let get in your way?    

I don’t hold grudges. I think that holding grudges against people is pointless and may in fact keep you from opportunities with that person in the future. Just because something went wrong in a professional relationship doesn’t mean that you won’t find a way to work together or help one another in the future. 

What motivates you to coach others through your writing, speaking, and consulting? 

The feedback I get from people who see me speak is very inspiring and motivational for me.  Knowing that I am actually helping people overcome challenges and succeed in their professional lives is what makes all of the work worthwhile.  It just plain makes me happy to help them!  

One thing you would like to tell your 20-year-old self? 

Chill out!  Everything will work out!  You don’t need to have a 5 year plan or 10 year plan.  Just work hard and be open to opportunities. 

 What are three things  you want other women to know? 

  1. Be kinder to one another.  We need to support and encourage each other as women, rather than judging the choices we make.  

  1. Take risks in your career and be okay with a little failure!  This is one thing that men do consistently better than we do and it may well be holding us back. 

  1. Ask for help.  There is no shame in needing support, advice and assistance – in fact, there is strength in learning to ask for and accept help. 

 

Marny Lifshen

Marny Lifshen is an author, speaker, coach and marketing communications consultant with more than 25 years of experience.
Find her here:
http://marnylifshencommunications.com

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HERdacity

She Wins With A Pin: The Wonderful World of Pro Women's Wrestling

Pro-Wrestling EVE is defying stereotypes and setting out to make you forget everything you thought you knew about wrestling.

EVE is the UK’s premier underground punk-rock professional women’s wrestling group founded by Emily and Dann Read in 2010. Set in east London’s Bethnal Green, a floral pink banner displaying “SECRET GIRL GANG CLUBHOUSE” greets those who are looking for it and intrigues those who are not. After buying a ticket and stepping inside, you are welcomed into a stadium full of men and women alike donning mohawk, leather jackets, and pink hair.  

All are from completely unique walks of life but are all there for the same purpose, to view incredibly strong women step into the ring and watch them redefine what strength means to them.

Co-founder Emily says,

It’s so conditioned in women to be quiet and small. It’s a real hindrance when it comes to wrestling. And [at EVE] I see women learn to be big and loud and take up space.

Perhaps wrestling, a long-since male dominated arena, can provide a space for women to feel comfortable in both their mental and physical strength. 

Inspired by the Netflix Original Series GLOW, Gorgeous Ladies of Wrestling, EVE’s purpose is to empower women on mental, physical, and political levels. Tag lines such as “fight like girl” and “smash the patriarchy” work to give women strength and a voice that is always inspiring, but usually not found in wrestling. 

Confidence, strength, ambition, success.

These are all qualities that we possess and desire to demonstrate but are often encouraged to stifle. Imagine being able to visit a dedicated female-centric space that not only promotes those features, but makes a show of it. After all, every woman that steps into the ring is in a gemstone-covered costume, bright makeup, and obviously huge hair; all for the purpose of showcasing their individual strength and the power of women in a group.  

As women, let us not be afraid to step out of our comfort zone and try something new. And of course, always support your local girl gang.

What do you think, would you take your daughter or niece? Why or why not?

Breaking Down Barriers
Anna Georgakis

Ability to Engage Employees Distinguishes Great Bosses

In celebration of Boss’ Day, we’re zooming in on the female boss. (But of course!)

Not only do girls rule the world, they crush leadership roles, too. “Girl Boss” may be a popular Instagram hashtag, the title of a bestselling book and TV show, and a popular slogan among creative women these days, but the reality is that women leaders are a boon to the organizations – the few and the proud – that they run.

Women CEOs in 2016 claim only 27 spots at the top of Fortune 500 companies, yet findings show that they have distinct characteristics that could make them better leaders than men. Among their best qualities are their ability to engage people, retain employees, communicate, and remain patient, key traits for long term success.

Women Naturally Make Strong Leaders

While women tend to value “communal” organizational assets like participation from a more diverse group, quality communication, and customer-focused work, they also know talent when they see it, and promote women who possess the needed skills. A study of women in business leadership roles (in Italian manufacturing firms in the 1980s and 90s) found that not only did senior women's wages increase, but firms with women in senior roles actually performed better. 

Vulnerability 

There's that word again...

