Wonder Women of Boston Blog

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  • Tuesday, February 26, 2013 10:08 AM | Wonder Women of Boston (Administrator)

    Wonder Women of Boston is happy to co-sponsor the annual
    International Women's Day film screening and panel discussion hosted by the Women's Forum Steering Committee at the United Nations Association of Greater Boston. Details about the event are below or register here.

    Women’s Forum @ UNA-GB presents:

    Not My Life

    International Women’s Day Celebration 

    Reception, Film Screening & Panel Discussion 

    Monday, March 4, 2013

    Reception at 5:00 PM | Film Screening at 6:00 PM | Panel to follow

    Women's Forum @ UNA-GB invites you to join us in our celebration of International Women's Day (March 8th internationally) with a film screening of "Not My Life," directed by Robert Bilheimer. This film documents the dangerous practices of human trafficking and modern slavery on a global scale. Our panelists will focus on the disproportionate effects of human trafficking on women and girls around the globe.

    "Not My Life" information and trailer can be found here.

    Panelists to include:

    Siddharth Kara, Fellow on Human Trafficking, Carr Center of Human Rights Policy, Harvard Kennedy School

    Brittany Santoro, Communications and Advocacy Specialist at Demand Abolition

    Mireille Aramati, Assistant Professor, Global Health  at Tufts University School of Medicine


    About the host:
    Women's Forum Steering Committee
    United Nations Association of Greater Boston
    Since 2006, the Women's Forum @ UNA-GB has become an active local community of women and men working to improve the lives of women and families in the developing world. Its mission is to raise awareness of the issues facing women in developing countries and to engage others in this effort.
    The United Nations Association of Greater Boston (UNA-GB) serves as a resource for the citizens of the Greater Boston area on the broad agenda of critical global issues addressed by the United Nations and its agencies: peacekeeping, human rights, humanitarian relief, economic development, and education. A membership organization founded more than 50 years ago, UNA-GB is committed to building a stronger network of global citizens in the Boston area.
  • Thursday, January 10, 2013 2:08 PM | Wonder Women of Boston (Administrator)

    By Johanna Voss

    We know it’s coming, every year. December 31st and January 1st. The end of the year and the inevitable thought of r e s o l u t i o n s, whether you make ‘em or not. (And you can't make a resolution to not make a resolution. That just doesn't work.)

    Unfortunately for those of us that do make resolutions, most of us fall into this space of being unsuccessful with our resolutions. And not too soon after making them, we already feel as if we have failed. Yet inevitably the following year, what do we do but make yet another resolution.

    The good news is that you are part of the majority. Yay! Studies show that 88% of people who set resolutions feel as if they have failed no matter how confident they were of their resolutions’ success from the onset.

    Well that’s not cool.

    With the task of writing this article upon me, I got curious as to the origin of resolutions.

    Whose idea was this anyway?

    After extensive research (aka, The Google) I stumbled upon some interesting facts.
    1. New Year’s celebration is the oldest of all holidays.
    2. Historically it was first celebrated in ancient Babylon around 4,000 years ago.
    3. Previously, New Year’s celebrations took place in the spring, around March 23rd. It being a season of rebirth and new crops made that date much more aligned with the idea of a new year or new cycle.
    4. And my favorite fact by far: Most Babylonians resolved to return farm equipment in the New Year.

    My, how far we’ve come. (Although I guess I can’t speak for today’s farmers. Perhaps they borrow farm equipment often throughout the year?)

    While reading about different culture’s New Year’s traditions and common resolutions, I was struck by a few things. Most importantly, the simplicity of other cultures’ and older civilizations’ resolutions.

    It made me realize that we, us North Americans (and myself most definitely included), aren’t good at keeping things simple when it comes to resolutions.

    I will lose weight. I will go to the gym. I will be nicer. I will be less stressed. I will be more patient. I will cook more. I will stop smoking. I will sleep better.

    Sound familiar? There’s a lot going on there.

    I was also struck by the quantifiable-ness, the measure-ability, of some of these older civilizations’ resolutions.

    Take the typical resolution of an Ancient Babylonian  I will return borrowed farm equipment.

    When borrowed farm equipment is returned, mission accomplished! Everyone involved feels great, everyone is clear as to what need to happens to make this resolution come true. And it’s most definitely crossed off the Babylonian to-do list....at least until the next year.

