Melinda Gates commits $1B to ‘expanding women’s power and influence in the United States’
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Melinda Gates, whose book this year documented the systemic and societal challenges that continue to face women around the world, recently pledged $1 billion over the next 10 years to initiatives designed to accelerate gender equity in the United States.

By Todd Bishop

In a commentary announcing the plan on Time.com, Gates said the money will support “new and established partners taking innovative and diverse approaches to expanding women’s power and influence.”

It’s the biggest initiative yet from Gates through her standalone Pivotal Ventures firm, separate from her role as co-chair of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. Melinda Gates established Pivotal Ventures four years ago to focus on issues including gender equality and empowering women. Her book, “The Moment of Lift,” documented the need to remove barriers for women, with the goal of helping not just women but society as a whole.

In the announcement this morning, Gates cited three priorities for the funds: 1) “dismantling the barriers to women’s professional advancement;” 2) “fast-tracking women in sectors with outsized impact on our society—like technology, media, and public office; and 3) “mobilizing shareholders, consumers, and employees to amplify external pressure on companies and organizations in need of reform.”

She wrote, “I want to see more women in the position to make decisions, control resources, and shape policies and perspectives. I believe that women’s potential is worth investing in—and the people and organizations working to improve women’s lives are, too.”

Gates gave more insights into her approach in a Harvard Business Review piece last month, “Gender Equality Is Within Our Reach.

“I believe our goal should be to expand women’s power and influence in society. I think of power and influence as the ability to make decisions, control resources, and shape perspectives. It is something women exercise in their homes, in their workplaces, and in their communities. I recognize that “power and influence” are not words we have historically associated with women — nor are they words that all women associate with themselves. I also acknowledge that because of my family’s wealth, I have access to certain kinds of power and influence that very few people do. Still, I use these words, imperfect and imprecise though they are, because they are the best way I know to describe what men in this country — in particular, white men — have long had that women have not.”

Continue on to Geekwire to read the complete article.

Reinventing Yourself: Who Will You Be Post COVID-19?
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By Kimberlee Davis, host & founder of The Fiscal Feminist

There is no shortage of lessons to be learned from the COVID-19 pandemic. In addition to the economic and health adjustments we are all scrambling to make, a deluge of new challenges that have yet to be considered still looms around the corner.

As we navigate our way through these rough waters of financial hardships, stress and anxiety, let’s make sure to maintain our sense of control and handle the problems that we are empowered to solve. The best way to do this is by re-evaluating our finances, focusing on our long-term goals, and reflecting inward on our own identity.

From a corporate securities lawyer and an investment banker to an entrepreneur and stay-at-home mom, I’ve reinvented myself many times over. Some changes were for the better, others not so much. I’ve found that the key to making solid transitions is to start them in a quiet place like the unique setting of the quarantine.

With mouths to feed, bills to pay and immune systems to protect, taking stock on the bigger picture might seem like a low priority at the moment, but it really shouldn’t be. Ultimately, who we choose to be – either in business, in wealth, in family or just plain spiritually – will determine our paths forward out of this crisis. Amid the chaos and loss of control, our own sense of self is one of the few things we can control. Plus, sheltering in place gives us a unique opportunity to do some personal observation, self-reflection, introspection, and evaluation because we’re not losing time in the dash to in-person meetings and child soccer practices.

The first question that a lot of us get stuck on is: Where do we start? Having gone through several personal and professional re-inventions, myself, I have found great value in beginning with a deep exploration into my hierarchy of values. This consists of the following important questions:

  • What’s important to my emotional development as a person?
  • What’s important to my economic goals?
  • What’s important to my interpersonal relations and social/ethical perspective?

All three are equally important and must be looked at holistically and practically. We can stand back and look at our lives as they were pre-coronavirus, and examine if we were happy and if our finances survived. In our society we seem to be perpetually busy and for many of us, this outbreak has been a hard stop, forcing us to spend time with our loved ones, get comfortable being alone and taking a moment to think about the things that really matter.