I’m listening to the audiobook The Advantage, by Patrick Lencioni, about how healthy organizations maintain an edge over their competitors. Most companies work to make smart decisions, focusing more on execution, systems, marketing, etc. than the people behind those functions. However, Lencioni maintains that the real key to success is a healthy team. He provides examples from his leadership consulting business to prove that teams that work well together make smarter decisions and avoid costly mistakes.

While I haven’t exactly counted the times the author uses the term “vulnerability,” I’d swear it’s in the dozens; and throughout the book, it’s an underlying core component of leaders who build cohesive teams.

Contrast that with success characteristics of male leaders, personal career advancement and compensation, and you'll see traditional corporate leaders running for the hills at the "V" world.

Vulnerability may be the new black, but successful women bosses are not all hugs and warm fuzzies. Still, women's natural leanings toward human connections positively flavor the work environments where they are given the reins.

The Underbelly of Feminine Leadership

To be fair, women bosses also have unique challenges in the area of leadership. Among many corporate and organizational female leaders, maintaining effective emotional distance (not too exclusive, nor too personal), admitting hiring mistakes quickly, and working to foster relationships with multiple mentors; all tend to present discomfort at some point as they stretch to become a good boss. 

One of the best critiques on natural leadership skills I’ve heard this year has been from author and speaker Kim Scott. In her book Radical Candor, she relates a story of a genuinely helpful form of feedback she received from her boss and mentor, (pre Facebook) Sheryl Sandberg  when they both worked at Google. After a presentation in which Scott’s accomplishments on a project should have made her look like a rockstar, Sandberg took Scott aside and told her that her speaking style needed some work. After Scott brushed it off a few times, her boss insisted that the constant “ums” made Kim “look stupid.”

Ouch, right?

In retrospect, Scott understood the gift she'd been given.

These words from a woman she admired were in fact exactly what she needed to move ahead and grow. Listen to this interview about Radical Candor, and consider how women bosses, once they get over  the awkwardness of giving truly valuable feedback, can use it to groom women leaders to become the standout teachers, mentors, authors, speakers and leaders of the future.

Now it’s your turn. There are women leaders in your past and present who have shaped your career, and made you feel valued for your contributions to a team or workplace – or not. Who were they (no need to name names if you prefer not to), and how have they changed you?

 

 

Life's Work Breaking Down Barriers Women's Wisdom (Seeking or Giving Advice)
Jen McGahan

Powerful and Brave Women Speaking Out about Sexual Harassment … Will You Share Your Story?

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Submitted by Larissa at HERdacity on Wed, 09/20/2017 - 05:27

In the last week, more and more women are bravely standing up and publicly telling their experiences of being sexually harassed.   

Actress Amber Tamblyn wrote in the New York Times about an instance between herself and actor James Woods.

“I have been afraid of speaking out or asking things of men in positions of power for years,” the actress wrote in her essay, “What I have experienced as an actress working in a business whose business is to objectify women is frightening.”

James Woods called her a liar on twitter.

After reading Amber’s story, journalist Michelle Threadgould came forward to outline her own incident of sexual harassment on cnn.com.

She was told to get thicker skin by a female executive when she raised concerns. She wrote: 

"This is how women and men excuse men behaving badly. How they rationalize their own silence and complicity. This is how they keep women out of an industry, because after dozens of experiences like this, how determined do you have to be in order to not let ongoing dehumanization break you?
 
It's not thin-skinned to believe that your co-workers shouldn't make sexually suggestive remarks about you. It's not thin-skinned to believe that your superiors should do whatever they can to help stop harassment in the workplace. It's not thin-skinned to ask to be believed.
 

If you feel so compelled, we encourage you to share your own experiences with us. We believe it is important to take these issues out of the shadows, in order to come up with better solutions. You can share your comments below or email communitymanager@herdacity.org. Remember this forum is anonymous.

Remains of The Viking Warrior Everyone Thought Was a Guy... Was Actually a Badass Woman

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Submitted by Larissa at HERdacity on Tue, 09/19/2017 - 05:45

As women fight to get more representation and power in our respective fields, take note… the women who came before us have been kicking ass for hundreds and hundreds of years. 

The latest proof: bones of a viking warrior presumed to be a man… are actually those of a woman according to new DNA analysis. 

She’s being deemed as a ‘high-status’ viking because her remains were found with weapons as well as a strategy game board… which indicates she was an officer involved in  planning and tactics. 

So what does this all mean? If you were in awe of Wonder Woman— you may have some real life 'sheroes' to draw some inspiration from too.