    As a health coach, I’m all about people setting goals - both of the short term and long term variety.  So I’d be lying if I said that I didn’t love love love January 1st and wake up with a laundry list of resolutions myself.

    That being said, I think it’s clear that we can learn a thing or two from the Ancient Babylonians about how to set resolutions. No matter if you’ve made them already for 2013, haven’t yet gotten around that or avoiding this topic like the plague, here’s some suggestions about how to be in the 12% of people who actually feel success with their resolutions.

    #1 Keep it simple.
    There are a couple ways to go about this.

     a. One is the more obvious answer, which is to only pick a couple resolutions, instead of a whole list.

    b.  Another approach, which is one of my approaches this year is to pick a theme. Maybe you pick three words that you want to embody your 2013 experience. I’ve chosen Adventure. Growth. Shine. Some other themes you could go with are: Divine, Honest, Grateful, Mindful, Glowing, Vibrant, Sexy, Empowered.

    c.  Finally, instead of focusing on what you are going to do, focus instead on how you are going to feel. And then from that, make the connection about what you need to do in order to achieve that feeling. For example, perhaps you want to feel strong (in body.) This could be done by running your first 10k. Or lifting weights 2x/week. Maybe you want to feel strong (in mind) so adding a twice weekly meditation to your  calendar is your ticket. The difference here is that you are taking a larger view at what you are doing. It’s not about getting stuck up in the weeds of “ugh, I have to go to the gym today” but more, “I’m getting stronger” today. I know that personally when I change my mindset to, “Johanna, how do you want to feel today?” there is a shift in my attitude towards whatever I need to do to achieve that feeling. My action becomes the means to an end, not the end. You with me?

    #2 Make it measureable.
    How can you set up milestones along the way to know that you are reaching your goal?

    a. Adding quantifiers such as “I’m going to do such and such activity three times a week or once every four months or weekly” are HUGE in helping us progress and have a sense of accomplishment. Can you see already how much further you are on your resolution journey by stating, “I’m going to run a 10k every 3 months” vs “I’m going to run” or “I’m going to be healthy?”

    b. Tracking your progress is a necessity. How? Write down what you do on whatever calendar or time management tool you use the most. I write down my daily accomplishments in my google calendar, which of course synchs to my iphone. And it’s color coded, so all that beautiful color jumps out at me, reminding me that I’m awesome. And making progress. 

    #3 It takes a village.

    a. You aren’t in this alone. Share your resolutions. Chances are some of your resolutions can be accomplished with the help of someone else. My mom and I skyped last week to share our resolutions. I know that she would appreciate my help in reaching hers. And I know for sure that I can’t reach mine alone without the help of my family and friends.

    b.  Don’t hesitate to pair up with a friend or an accountability partner. You’re less likely to let a friend down than you are let yourself down. By making that commitment to someone else, even if it’s just verbal, you’re putting yourself on the path of successful resolution-ness in 2013.

    Here’s to you being even more of a Wonder Woman than you already are.

    Johanna Voss is a whiz at making it easier for you to eat healthier, have more energy, overcome cravings and work out.  Her latest program, New Year, New You; 4 Week Bootcamp to Detox Your Indulgences starts January 21st, 2013. She is a Health Coach, wellness nut, bookworm, traveler, adventurer, cook, half marathoner, Spanish speaker, nosy bookstore and cafe dweller. Her motto is: “Eat well. Be happy. Love life.” She hangs out at http://www.johannavoss.com

  • Thursday, January 03, 2013 2:30 PM | Wonder Women of Boston (Administrator)

    By Kelsey Warner

    In my ideal world, I leave a networking event having met two new donors, a person willing to do some pro bono and enough free hors d’oeuvres so I don’t have to make dinner. Our ideal world puts a lot of pressure on us. And mostly never happens, which is why I’m happy there’s Wonder Women of Boston.

    I went to my first Wonder Women event last August. I met people interested in talking about their neighborhoods, who were super honest about how they felt about their work, who commiserated when I ate half the cheese plate.  I even found a fabulous new advisory board member for SmallCanBeBig. It felt easy. Everyone was so nice. How was an hour out of my day so damn productive? Why was everyone so interesting?

