A 3-Point Framework for How to Be a Better Ally

Dr. Tiffany Jana

If you are a white woman who feels a little tentative to speak out or take action on the movement to confront racial injustice right now, you should know this: You are not alone.

“There is a massive sense of fear and resistance in this moment that white people are feeling that is rooted in a lack of understanding,” says Dr. Tiffany Jana, Conferences for Women speaker and diversity and inclusion expert.

Overcoming this—and becoming part of the solution at this critical time—does not lend itself to quick, easy fixes. There is much unlearning and new learning to be done, and much courage and generosity to be tapped.

But there is also a clear three-step framework that Jana offers as a way to become, as they say, “a tool and not a weapon” in confronting racial injustice. Jana is founder of TMI Consulting Inc. and co-author of the 2020 book, Subtle Acts of Exclusion.

1. Invest time in your own education—and know that, in itself, is a big deal.

In any kind of showing up for other people, you are either going to be the tool or the weapon,” says Jana. “An undereducated or malinformed person is going to be a weapon moving through the world causing harm in this moment. An introspective, well-informed person will be able to serve as a tool also known as ally, accomplice or co-conspirator.”

That’s why the best first step is to take a good look at yourself and advance your own understanding, Jana says. “Embracing your own education is a big freaking deal, particularly if you are a woman and there is a good likelihood that you are raising children or raising a spouse or taking care of business,” they said.

“If you are doing it right you are spending hours upon hours internalizing,” they added. “What happens when you take this kind of information in is it disturbs your equilibrium and that is not small. I don’t want anyone thinking that reading and introspecting now is something small.”

Jana also advises: Be sure to read a mix of Black and white voices, adding that—while it is clearly important to learn directly from Black voices—there is also something sacred about hearing from people like you about their journey in becoming more inclusive. Two white authors Jana recommends:

For a roundup of Black voices on race, visit the Conference for Women’s new Resource Center for Confronting Racial Injustice.

2. Reach out to other white people—in a spirit of “each one teach one.”

“We don’t need you on Day One to reach out to Black people; you need to reach out to white people. Bring a sister up with you. Make your reading into a book club so you have accountability. Talk about a chapter a week. Then you have people you can have conversation with. You don’t have to sit in your discomfort alone,” says Jana.

“The wonderful thing about the nature of diversity is even if you are of the same race, you still experience things a little differently; and one white sister might be further in the journey and able to unpack something you haven’t looked at yet,” they added.

3. Hold each other accountable.

“Before, it was typically people of color who had to hold the system accountable, and we were often yelling in the wind,” says Jana. “Now what we want to see from our white allies is once you’ve done that education, bounced things off your girlfriends, worked together to become more culturally fluent—stand up and use your newly informed and empowered voice to make sure you are calling out racial injustice when you see it.”

It is also important, they added, to pro-actively support Black people in service of cultivating greater equity in the workplace and society. Some specific ways Jana suggests you can do this:

  • Sponsor Black women. “Sponsoring means when I’m not in the room, you are actively advocating for me to be able to participate more fully. Or, when you hear someone saying something racist, you speak up and say that is not appropriate. I’ve worked with her and know firsthand she is a stellar employee.”
  • Buy from Black-owned businesses. “One of the most powerful things you can do is spend money in Black-owned businesses. Virtually everything can be purchased brom Black businesses.”
  • Make room for Black women to advance in the workplace. “If we are advocating for each other across racial lines, particularly when the privileged are advocating for the underrepresented, you embed a level of innovation and resilience and cultural competency and fluency into an organization that serves the mission’s goals more than homogeneity every would”

    “If a white woman does not get a job, trust me, she will find another opportunity at another moment.

    “But Black women are so far behind the starting line, it has been fundamentally unfair and weighted against her from birth,” Jana says—which is why there are times when a white woman should step back and make room for a Black woman to advance. “That’s really putting your money where your mouth is.”

Finally, do not stop.

“My invitation to everyone who is emerging in this moment and waking up to the reality and intensity and the atrocity of racial violence,” Jana says, is this: “I beg that you don’t give up. Do not stop until we have eliminated the fallacy of the hierarchy of human value—because if we stop and settle for something less, we are denying ourselves, our children and grandchildren the beautiful future we can absolutely guarantee if we do this work now.”