Using this time to think about how your financial situation held up, ask yourself what areas can be improved upon. Did you have enough in your savings to cover a couple months of bills if you were to get furloughed from your job? Did you notice how much less money you were spending on frivolous things like your morning coffee? Taking this time to reflect and thoroughly comb through your spending habits and fiscal well-being will help you plan for the future and give you the knowledge and tools you need to make better choices after this is all over.

Having more idle time also allows us to enjoy ordinary activities such as reading, yoga, exercise, painting, listening to music, cooking and reconnecting with our interests. Instead of succumbing to the pressure and uncertainty, embrace the stillness and relearn how to be thoughtful.

Just because the pandemic is tragic – and, of course, it certainly is – does not mean that it is not also a great chance to spend more time together, talk without rushing and determine how we can continue this in a post-coronavirus environment. There may be wonderful recalibrations to consider which never would have been possible during the rat race of the so-called “normal” life we used to know.

We should all examine the strengths of our relationships and family to gauge how we are surviving as a wife, mother, friend and/or businesswoman. In this state of quiet, what do we value and how do we prioritize it among all the other noise?

While contemplating that answer, it is important not to undervalue your career goals. Often, women will assume financial freedom and professional ambition are lower priorities because of societal pressures. However, though we are free to choose other values as higher priorities, that does not mean that we have to.

To adjust your career path, take this opportunity to learn new skills and pursue interests that have been on the back burner. The internet is full of how-to videos and video-networking/coaching platforms that are just a click or swipe away. Use it as a tool for reinvention – not just a vehicle for killing time as we wait for the economy to reopen. Set specific and achievable financial goals taking one step at a time so as not to get overwhelmed and give up on your strategy in frustration.

Personally, I am rethinking my daily schedule from pre-coronavirus times. I have been taking a four- to five-mile walk at least four times a week, and I am committed to continuing that after we resume our new-normal lives. I am going to make exercise a non-negotiable priority. It clears my mind and gives me a positive attitude.

It is so important that you have good nutrition, get regular sleep, have regular physical exercise, have some down time, nurture your spirit and have some fun with the positive people in your life. Intentional self-care will reap many benefits, and it will increase your energy and sharpen your financial focus.

We all should be looking at our lives as a whole and reflecting on what changes we can be making to provide for a better tomorrow. In all our busyness, it’s too easy to lose track of what is really important. The excuse, “I don’t have time,” is no longer an option. For me it’s health, free time to pursue my interests and family. What is important to you?

Kimberlee Davis is the Host of The Fiscal Feminist, a podcast and platform about women and their relationship with money and finances. Her mission is to help all women of all ages and wealth levels embrace their responsibility to themselves to achieve solid financial footing in both calm and turbulent times. Kimberlee Davis has more than 25 years of finance, legal and corporate experience, her career has included being a corporate securities lawyer, investment banker, and Chief Financial Officer. Currently, she is Managing Director and Partner at The Bahnsen Group, a private wealth management firm.

How One Woman is Reinventing the Wedding Industry
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Amy Grace decorating for an outdoor wedding while looking at the camera

Amy Grace Collins loved her work through Amy Grace Events. She was doing incredible corporate events and weddings for organizations and couples at the most amazing venues in California and Michigan, with the very best in everything—food, flowers, music, photography, videography and more.

But she saw a trend that concerned her with the dream weddings she was helping California brides make a reality: They wanted $60,000 events when they could barely afford $15,000, so they were headed out of Santa Barbara to less expensive destinations, like the dessert of Palm Springs.

“My background is in finance, so I’m acutely aware that the money goes where the trends are,” said Collins, a NAWBO-Central Coast California member, who currently resides with her family in Michigan but works in California as well. “I started looking for an option to keep Santa Barbarians in their local town.”

Part of an international mastermind group of wedding planners, Collins began sharing her thoughts on calls. She learned that a fellow planner in Australia was in the process of implementing pop-up weddings. The concept was that several couples would have their wedding at the same location, on the same day, enjoying the same vendor resources—just in their 3- to 5-hour window and with a small group of friends and family in attendance.

While the concept would take some time to tweak for the American market, Collins knew she was onto something big.