Like the stories you see on HERdacity? Please like us on Facebook and share this article on your own Facebook feed! 

Larissa at HERdacity

Reese Witherspoon’s Guide to Equality: Be Unapologetically Ambitious

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Submitted by Kelly Smith on Tue, 09/12/2017 - 05:53

What will it take to tip the gender scales? If you ask Reese Witherspoon, one of the most likeable women in Hollywood, she'll tell you women have got to stop worrying about being… well, likeable.

“What is likeable anyway? I’m allergic to that word,” The actress and producer wrote in a blog titled We Have to Change the Idea That a Woman With Ambition Is Out Only for Herself, for October’s issue of Glamour magazine.

In the magazine Reese focused on her personal struggles managing her own ambition… and how women have to do a better job of owning their power.  Here’s three things we can all learn from Reese’s personal journey… 

#1 Inequality sucks…but you’ve got to get past it and keep kicking ass

Most of us can picture Reese starring in Legally Blonde. Or maybe you’ve heard about her more recent HBO Show, Big Little Lies. What you don’t get to see— is the blood, sweat and tears Reese puts into her work as a producer. When she first started in Hollywood, women had less visibility on and off screen. So she had to create her own entertainment studio to honor the stories of powerful women.

Is it fair? Nope. But in her blog she writes,

“You can complain about these things. You can get stuck in the emotion of it—and sometimes I do, and I get really angry. I’ll get pissed off and stomp around the house. The anger comes from such a deep, real place for me. But my mother always said to me, ‘If you want something done, do it yourself.’”

“…Nobody hands me anything. I’ll wake up earlier; I’ll stay up later. I will put my money where my mouth is. I have to read faster, and I respond quicker than other producers. I have to call and call and call executives until they say yes to my projects.”

#2 Choose your allies carefully 

Reese is busy and admits that means sometimes people aren’t worth wasting your time on. If someone doesn’t value your own strength, cut them out of your life. This advice pertains to everyone from supervisors, friends and even your significant others:

“Run away from a man who can’t handle your ambition. So many men think ambition is sexy…”

#3 You’ve got an inner voice. Listen to her!

Face it, you probably have a good idea of what you want. Now is your time to reach out and get it. 

"That’s my advice: Just do what you do well. If you’re a producer, you’ve got to produce. If you’re a writer, you’ve got to write. If you’re in corporate America, keep working hard to bust through the glass ceiling... If you are one of those people who has that little voice in the back of her mind saying, “Maybe I could do [fill in the blank],” don’t tell it to be quiet. Give it a little room to grow, and try to find an environment it can grow in."

And if all else fails... channel your inner Elle Woods.

Read Reese's full blog here

Larissa at HERdacity

Breakthroughs In Women's Sports

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Submitted by Kelly Smith on Thu, 08/24/2017 - 09:53

Though the participation and growth of women’s sports even in the last decade is substantial, It is not uncommon for female athletes to get shorted on praise for their success. Whether that means not receiving as much media coverage or ‘not being capable’ of reaching the same level as male athletes, women are often stunted. Fortunately, there are many examples of this changing.

Take Katie Sowers for example. It was recently announced that Katie is set to become the second full-time female assistant coach in the NFL. She will be joining the San Francisco 49ers’ for this upcoming fall season after having interned as a part of the teams Bill Walsh NFL Diversity Coaching Fellowship. The only person prior to Katie to be full-time female assistant coach is Kathryn Smith, who coaches for the Buffalo Bills’.

Katie commented that, “It’s groundbreaking and all that stuff, but the more normalized it is, the better it is. As a female, the more someone can ask me what I do and I say ‘I coach football,’ the less shock on their faces will mean the better direction we’re moving.”

We see another step in the right direction in Australia where a female football league has traded in overtly sexualized uniforms for typical football attire. The new league called Gridiron West Women’s League was set up as an alternative to the Ladies Gridiron (Football) League where they wear particularly skimpy outfits. This new league will instead be focused, “on sport and the other on entertainment.”

Lastly, you may have seen tennis star Andy Murray call out a sexist reporter earlier this summer, and he has continued to empower women in this interview with Elle. He talks about how the powerful women he’s worked with throughout his career and how other men, including athletes, can help lift up women in sports.