Learn more at the Conferences for Women’s new Resource Center for Confronting Racial Injustice.


Also, new this month:

  • Two-time National Book Award-winner Jesmyn Ward speaks about “Giving Voice to All” – on the latest episode of our Women Amplified podcast.
  • Also, check out the newly released sessions on Best Breakouts, an audio series featuring timeless insights from our archives including ways to expand your knowledge and make important changes to advance inclusivity and mitigate bias, better support women of color in the workplace, and how to advocate through authentic activism.
Posted in Speaker Articles, Life on Your Terms Tagged , |

What to Do When Your Plans Encounter a Pandemic

young woman pinning notes on a bulletin board to keep track of plans

Now that at least some of the shock of living in a global pandemic is diminishing, it may be time to ask: How do we pick up the pieces and start thinking creatively about next steps—or, perhaps, even how to re-invent ourselves in a new world?

But before even beginning to try to answer that, it may be helpful to recall Anne Lamott’s classic insight into the creative process.

In Bird by Bird, Lamott writes: “the only way I can get anything written at all is to write really, really shitty first drafts.” There are no “good second drafts and terrific third drafts” for anyone, she says, without that first messy step.

That truth about creativity, like innovation, prompted us to talk recently with Mary Laura Philpott, Conference for Women speaker and bestselling author of I Miss You When I Blink.

“Now, and moving forward with every passing week, we have to be even more creative because we’re not coasting on novelty anymore,” said Philpott, who has been compared to Nora Ephron. “We can’t coast on the excuses we had in the beginning, when there was a snow day-like feeling. We have to figure it out.”

If You Feel Blocked

But what if you feel like you don’t have it in you to create what comes next?

“What I always tell younger writers who ask me about how to overcome writer’s block is that there is no such thing. It’s a label we give to fear, when we are afraid of what we have to do or it is difficult,” says Philpott.

The same applies to innovation in business settings, she says. “There is no such thing as innovation block. There is fear. There is exhaustion. But we can do it.”

“I know many women in this audience are planners by nature and visionaries,” Philpott continued. “So many women at these conferences have told me what they were working on now, and what they were planning for five years from now.”

“I know it can be deeply demoralizing to someone who has that visionary tendency to hit an obstacle, and an obstacle that drags on a long time like this one. But we need to remember that time keeps moving forward. This is not life forever. This is life right now.”

Obviously, she added, we still have to focus on how to get through this moment. But don’t give up on your plan or vision in the process. “Save a little time every day to think about it.”


More from the May 2020 Newsletter

Posted in Speaker Articles, Life on Your Terms, Embrace the Unknown, Goals & Priorities, Innovation Tagged , |

Making It Easier for Women of Color to Get Support from a Therapist of Color

Black female mental health professional listening to patient as she lays on the couch and talks freely

Charmain F. Jackman is a licensed psychologist who grew up on Barbados, where many people of color, she recalls, had an all-or-nothing view about mental health: You had it, or you didn’t. There was no in between.

Today, she says, there is still a stigma about mental health among people of color that makes women of color less likely than white women to access mental health services. For example, according to the National Alliance on Mental Health, mental health services are used by:

  • 21.5 percent of white women
  • 10.3 percent of black women
  • 9.2 percent of Hispanic women
  • 5.3 percent of Asian women.

But over the past several years, that has been changing, according to Jackman, who has made it her mission to destigmatize mental health services—and make it easier for people of color to access to therapists of color.

“There has been a real groundswell of people being more open about mental health issues, and understanding that therapy can be helpful,” Jackman said in a recent conversation with the Conferences for Women for Mental Health Awareness Month.

Superstar rapper Jay-Z has publicly spoken about the benefits of therapy; and Taraji Henson, the actress who appeared in Hidden Figures, started a foundation to help her father who suffered from PTSD.

Jackman also has been working to educate people of color about the benefits of therapy—and dismantle

The cultural message that if you seek therapy, it means you are crazy or weak;
The idea that you shouldn’t share family business with strangers; and
The cynicism bred of infamous historical events, such as the Tuskegee Experiment.