    I haven’t figured these things out yet. But what I do know is that a simple model is often the most effective. We weren’t there because of a common goal or shared interest. No panel was assembled nor product launched. We were just bein’ ladies.
    But the interactions that were occurring were immediate. ‘You need a new logo? I know the greatest graphic designer, here’s her email.’ ‘You just moved to Porter Square? This is where the best market is for fresh produce.’ That sense of immediacy is part of what makes giving so rewarding. Wonder Women does this elegantly, so the people who attend their events feel like they have given of themselves and perhaps received something valuable in return.

    SmallCanBeBig is the organization I run when not consuming cheese plates, and it is the lucky beneficiary of the networking event coming up in January. Part of what makes Wonder Women special is similar to SCBB – the impact of your giving is immediate. When you purchase your ticket for Wonder Women’s networking event, 100% of every dollar will go directly to a specific family in need. This money addresses rent or a utility bill or medical expense, so the impact of your donation is immediate – for you and for the family you’re helping. That 100% commitment is also true on our website. We partner with the best social services agencies in the state to identify families who can truly benefit from a one-time gift. Most of the families we help are headed by single moms, Wonder Women themselves. Some are overcoming domestic violence and need first and last month’s rent to start fresh. Others are recent immigrants or have children facing unexpected illnesses. Most are people who live right in Boston. Check out families who need some help right now here, and email me if you have any questions: kelsey@smallcanbebig.org.

    Can’t wait to meet you in January. I’ll be by the cheese.
  • Friday, December 28, 2012 2:30 PM | Wonder Women of Boston (Administrator)

    By Johanna Voss

    Put down the latest diet book you are reading. Stop searching for the next quick fix solution to be healthier. Don’t buy that pill that promises to help you lose weight with the aid of an exotic plant root. Enough of cutting out necessary parts of your diet (low-fat, no carb anyone?) and listen up.

    It’s time you approached your health and wellness with a long term perspective. No more of these short term approaches which are doomed to fail. There’s a diet for everything and everyone. It’s a multi-billion dollar industry. Yet so many people aren’t living their ideal healthy life, including you. So what gives?

    What if I told you that everything you need to know to be healthy, you already knew? What if I told you that you have all the answers to live a healthier life? What if I told you you didn’t need to buy another book (except perhaps a cookbook) or pill to be healthy?

    I know that I don’t know you. And I totally get it’s, well, kinda presumptuous to assume what you know. But I’m going to go out on a limb here and guess that at a minimum, you are familiar with the following statements.

    Eat fruits and vegetables. Drink water. Consume real food. Get a good amount of sleep. Be active. Smile and laugh often.

    Okay. So if you read those statements and found yourself nodding your head in agreement, this is good.  You might have even been thinking, “tell me something I don’t know Johanna.” That’s just it. I don’t have anything new to tell you. There isn’t anything that you don’t know about how to be healthy.

    You already know the what-to-do about being healthy. What you are stuck on is the how-to-do piece.

    How do you remember to drink more water?
    How do you eat more fruits and vegetables when you don’t like broccoli, beets and brussel sprouts?
    How can you be more active when your schedule is jam packed?
    How can you eat real food when you don’t feel comfortable in your kitchen?
    How can you smile and laugh more when you are so stressed?
    How can you get a good night’s sleep when you are busy up until the moment you crawl into bed?

    And the larger question is, how, as a Wonder Woman of Boston, do you not get immediately overwhelmed and stop reading this article?

    You pick just one thing. That’s right. One thing.  I’m fairly confident that you have an idea of something that you could be doing better. Be it making healthier food choices, getting more sleep, drinking more water or getting active, you know the number one thing you could be doing better for your health and wellness. So pick that one area and don’t worry about the rest.

    Yup, I’m giving you permission not to worry about everything else…(for now.)

    Now that you’ve picked the one thing, the one area that you can focus on to improve your health, keep reading to get next steps.

    Eat more fruits and veggies.

    Drink water
      • Before you grab your coffee or tea each morning, drink a glass of water first
      • Drink a glass with some freshly squeezed lemon juice each morning or night before you go to bed
      • Have a glass before you brush your teeth in the am or pm. 