Murray notes how, “There's a perception that women don't handle pressure as well as men do, but it's not true. A lot of the top men are very, very emotional on the courts. Not all of them. But some of them. And I would be one. I don't handle my emotions particularly well in comparison to a lot of the women. If you talked about the worst- behaved tennis players, most of them would be men."

Whether it’s forming a new league, coaching, or advocating for female athletes, all of these people are daring to make positive change for women in sports.

Kelly at HERdacity

First Person Story: The Evolution of Cowgirls

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Submitted by Kelly Smith on Wed, 08/23/2017 - 09:04

I'm staring at a childhood photo of myself on our fridge and I begin to reflect on how expansive gender roles have become.

I'm about five or six in the photo wearing a green cowboy outfit. I remember I had announced to my parents that I wanted be a cowboy for Christmas. I was very specific about asking for a cowboy outfit, not cowgirl, because it was pretty clear as a child from the movies and books I read that cowboys did all of the cool, exciting stuff: chase down bad guys, jump on moving trains or ride bareback if the mood suited them. Cowgirls were scarcely represented and hardly ever did the things I considered fun, not to mention most of them wore skirts or dresses and my tomboy self would have none of that.

Thankfully, my Mom was a tomboy as a child, too, so she willingly obliged my request. She actually made me the lovely green cowboy outfit from scratch. Hard to believe given her limited skills in sewing, but it was a triumph because I lit up when I opened that package. The guns, belt and boots finished the outfit off perfectly. Green was my favorite color at the time, and I wore that outfit as much as I could. I played hard at being the fastest draw in the West and saving the day while riding my horse, Silver. Giddy-up.

While my parents were fine with me wearing a Cowboy outfit, family members, neighbors and teachers were a different story. If I had a dollar for every person who told me I should be "wearing a skirt" and it's not "ladylike" to wear clothes and play the way I did, then I would be a very rich lady today. On one of the days, when the barrage of sexist comments got me blue, my Mom shared a story. When she was younger, my Mom babysat seven children in one family for 50 cents an hour to save up for her passion to ride horses. The day arrived when she had saved enough money and she started going to the stables regularly to rent a horse. She was born to ride horses and soon she could ride like the best of them. People at the stable would comment, "You ride as good as a man." Her young self would feel the prick of this comment, but it gained more of an edge as she grew older and she continued to hear similar comments that uplifted men and marginalized women's power.

Her resolve to change this was passed down to me. She lit a spark within me. And while we have come a long way, I know our journey for gender equality continues. We must audaciously refuse to accept gender norms. Stubbornly, we must question the status quo of what girls and women can be or do.

I’m proud to be a cowgirl among the trailblazing women who came before and that will come after me to bear this torch. Yee-haw ladies!

Tiffany Patterson is a District Executive Director with the Austin YMCA. She holds degrees from Texas A&M University and The University of San Francisco. When she's not at work, she's blessed to spend time with a tremendous network of family and friends.  She loves to travel, go to the theater, listen to live music, explore the outdoors, and eat lavish dinners with a great bottle of red wine.  

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I totally get this... our younger minds knew what our older minds would come to understand. Equality means equal opportunity but also how we are perceived to the outside world. Girls deserved... and still deserve to do what they want- when they want (wearing whatever they want!) 

Tiffany Patterson

Candid Conversations About Race, Hate and How We Can Empower All Women In the Shadow of Charlottesville

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Submitted by Larissa at HERdacity on Tue, 08/22/2017 - 16:14

Everyone is now very much aware of the events in Charlottesville. We see first-hand how people hate one another for being who they are. It’s not that hate is new—but it’s the reasons behind the hate that are so troubling—for someone’s race, ethnicity, gender, age, beliefs, and on and on. We also see that we have failed to recognize one another for who we are—and stand up for one another when we are called upon to do so.

Not all hate is on a national level—it’s also in our personal or work relationships. When someone makes a sexist or racist comment to a woman—yes, some may believe it to be minor, but eventually it builds up to “you’re not worthy.” And if someone believes you are not worthy, they also believe they can do bad things to you. It becomes toxic and corrosive—and even lethal. And it did in Charlottesville.

At HERdacity, we are about empowering women and we focus on the positive—and Charlottesville is the antithesis of our mission. After this event, we were faced with an undeniable realization and we stared at one another—and we asked what we could do.

We found we need to give each other a voice—and we need to ensure we are giving all women a voice. We need to open our hearts and our minds to understand one another. To support one another. To know one another. And we need to have some candid conversations.