Another big obstacle that Jackman has been working to overcome is helping people find a therapist of color—since most people prefer to speak to someone from their own background.

This year, she launched a new nationwide directory that makes it easy. Check it out here.


More from the May 2020 Newsletter

Posted in Speaker Articles, Life Balance, Health & Wellness Tagged , , |

Who Do You Want to Be When This Is Over?

Indian businesswoman thinking about the future

There’s a difference between being a go-getter and being gutsy, Reshma Saujani, CEO of Girls Who Code, observes in her book, Brave Not Perfect.

“So many women stick to doing only the things at which they excel, rarely going beyond what makes them feel confident and comfortable,” she writes.

But what happens when we’re outside our comfort zones—either by choice or by circumstances, such as the challenging ones we now find ourselves in?

That’s where being brave comes in. And, that’s why we thought it a good time to catch up with Reshma, a bravery expert, and hear how she is navigating these times at home with her husband, eight-week-old baby and five-year-old son with whom she’s making time to master TikTok dances. One of several things that she said is helping her is asking the question: “Who do you want to be when this is over?” Read the interview here.

In this month’s episode of “Women Amplified,” Reshma also joins another amazing woman, Laysha Ward, executive vice president and chief external engagement officer for Target, for a dynamic conversation about why we need to give up on perfectionism to find our courage. Tune in here.

Finally, in case you missed it, here are some new resources and initiative we launched last month:

Stay strong, friends! And, if you found this helpful, please share it with someone.


More from the May 2020 Newsletter

Posted in Speaker Articles, Life on Your Terms, Embrace the Unknown, Transitions, Life Balance Tagged , |

Finding Your Bravery Now: A Conversation with Reshma Saujani

Reshma Saujani

Reshma Saujani, founder and CEO of Girls Who Code and author of Brave, Not Perfect, recently spoke with the Conferences for Women, about perfectionism and bravery in a world turned upside down. The conversation has been edited for brevity.

CFW: You’ve talked about striving for perfection as an impediment to growth. In today’s extraordinary circumstances, perfection doesn’t seem remotely possible. But does it still play a role in how women are responding to the present moment?

Reshma Saujani: Perfectionism is totally at play. The coronavirus is very hard for perfectionists and extroverts. Extroverts for obvious reasons, and perfectionists want an A on everything. If you’re working from home, with kids and dogs in the background, it’s stressing you out. When perfectionists are dealing with uncertainty, it’s also really hard.

You have to honor what you’re feeling, but be brief. If you were supposed to be at a conference and you’re not there, acknowledge that sucks. Then let it go. Also, recognize moments when anxiety hits. For me, it’s at night. Doing meditation and breathing then is helpful.

The question I keep asking myself is: Who do I want to be when we are out of this? Who do I want to be as a leader, a partner, a mother? If I can ask that question and be committed to it, then I can also play. I’ve played three innings of Whiffle ball with my son. I’ve never done that before. I’m taking voice lessons. I’m serious about mastering TikTok dances with him. Play is so important because it builds bravery and courage.

CFW: How else do we find our bravery in these unprecedented circumstances?

Saujani: I’ve been thinking a lot about how you develop courage in a crisis. Some of the tactics I talk about in the book apply. You can’t be brave if you’re tired. So, what are the things getting in the middle of your sleep now? I think it’s important to put devices away. I was on a call with work colleagues and could hear CNN in the background. I said, ‘Shut it off. Today will be as bad as yesterday.’ Playing and doing something you suck at is also important. It’s relevant to bravery and building coverage.

CFW: Strength is another good word—something we would all consider a good thing to strive for. But can expecting yourself to be strong at all times be setting yourself up for failure? Right now, after all, it seems we need to acknowledge that this situation is so much bigger than us and that it’s OK to not feel strong.

Saujani: Absolutely. I have an eight-week-old baby and a five-year-old and elderly parents with heart disease and diabetes who are five states away. I wasn’t acknowledging that I was feeling really scared. Every so often my husband would see me have a frightened look and stare off. He’d say: It’s going to be OK. And, I realized I was not acknowledging even to myself what I was feeling.