      Consume real food
        • Reach for the real thing. Grab a piece of fruit instead of juice.
        • Try not to eat something that comes out of a bag or box. Instead go for an item, whose ingredients are all pronounceable and real. Better yet, go for the item that can be consumed as is.  For example, trail mix 

        Get a good amount of sleep

        • Start your bedtime routine earlier
        • Watch one less tv show at night
        • Don’t start new projects after 8 or 9pm (this include laundry, clean up, one-last-quick-email check.)
        • Turn off your computer at night
        • Don’t sleep with electronics in the room 

        Be active

        • Already exercising? Great. Add 10 minutes to whatever you already do
        • Recruit a buddy to join you or just tell someone what you are going to do
        • Join a group class
        • Sign up for a road race
        • Start your day with 10 minutes of stretching
        • Schedule the time into your calendar
        • Embrace just 15 mins of activity as a start. It’s a great foundation to build upon 

        Smile and laugh more
        • Keep a gratitude journal. Each night, write down 1-3 things you are grateful for from that day
        • Tell someone special how important they are in your life
        • Phone a friend to say hi, even if it means just leaving a voicemail for them
        • Stop what you are doing, take a deep breath and smile


        Here’s to you being even more of a Wonder Woman than you already are.

        Johanna started out in the “real world” as a political organizer. She left in ’08 to feed her soul and traveled around the world for one year, visiting 20+ countries. She had also backpacked through Europe in 2000 and lived in Spain 3x. She launched her coaching business while living in Barcelona. Now she helps ambitious, intelligent and engaging women find their happy, healthy sweet spot. She is a Health Coach, wellness nut, bookworm, traveler, adventurer, cook, half marathoner, Spanish speaker, nosy bookstore and cafe dweller. Her motto is: “Eat well. Be happy. Love life.” She hangs out at http://www.johannavoss.com

      • Thursday, December 13, 2012 2:30 PM | Wonder Women of Boston (Administrator)

        by Leslee Kagan

        With the holiday season in full swing, our lives have become even more hectic. To-do lists are longer while our attention span is shorter, and there never seems to be enough time in one day to get everything done. All in all, we are busy trying to make the holiday season the best it can be for our families, friends, neighbors and co-workers.

        During this time, however, when we’re so focused on others, it’s more important than ever to be attentive to our own needs. Our health depends on it!

        Individuals who practice self care are healthier and happier year-round; it is vital to well-being and to fighting disease. Women in particular tend to become so focused on the needs of others that we don’t have time for ourselves, which just aggravates the stress cycle.

        So what exactly is self care? Simply put, it ultimately means making choices that are right for you and for your body; it’s managing stress, eating a healthy and balanced diet, and getting adequate sleep and exercise. In addition, it’s important to have a positive attitude and a sense of humor, as well as a strong social network. Although this all seems self-explanatory, too often self care is neglected. Many women are under tremendous stress and put their own health last. You’ve heard it before – if you cannot care for yourself, then you cannot properly care for others.

        Peg Baim, MS, NP; Aggie Casey, MS, RN; and Leslee Kagan, MS, FNP at Benson-Henry Institute for Mind Body Medicine

        At the Benson-Henry Institute for Mind Body Medicine (BHI), we conceptualize health as a three-legged stool. The first two legs represent pharmaceuticals and surgery, which we may require when we already have a health problem. The third leg – self care – is critical to our well-being.  It’s proactive, preventive, and – most importantly – it’s something we can do for ourselves to optimize our health. Through our clinical programs at BHI, we teach people how to become more fully aware of their own ability to manage stress and harness their innate healing power through self care and the relaxation response.

        In the late 1960’s, Dr. Herbert Benson, the Director Emeritus and founder of BHI, coined the term the “relaxation response.” The relaxation response is a state – and it is the physiologic opposite of the stress response. When the relaxation response is elicited, breathing, metabolism and heart rate slow down, blood pressure drops, and muscles relax.

        The relaxation response is the foundation of stress management at BHI. Through research, we have found that it can be elicited by a variety of techniques, such as meditation, diaphragmatic breathing, focusing on a word or phrase, repetitive prayer, chi gong, tai chi, and yoga.

        The necessary two basic steps to eliciting the relaxation response are the repetition of a sound, word, phrase or prayer, or movement, and the passive setting aside of intruding thoughts and returning to the repetition. A body of research (some of it conducted at BHI) shows that eliciting the relaxation response is measurably effective in countering the harmful effects of stress.

        Here’s an example of a simple way to elicit the relaxation response and can help you reduce holiday stress. Try this exercise in a quiet and familiar place.