With this in mind, we are sharing an authentic and daring piece from our own experience. You can read it below. We hope it will encourage other women—no matter your race, ethnicity or your place in this world—to join this conversation. Our discussion needs to be honest and it needs to be productive. That’s what we’re about at HERdacity—and we dare you to join in.

Larissa Cartwright is HERdacity’s Director of Community Engagement. She opens up about her conversation and her experience below. 

I sputtered and fumbled and conveniently became fixated with my hands. I had a question, something I wanted to talk about. 

I sheepishly looked back up at HERdacity Board Member Pamela Benson Owens. We were sitting in her office to meet about an upcoming event for this very website.

The topic was about, of all things, ‘empowering women’ and how women need to empower each other. We chatted about the logistics of the event… would there be parking? Do we need more PowerPoint slides? 

While Pam sits on the board of this website I write for, I don’t actually know her very well. I had been trying to get on her calendar for a couple of weeks.  She is overwhelmingly successful, and the type of busy that makes you want to take a nap just thinking about it. She’s got the full-time career. She’s an amazing speaker. She volunteers with countless organizations. Sits on boards. She has two (stunningly adorable) children and a husband by her side. AND she’s just released a book she wrote.

And… oh yeah, Pam is black.  

For context I am white. And what we look like doesn’t matter. And this certainly is NOT about me. I know that.

But the day we were meeting about empowering women was just three days after a group of neo-Nazi, white supremacist, racists had a deadly altercation in Virginia. It was/is terrifying. And I didn’t know what to put on this website about the topic that the entire world was talking about.

Now sitting in her office, I wanted advice from our board member. Our board member who happens to be black. We’re a website about empowering all women’s voices. Encouraging all women to dare. But all women aren’t the targets of that type of hatred.

What does daring look like to women of color these days? From what I gathered—daring is just getting dressed and walking out the door. I had to acknowledge that to some women, daring is a privilege.

“I… I just don’t know how to ask…” I mumbled.

Spinning through my head were headlines about ‘woke white women’ trying to make this tragedy about ourselves. 

I wasn’t trying to do that…but I felt like a privileged fraud when I stammered out: “HERdacity needs to talk about what happened in Virginia. Do you have any resources—what can we do?”

I was talking about what I should publish on the site, but in a way… I was asking for me, too.

This time Pam looked away. She sighed.

“I can tell you what I DON’T want,” she said. “I don’t want apologies. I don’t want people to come up to me and tell me ‘I’m so sorry for what my people are doing.’”

Pam continued to weave a tale about her weekend. As images of maskless hate groups entered her home through the television…she had to teach her young daughter and son about race relations. She wanted to drink coffee and relax. Instead she showed her children pictures of tattoos so they could recognize racists… racists who might try to harm them.

She told her kids to trust their guts if someone approached them and it just doesn’t feel right. If you’re looking racism in the face, you know it. When people try and talk you out of it and tell you it isn’t racism…there is no feeling like it…you just know what it is.

She told me she is mad. Sad. Angry. But certainly not shocked.  

She told me about the awful things said to she and her six foot four husband when they get pulled over by police (over and over again).

I quipped, “I can’t imagine what it is like… ”

Um, yeah… she wasn’t having that. “Your experience is NOT invalid,” Pam interrupted. “I don’t want that diminished. Your experiences are powerful. They’re not nothing.”

Still, I felt like I was doing just that. NOTHING.

Pam explained having authentic conversations were helping. The fact that I asked her for her perspective was helping. The fact that I said SOMETHING was helping. That saying NOTHING was bottling it in. That releasing it was releasing the anger.

In the end, there isn’t some neat ‘listicle’ I can write to tell you what you can do to help. There isn’t some organization you can give a donation to… and just clean up this problem.

In the end, I wanted Pam to just write her own blog for this website. It would be so much better and much more powerful than what you just read. 

But Pam and other women of color have enough to do. They’re armored up and on the battle lines navigating a war that should have ended long, long ago. As Pam says, they’re just trying to stay alive. They don’t owe it to anyone to explain the horrors they see or the fear they feel. 

Telling her story seemed like the least I could do to empower her voice. And using this tiny piece of the vast Internet is one way of showing support and picking alliances for the side I’m fighting for.

No. It still isn’t enough. Not even close. But saying nothing is the least daring thing I could do.

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