“I reached out last summer to all my vendor friends saying, ‘I have this crazy idea…’ We talked about it and I ran every financial number I could,” says Collins. “There are a lot of models out there that undercut the vendors, so they only do the events on off-days.

“But couples want a Saturday or Sunday wedding for less, so we created these and started working on marketing them in February.”

Then COVID-19 hit. “There were brides booked for March and April who were stuck in contracts and out $60,000,” said Collins, adding that the biggest engagement season is between Thanksgiving and Valentine’s Day and brides usually start reaching out to wedding planners in the spring…and it’s been silent.

Collins’ thoughts immediately turned to the women who are part of MasterBrides—her other business, which is a free, online community for brides to learn about weddings from an industry veteran. She knew these women didn’t have tens of thousands of dollars to lose. Also, would it even possible for them to plan their weddings in the age of Coronavirus with so many unknowns from state to state, especially in California and Michigan, that tend to be among the strictest? Amy began sharing her research and expertise in blogs like, How Do I Know If I Should Cancel or Postpone My Wedding? and The Phased Strategy to Open America: What Does This Actually Mean for My Wedding? By the response she received from brides, it was clear it was time to pivot and focus on pop-up weddings. Her own industry, on the other hand, wasn’t so thrilled about what she was putting out there, but Amy felt strongly it was the right thing to do.

Today, that honest, timely communication has paid off. Amy is now offering pop-up weddings where she leverages the cost of a $60,000 wedding and distributes it three ways between couples so they can have stunning weddings for a fraction of the price. These are all-inclusive, with 90 percent of the decisions already made. She just helps each couple finalize the personalization aspects to make it their own event.

There are other advantages to this model, too. For one, it’s recommended that the guest list is small with just 40-80 people. In this time of social distancing, that’s the perfect size. Also, it’s environmentally friendly. Whereas before, thousands of dollars on everything from flowers to food would go to waste after one big event, now several couples are taking advantage of the same resources.

“I think this will completely shift the mindset of brides,” Collins says. “To see the couples’ expectations from 2002 when I first started, to 2020 is mind-blowing—it’s the same amount of money with way different expectations. This is really resetting the industry so that couples are having a wedding within their means.”

Collins is equally excited about another outcome: A focus on the ceremony more so than the party. “I have always been frustrated by the lack of reverence given to the ceremony portion of the wedding,” she explains. “To have people now see the importance of the actual ceremony and license and how it affects so much in their life, from health care to taxes to immigration. It’s so much deeper and I think we, as an industry, will be appreciated in such a different way. I look forward to that.”

Advice for Business Resilience from Top Companies
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The Women Presidents’ Organization (WPO), in collaboration with American Express, recently released the 13th annual ranking of the 50 Fastest-Growing Women-Owned/Led Companies. The companies on this year’s 50 Fastest list span a range of industries, including healthcare, technology, and consulting. From January to December 2019, the 50 Fastest generated a combined $3.8 billion in revenue and collectively employed more than 17,000 people.

“The 50 Fastest Growing Women Owned/Led Companies are a trailblazing group of women who are leading some of the most successful businesses around the globe,” said Jessica Ling, Vice President and General Manager, Marketing Strategy, Content and Experiences at American Express. “I was thrilled to have the opportunity to speak with some of these business owners and learn more about the creative ways they’ve pivoted to not only keep their businesses running but also to support their employees, customers and communities through these trying times.”

At the annual WPO conference, held virtually on July 22 and 23rd, Jessica spoke with four of the 50 Fastest Awardees for a fireside chat on the topic of resilience and leading in uncertain times. Asma Ishaq, CEO of Modere, Patricia Bible, Founder and CEO of KaTom Restaurant Supply Inc., Jenelle Coy, Founder and Managing Partner of Spero and Sujata Stead, CEO of Cambridge Boxhill Language Assessment, shared their advice for navigating these unprecedented times.

When asked what advice they would give business owners that are looking to grow, especially in today’s climate, each provided key insights and personal anecdotes for growing and remaining resilient through the pandemic.

Asma Ishaq of Modere, ranked third on the list, said that it’s important to double down on existing customers.