        Eliciting the Relaxation Response:

        The following is the technique most commonly taught at the Benson-Henry Institute:

        1. Pick a focus word, short phrase, or prayer that is firmly rooted in your belief system, such as “one,” “peace,” “calm.”
        2. Sit quietly in a comfortable position.
        3. Close your eyes.
        4. Relax your muscles, progressing from your feet to your calves, thighs, abdomen, shoulders, head, and neck.
        5. Breathe slowly and naturally, and as you do, say your focus word, sound, phrase, or prayer silently to yourself as you exhale.
        6. Assume a passive attitude. Don’t worry about how well you’re doing. When other thoughts come to mind, simply say to yourself, “Oh well,” and gently return to your repetition.
        7. Continue for ten to twenty minutes.
        8. Do not stand immediately. Continue sitting quietly for a minute or so, allowing other thoughts to return. Then open your eyes and sit for another minute before rising.
        9. Practice the technique once or twice daily. Good times to do this are before breakfast and before dinner.

        Try this simple relaxation response exercise, in addition to making other choices for self care strategies, such as connecting with friends, going for a brisk morning walk, or simply focusing on the moment while cooking or wrapping presents.

        Leslee Kagan, MS, FNP and Peg Baim, MS, NP of Benson-Henry Institute for Mind Body Medicine at Massachusetts General Hospital

        For more relaxation exercises, visit www.massgeneral.org/bhi/basics. The Benson-Henry Institute also has a stress reduction program for women coming up (details below).

        Happy holidays, and best wishes for a calmer and happier New Year!


        Taking Care of Ourselves: A Program for Women
        This four-week wellness program from the Benson-Henry Institute for Mind Body Medicine at Massachusetts General Hospital teaches women self care skills. The program is designed to help participants cope with the stress of daily life, leaving them with a renewed sense of control and well-being.

        During the one-hour lunchtime sessions, participants will learn:

        • The physiology of stress and how it affects the body
        • Self-care strategies to reduce stress and increase resilience
        • Relaxation techniques such as meditation, diaphragmatic breathing, mindfulness and imagery
        • Easy ways to reduce or stop stress-inducing thoughts

        Taking Care of Ourselves
        is led by Leslee Kagan, MS, FNP, Director of Women’s Health at the Benson-Henry Institute for Mind Body Medicine.

        The program begins Tuesday, January 8th and will take place four consecutive weeks from 12:00 noon to 1:00 pm at the Yawkey building (suite 4940) at MGH. Program cost is $95.

        To learn more or to register for Taking Care of Ourselves, please call Maureen Gilbert at 617-643-6067 or e-mail msgilbert@partners.org. The deadline for registering is December 21, 2012.


        About Mind Body Medicine

        Mind body medicine is an evidence-based field that draws from many scientific disciplines, including modern medicine, psychology, neuroscience, genomics, nutrition, and exercise physiology. The goal is to enhance the body’s natural healing capacities. Mind body medicine does not devalue conventional medicine, pharmacology or surgery, but rather, it adopts the perspective that health is optimized when mind body approaches are used in combination with conventional medicine.

        To learn more about the Benson-Henry Institute and our clinical programs, please visit us online at www.massgeneral.org/bhi and follow us on Facebook at www.facebook.com/BensonHenryInstitute

        Leslee Kagan, MS, FNP is the Director of Women’s Health Programs at the Benson-Henry Institute for Mind Body Medicine at Massachusetts General Hospital

      • Thursday, November 29, 2012 5:34 PM | Wonder Women of Boston (Administrator)

        By Jeanne Dasaro

        Find a gift for anyone on your list while shopping with 5 Massachusetts-based companies whose products and services give back and make a difference.

        Prosperity Candle

        Prosperity Candle‘s holiday collection features handmade candles and gifts from all over the world, from women artisans right here in the U.S. to Zimbabwe, Afghanistan, and more. Their mission is simple: empowering women in and from distressed areas of the world through entrepreneurship and candle-making. What’s more, every gift comes with the story of the woman who made it, allowing you to send messages of hope through Prosperity Candle’s website. Fostering connections between creators and consumers: a perfect antidote to big box retail and meaningless mass-market holiday gifts! Learn more at http://prosperitycandle.com

        LEAP Organics

        The idea for LEAP Organics was created during many runs around the Charles River in Boston by its founder, Luke Penney…all of those post-run showers were the perfect testing ground for a great cleansing soap! All of LEAP’s soaps are produced in VT and the company is run out of Cambridge, MA.  LEAP is a member of 1% For The Planet and donates a minimum of 1% of sales to environmental non-profits.  In addition, LEAP is a Certified B Corp, and in 2012, was named a “Best For The World” B Corp for creating the most overall positive social and environmental impact.  Learn more at www.leaporganics.com.