On social media, there’s so much about how to have perfect home schooling. I’m not seeing a lot of expression of fear and grief. But it’s what gets us to learn to be imperfect. If you’re constantly putting up walls, it’s just all veneer.

CFW: What has been most difficult for you in the present circumstances, and how have you been dealing with it?

Saujani: It’s frightening to bring a newborn into the world at this moment. I look at my son and think he’s frowning. He has to be picking up on us. The idea of not bringing enough joy into his life makes me feel bad.

I think it’s important to do one simple thing a day to take your mind off this. Maybe it’s one day not watching any news and watching The Tiger King on Netflix. Part of being less anxious is doing something that is totally mind-numbing.

In a moment when you have 6.6 million people unemployed and everybody is worried about their jobs, people also don’t feel they can be brave at work now or take time for themselves and that’s horrible. If I show up frazzled and afraid, that is not going to help. Self-care is important.

CFW: No one would wish these incredibly difficult circumstances on the world. But are there any opportunities for growth that you imagine could come from it?

Saujani: I think it gives us the opportunity to be still and question: Who do we want to be when we come out of this? It might be too much to answer that question today. But I think that is a good thing to think about.


More from the May 2020 Newsletter

Posted in Speaker Articles, Life on Your Terms, Embrace the Unknown, Transitions, Life Balance Tagged , |

Two Important Personal Qualities for Navigating Economic Downturns

Jean Chatzky

Jean Chatzky, the financial editor for NBC’s TODAY, once conducted a large study, in partnership with Merrill Lynch and Harris Interactive, to identify what separated people who were successful—in a wide range of financial situations—from those who were not.

As you might have guessed, saving and having a financial plan was part of the answer. But so was being optimistic and resilient, Chatzky said in a recent conversation.

And, those are the skills we need now—and can cultivate now, she said. Read More

Posted in Speaker Articles, Financial Fitness, Transitions Tagged , |

The Expert Q&A on Mental Wellness

Joni YoungwirthWith Commonwealth Financial Network’s Joni Youngwirth

Q: This is clearly an important time to be thinking about wellness, given the extreme stress people are under as we adjust to the reality of a global pandemic. How do you think about mental wellness—and what are you doing now to keep your own mental wellness strong?

I am one who contracted COVID-19 early. Or at least my doctor and I think I did. I have not been tested because there are no tests. But since I returned from Amsterdam on March 9 because the event I was attending was closed when a participant tested positive for COVID-19, it stands to reason that’s what I had. I’ve now been symptom free for a week (in early April). During the height of my illness, I was taken by ambulance to the local ER and diagnosed with pneumonia. This all happened during the week I moved to a new residence in a new city. There I was, battling serious physical illness, having to deal with 911 knocking at my door and later trying to get prescribed meds while I was in isolation. Imagine having to text your kids from the ambulance, “I’m on my way to the ER. DON’T COME.” That is the type of stressful world we live in now. Read More

Posted in Speaker Articles, Life Balance, Health & Wellness Tagged , |

If You’re Worried About Money, Think About This

young woman expressing a perplexed look on her face while examining monthly bills and account balances

Sometimes, one simple shift in thinking can help us know that, whatever the challenge before us, we’ll figure it out. This week, economist and Conference for Women speaker Teresa Ghilarducci provides that reassurance on our latest episode of Women Amplified.

Here it is: If you’re worried about money, think about your future self, and take action that supports that self—not the fearful self that may be activated in this moment.

Fear triggers chemicals in your brain that will make you want to do something to blast that fear away now. But those actions may not be in your long-term best interest.

So, what should you do—especially if you’re dealing with a loss of income or feeling rocked by the volatility in the stock market?

“You have to do something, but you have to do something for your medium-term and long-term self,” says Ghilarducci, a professor of economics at the New School for Social Research in New York City.