Headshot of Asma Ishaq

“This is a time when you can develop a deeply impactful impression on customers. We have done everything we can to show our customers that we’re in this together, and they have gone to great lengths to reciprocate their loyalty,” says Asma.

“It is more efficient and less costly to retain customers than it is to acquire them. We felt a need to prove to our customers that we value their business and well-being.”

When asked the same question, Jenelle Coy of Spero, number seven of the list, said, “Passionate optimism and confidence are must-haves no matter what current circumstances you’re experiencing. Have a Deja vu mindset that you’re starting your business all over again and reevaluate your strategy, staffing and operations from the ground up to compete and thrive in the new normal.”

When asked the same question, Jenelle Coy of Spero, number seven of the list, said,

Headshot of Jenelle Coy of Spero

“Passionate optimism and confidence are must-haves no matter what current circumstances you’re experiencing. Have a Deja vu mindset that you’re starting your business all over again and reevaluate your strategy, staffing and operations from the ground up to compete and thrive in the new normal.”

Patricia Bible provided insights into what KaTom Restaurant Supply Inc., number 10 on the list, is doing to support both staff and customers in this challenging time. “KaTom has taken on the approach of looking internally first,” said Patricia.

Headshot of Patricia Bible

“We look at all our associates as customers first and if they are happy then our customers are happy. We’ve taken extreme measures including additional training for staff to help mitigate the fears that so many are struggling with and to also give them confidence when speaking with their customers. We have found that investing in employees pays tremendous dividends.”

Patricia went on to explain how impactful her staff has been. “With 53 percent of our operating force being millennials, we do a lot of listening as they bring invaluable direction.”

“Firstly, you need to have passion and believe in your business as well as what you stand for and the value you offer to your customers,” said Australia-based Sujata Stead, ranked number 15 on the list.

Headshot of Sujata Stead

Building an organization and turning it into a profitable and sustainable enterprise requires a phenomenal amount of hard work so you need to love what you do – whether it’s your product or service, customers or staff – this will make the journey worthwhile.

“Secondly, it is important to build organizational resilience and agility. We are living in a world that is increasingly volatile, uncertain, complex and ambiguous. This means we need to be able to pivot at short notice and have the ability to evolve. As an organization, you have to have passion for what you do, the community you serve and the ecosystem you’re part of.”

The businesses on the 50 Fastest list have demonstrated the true meaning of resiliency during the current climate.

For more information on this year’s 50 Fastest, click here.

Attitude + Breathing = Balance
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By Michelle Miller, national correspondent for CBS News

There are many professions that take time away from family and friends. And many employees juggling tasks, pushing deadlines and pivoting from one place to another. For me, between the 24-hour news cycle, email and internet, there is no clocking off the job.

But the key is attitude! Attitude is everything! And for the last 30 years, having a good one has been my best ally. Being able to manage your attitude, your mood, your outlook and your pace is crucial. Even in the toughest of circumstances, I’ll find a way to work through the emotion of what I’m dealing with. And sometimes, it can be overwhelming.
But nothing is more of a game changer than taking a breath. Think about that for a minute.

When I was a breaking-news correspondent, I never knew what was coming at me, where I might be headed or what story I may be covering. A heavy chest, a chasm of emotion – there are moments in between the routine coverage that catch us journalists cold.

What saved me was a method from the “BEAD Diet.” It encompasses a Chinese method of breathing called Qigong breathing. Breathe in for 3–5 seconds, hold, and breathe out slowly over 30 seconds. You do that three times, it helps center and calm you into relaxation. Every trigger of emotion seems lifted.

A brain scientist by the name of Mike Nickonchuk has written a book called The Field Guide for the Barefoot Psychologist. In it, he describes how the body reacts to trauma and ways individuals can help relieve triggers through certain exercises like breathing. It’s an incredible irony or perhaps the brilliance of our own biology, that the very thing essential to our existence is also tied to our emotional well-being.

In this life, I have found balance. And it’s a balance I fight for every day.
Work is actually the easiest of all my tasks in life, or at least it seems that way. And perhaps that is because I love what I do! Part of the reason I became a journalist is because I did not want to do the same thing every day. Routine is a comfort to most of my family – to me, not so much.