        Taza Chocolate

        Taza Chocolate is a bean-to-bar chocolate maker and the only producer in the U.S. of 100% stone ground, organic chocolate crafted from Direct Trade certified cacao. They roast, winnow, grind, temper, and package their chocolate in-house and by hand. Taza Chocolate is proud to make chocolate that is good to eat, clean for the planet, and fair to farmers. Taza offers several tours each week of their factory in Somerville, Ma., and have an on-site retail store. Learn more at http://www.tazachocolate.com/


        Project Have Hope

        Project Have Hope empowers women in Uganda by providing them with the education and financial resources to create financially sustainable livelihoods. The women are talented artisans who make beautiful, colorful hand-craft jewelry from recycled paper, glass and old coins. Project Have Hope, based in Malden, Ma., uses the revenue from jewelry sales to fund educational and economic programs. Learn more at http://projecthavehope.org



        Small Can Be Big

        SmallCanBeBig.org is a new way to help based on a simple premise: give everyone a more direct, more personal, more local and more shared way to help those in need, and big things can happen. SmallCanBeBig.org is unique – whether it’s $3 or $300, every last penny you give goes directly to address a specific need, rent or utility bill or medical expense, so the impact of your donation is immediate – for you and for the family you’re helping. Learn more at http://smallcanbebig.org

      • Thursday, November 15, 2012 2:30 PM | Wonder Women of Boston (Administrator)

        By Kit Murray Maloney

        I seem to remember that there was once a time when I thought the idea of working from home sounded great. Five years later and that feels like the most misguided, naive, and futile thought I’ve had. And I once tried to cook ramen noodles without putting water in the pan… (I was only 7yrs old, but still.)

        Please learn from me.

        Working exclusively from home is like ‘daffy duck’ throughout the day, think no pants, a general sense of confusion and never really getting your act together. Compare that with having a membership in a collaborative environment which is like being a unique version of your most creative, efficient and effective super-hero self.

        Ask anyone who has ever worked exclusively from home for a significant amount of time and I bet they’ll agree that during that time they were lonely but also unproductive.

        When I set out to start my own company this summer, I was adamant that I needed to have a desk outside of my apartment. So I got myself just that a desk – nothing more and nothing less. As you can imagine, I found myself working from my living room a lot: counterproductive.

        Sure, I needed a desk, but I really needed a space and a community. It was helpful to have my desk further than a room away from my bed, but for me, to be my most productive self my desk needed to be situated in an environment that was comfortable, supportive and engaging. It needed to have, at its heart, collaboration dripping from the beams. I wanted to surround myself with people who didn’t necessarily share my specific goals but cared deeply and were invested in helping me reach those milestones, and vice a versa!

        Before I was able to launch my first business, I launched a second venture, Collaboratory4.0. At Collaboratory4.0 we live, breathe, and thrive in the belief that the tide raises all ships. For example, a few months ago I might have lost weeks attempting to self-learn affiliate marketing, now I toss up my questions on our Idea Paint smothered walls and they’re expertly answered almost instantly by the Collaboratory4.0 community. The ups and downs of launching a new business are inevitable, but because of our genuine commitment to engagement, members of the Collaboratory are present, full of energy their productivity is nothing short of inspirational.

        Please join myself and members of Collaboratory4.0 on Tuesday December 4, 2012 from 6:00pm – 8:00pm, as we celebrate our launch with a party. In true form, for this event, we have collaborated with New York Times BESTSELLING authors Anthony Flynn and Emily Flynn Vencat of Custom Nation: Why Customization Is the Future of Business and How to Profit From It.

        Kit Murray Maloney is the Founder & CEO of O’actually, which provides a healthy, sophisticated, and modern web portal for adult entertainment. She is also the Founder and & Managing Partner of Collaboratory4.0, Boston’s first and only co-working space to focus on supporting majority women owned businesses.