Focusing on the future, instead of this more anxious moment, will help you take charge. And from that more empowered mindset, you will be better positioned to take constructive action—on what Ghilarducci says should be three priority areas:

  1. Spending. If you don’t have a budget, this is the time to set it up—and watch it carefully. Fortunately, discretionary spending for many items—from Starbucks to hair care—is down. And we just might discover how many impulse purchases we don’t truly care about, which could help keep expenses permanently down.
  2. Debt. If you have credit card debt, ask the company to suspend payment without extra interest for the next two months—and to lower your interest rate while they’re at it. If you have a mortgage, do the same thing: ask for a two-month suspension without any extra interest accruing.
  3. Investments. If you can, look at your 401k accounts and make sure you know how much more you need to save to get on target. And, says Ghilarducci, remember that your asset values will probably come back in a year and a half. So, be patient.

Tune in to hear the full conversation with Theresa Ghilarducci on the Conferences for Women podcast, Women Amplified.


More from the April 2020 Newsletter

Posted in Speaker Articles, Financial Fitness Tagged |

How to Stay Meaningfully Connected

a cheerful young woman staying connected and chatting via laptop while enjoying a bite to eat on the balcony

During another crazy time in our world, Emily Morgan had a newborn and a husband suddenly out of work because of the financial crash of 2007-2008. She’d been working at the University of Pennsylvania but wanted to give remote work a try. Twelve years later, she is a successful entrepreneur who leads a team of 40—and an expert in the remote work that has suddenly become a reality for so many.

Here are five suggestions from Morgan, a Conference for Women speaker, about how to stay connected in meaningful ways and be a leader in times like this—followed by tips from the Conferences for Women team on how to make working at home work.

  • Create brief opportunities for everyone to see each other. Her entire team comes together over Zoom for 15 minutes once a week, with various team members taking a turn hosting. They cover core values, one positive development, organizational updates, shared learnings, and a story of values in action.
  • Offer small, more in-depth chances to connect. Morgan’s team is divided into packs of five to seven who meet on Zoom one hour a week where they have an opportunity to share—including, as she puts it, to “complain to and encourage”—one another. This, she says, helps create the culture they would have if working in the office together.
  • Think creatively about how you can support your team now. For example, she is organizing a virtual camp where volunteers teach topics that will aim to keep children engaged while their parents focus on work.
  • Establish clear boundaries and expectations. Being clear about metrics the team should be focused on over the next 30, 60 and 90 days. This helps everyone stay focused on priorities and know what they are accountable for.
  • Try to model calmness. Morgan says she meditates, limits her news intake, and reflects on whether how she is leading and acting is aligned with how she wants to see others act. “I don’t,” she adds, “want to be leading from a place of reaction.”

Morgan is the founder and CEO of Delegate Solutions, which offers premium-level virtual assistant services for entrepreneurs.


More from the April 2020 Newsletter

Posted in Speaker Articles, Embrace the Unknown, Life Balance Tagged , |

An Excerpt from Celeste Headlee’s Latest Book, “Do Nothing”

Excerpted from DO NOTHING copyright © 2020 by Celeste Headlee. Used by permission of Harmony Books, an imprint of Random House, a division of Penguin Random House LLC. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.


Do less, live more #DoNothingWe answer work emails on Sunday night. We read endless articles about how to hack our brains to achieve more productivity. We crop our photos and use filters before we post them on social media to earn approval. We read only the first couple paragraphs of the articles we find interesting because we don’t have time to read them in their entirety. We are overworked and overstressed, constantly dissatisfied, and reaching for a bar that keeps rising higher and higher. We are members of the cult of efficiency, and we’re killing ourselves with productivity.

The passage at the beginning of this Introduction was written in 1932, not long after the stock market crash of 1929, which caused the Great Depression. Russell’s description of the “cult of efficiency” predates World War II, the rise of rock and roll, the civil rights movement, and the dawn of the twenty-first century. More important, in my mind: It was written before the creation of the internet and smartphones and social media.

In other words, technology didn’t create this cult; it simply added to an existing culture. For generations, we have made ourselves miserable while we’ve worked feverishly. We have driven ourselves for so long that we’ve forgotten where we are going, and have lost our capacity for “light-heartedness and play.” Read More

Posted in Speaker Articles, Life on Your Terms, Life Balance Tagged , |
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