      • Thursday, October 25, 2012 3:30 PM | Wonder Women of Boston (Administrator)

        By Lex Schroeder

        This article was originally published on Boston.com's Global Business Hub.

        About a year ago I met up with a friend and colleague to check in on each other’s projects. We eventually got around to weightier topics, and she said she felt like the women’s leadership movement was more or less stuck. “It’s like we just keep running around giving each other awards,” she said. “But then what?”

        Since then with this image in my head of women running circles I’ve been keeping an eye out for people and organizations who are moving the women’s leadership conversation forward. By this I mean not just saying something new, but saying what we’re too often silent about, or, going about the conversation differently if need be. I mean asking ourselves hard questions like, “Who gets to participate in the public, highly visible conversation about women in the first place? Who isn’t in the room?” And I mean going beyond models of leadership that served us for a while, but maybe don’t serve us so well anymore.

        It’s an exciting, tricky time to be a woman leader. I joke with girlfriends that “women are soooo trendy” these days because we kind of are. People seem to be getting the hint that women’s leadership is where it’s at, that maybe if we had more women leaders, our businesses, organizations, and communities heck the earth would be better off. Do we know how to get more women in leadership positions though? Not so much.

        In the spirit of not running around in circles, here are a few ways we can support women leaders and keep the conversation interesting.

        Back good ideas, wherever they come from. One way to support women leaders is to go out looking for them. Another, simpler way is to ask yourself if you genuinely back good ideas wherever they come from. We may think we’re ok with the idea of women setting the agenda or playing key roles in important dealings, but we work with people we’re most comfortable with. Backing a good idea wherever it comes from may mean going outside of your comfort zone. (Entertain the idea that you have a comfort zone.) This goes for men and women alike.

        Question your assumptions about power. As business thinkers have encouraged more “flat”, networked organizations, we’ve begun to change leadership structures. But we must do more than adjust structures; we must question our beliefs about leadership and more specifically, power… how it works and what it looks like. Letting go of strict, top-down hierarchical structures doesn’t do much if we approach our work with the same old attitudes about power.

        For example, as my colleague Lina Cramer reminds me, we know that we can immediately strengthen a community by increasing two things: diversity and connectivity. Consciously or unconsciously, many women know this. So in business, when faced with a strategic challenge, we may respond by encouraging a greater diversity of ideas or paying closer attention to office communication and well-being as a way of improving teamwork and developing capacity. But these methods often get categorized as “soft skills” and are perceived to be of lesser value than more traditional leadership styles and methods. In many cases, women lead differently than men. When we dismiss women’s leadership as soft and their methods somehow secondary or besides the point, we make it harder for them to lead.

        Call it out. When you see or experience an injustice in your professional lifeundefinedaka your life call it out. There’s a way to do it appropriately. In her article for The Atlantic, “Why Women Still Can’t Have It All,” Anne-Marie Slaughter names the exhaustion so many women feel in attempting to balance work and family. In contrast to the advice we hear these days along the lines of “dream bigger,” Slaughter bravely offers: “I would hope to see commencement speeches that finger America’s social and business policies, rather than women’s level of ambition, in explaining the dearth of women at the top.” What’s more, every time you call something out you arm people with new language. A lot of people (women and men) aren’t happy with where women’s leadership stands, but we don’t always have the language to explain what needs to change.

        Leave women’s bodies out of it. Speaking of calling things out, Barnard student and founder of FBomb, Julie Zeilinger said it best in her recent Forbes column, “Why Millennial Women Do Not Want to Lead”: “During the 2008 presidential campaign, Hillary Clinton and Sarah Palin were presented not as political candidates, but rather as stereotypes and opposite ends of sexist dichotomies. Both women’s ideals were dismissed in exchange for commentary on their physical attractiveness or their [ability] to live up to [definitions] of femininity.” This still happens all the time. And, speaking just for myself here, for women-led startups, it would be nice to see fewer logos with an absurdly thin woman in heels clutching some new fancy product. We might also cool it with pink. Pink is awesome, but not all the time. Seriously though, it’s as if we feel we have to prove our feminity and sexuality before our ideas can become interesting.

        Recognize men as allies. When I think about the professional opportunities I’ve been given that have made a difference for me, men have almost always been involved. Men bosses and colleagues have trusted me with important projects, gone to bat for me, and invited me into important meetings. This is not to say I could not have gotten those kinds of opportunities by other means; it is to acknowledge the role of men as advocates for women in gender imbalanced systems. Men have always been a key part of the women’s movement and I imagine they will have to play a bigger role to come if we are to continue making gains.

        Show financial support and enter into the dialogue about money. If you have it to give, support women leaders and entrepreneurs by making a contribution to their cause or startup. If you struggle with your relationship to money, check out the trailer for filmmaker Katie Teague’s documentary Money & Life, spread the word, and help her get the film out there.

        These may not be the most direct ways of supporting women’s leadership, but they are powerful precisely because they involve all of us, not just women. When we think critically about how we show up in the workplace and in our community, when we consider what we’re willing to talk about and what we stay silent about, and when we welcome men into the conversation about women’s leadership as allies and fellow citizens, we expand increase our collective strength as women leaders and women’s advocates.

        Lex Schroeder is a writer/speaker on leadership, mindful work, and creativity. She is a Partner at Wisdom Exchange, a Research Fellow at The Lean Enterprise Institute and a Connector for Boston World Partnerships.

      • Thursday, October 18, 2012 3:30 PM | Wonder Women of Boston (Administrator)

        by Erin Anderson

        At a conference entitled Art & Power in Movement at UMass-Amherst, I approached Professor Emeritus Sonia Sanchez with a question that had been nagging at me in the work I was doing at the time. “How do we work to overcome fear and oppression within our communities?” Her response: “My sister, in whatever you do, you must build a united front.”

        If there is one thing that can tie us together as women, as human beings (all politics and histories aside) it is the acknowledgement of the need to invest in something that is beyond usundefineda world that we feel is a safer, happier, and more honest place for future generations. It pivots on the point of healthy communities, comprehensive education, access, families, children, culture, and the local economy.

        In 2001, Wendell Berry wrote:

        “The idea of a local economy rests upon only two principles: neighborhood and subsistence. In a viable neighborhood, neighbors ask themselves what they can do or provide for one another, and they find answers that they and their place can afford. This, and nothing else, is the practice of neighborhood. This practice must be, in part, charitable, but it must also be economic, and the economic part must be equitable… But a viable neighborhood is a community; and a viable community is made up of neighbors who cherish and protect what they have in common.”

        Go Local MetroBoston  believes in highlighting existing community strengths to educate about what is local and celebrate the impact individual choice has on community prosperity. Communities are empowered knowing their existing strengths can create substantial and immediate change. Our choice to support local business caters to each vendor and their family’s ability to thrive and our overall success as a MetroBoston community. The economic impact of big box versus local and independent has been researched and written.

        For example, in 2007 Civic Economics issued a San Francisco Retail Diversity Study:

        $1 million spent at local bookstores, for example, creates $321,000 in additional economic activity in the area, including $119,000 in wages paid to local employees. That same $1 million spent at chain bookstores generates only $188,000 in local economic activity, including $71,000 in local wages. If residents were to redirect just 10 percent of their spending from chains to local businesses, that would generate $192 million in additional economic activity in San Francisco and almost 1,300 new jobs.

        Go Local Austin’s model has had a 10% population saturation rateundefined620 member businesses and over 174,000 go local cards in circulation. Boston deserves this same type of community investment.  Go Local MetroBoston’s model has been tailored and designed by each individual community to celebrate Boston’s robust diversity and history. To parallel this we also want to create a conversation that speaks to an area as a whole. Meaning, we believe that Cambridge can only be as economically viable as Dorchester and vice versa. Our city is deeply seeded in history and culture and it is something that we want to preserve and showcase to the rest of the nation. We are proud of the aspects that make us unique our local businesses, artists, community based organizations, and community residents.

        The concept of the local economy is defined by our experience multicultural and multigenerational and the honest relationships that are fostered in result of these connections.  It’s knowing the name of your grocer, farmer, butcher, hairstylist, and chiropractor, etc; and truly caring about their life story, family, and overall success.

        A recurring emotional, human-to-human interaction, triggers empathy and understanding of a collective experience. Although we often need an incentive to nudge us in a new direction, loyalty is not based on discounts or rewards. Our loyalties lie within those who are part of our social fabric. This is how we grow as human beings. This is how we invest. This is how we build a united front.

        photo credit: Boston Skyline by Erin Anderson

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