There is, however, routine to the madness of my chaos. On an average day you can find me sitting down writing a story, charting expenses, and making calls. But another technique that keeps me sane is getting up from that desk once an hour, climbing a few stairs to make the rounds, to talk to people, and to take a few moments to see that everybody is ok.

This does wonders for my stress relief, too. Because whether we are at work or at home, like it or not, we are members of a village, and the well-being of the self also depends on the well-being of the whole.

Generally, I am a happy person because I like my job. I generally go home in a better state of mind. Yes, I am tired, but I want to see my kids and husband. Making sure you fit in time with the important people of your life, budgeting that time is so important. So that is what I do. I make appointments with my children and husband. Everything is budgeted in my calendar so it has space.

I want to share the news of the day. I want to unplug from my phone, from social media, and engage real people. Keeping a positive attitude at work carries home and helps build my healthy relationships with my husband and children. It is near impossible to for someone to have a bad attitude at work and flip it around when they get home. Staying positive is the key.

Ready for Business
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For some, working in the time of the Coronavirus meant putting the brakes on a fast-paced schedule to follow stay-at-home health orders in an effort to slow the spread of the virus. For others, relocating from the office to working from home meant shifting into overdrive to keep pace with a new normal.

Transportation executive Christine Keith knows what it’s like to live in the fast lane 24/7 while keeping a successful business going and sheltering in place.

Keith is the president of Elite Auto Network Corporation, an auto brokerage firm serving individual clients, public agencies and corporations. Keith’s husband, Todd, founded Elite as a college student in 1987. Keith saw an opportunity to expand Elite’s clientele with a niche market that other auto brokers had overlooked – businesses in need of fleet vehicles. She developed Elite’s commercial division, which handles the fleet vehicle requirements of private, local and state government agencies. Her accounts include Los Angeles Metropolitan Transportation Authority (LA Metro), Southern California Gas and the nationwide chain of Davey Tree Expert Company.

Elite Auto Network wasn’t Keith’s first time growing a business through identifying an unfilled market demand. Her father operated a 12-room health clinic in the Boyle Heights community of Los Angeles. Keith frequently accompanied her father to his clinic and later became a physician. The community’s need for affordable healthcare led Keith to expand her family practice into a free clinic. Eventually, the Los Angeles Mission, which had been renting a few of their rooms, offered to lease the entire clinic. Keith agreed and took some time off to learn the operations of her husband’s auto brokerage business. That was 11 years ago.

In March, as schools closed and the quarantine forced most offices to shut their doors, Keith prepared for her staff to work remotely. She readied packets with essential work documents, such as forms and reference guides, for employees to take home. She also issued everyone a desktop computer and had an internet technology professional to secure the system.
“I did all the things we needed to do so we can keep on moving forward remotely,” said Keith.

The mother of two children, ages 13 and 8, now works 12 hours a day and is the primary caretaker for her 93-year-old father. It may be counterintuitive, but Keith says she gets more done each day working from home, now that she has blocks of uninterrupted time.

“I’ve accomplished a lot more because I’m not so distracted with office meetings and people coming in and out asking questions,” said Keith. “So, I’ve been able to focus on things that I’ve wanted to get done.”
Although Keith is one of the lucky ones whose business increased during the pandemic, there are a few key elements that she says put her business in a position to prosper.

The right attitude.

Keith said there are always plenty of things to complain about, but staying grateful is her biggest motivator. She always believed that there were still deals to be made. “I’m a very determined person and it’s just in me to be positive all the way through any situation,” said Keith. “I really believed that our business would flourish and it has.”

Network and education.

When Keith started the commercial fleet division of Elite Auto Network, she didn’t know anything about doing contract work. She certified the business as a Woman Minority Business Enterprise (WMBE), Small Business Enterprise (SBE), Disadvantage Business Enterprise (DBE) and a Local Business Enterprise (LBE). She began going to seminars, conventions, chamber of commerce events, and joined the Southern California Minority Business Development Council. “I said I was going to learn everything I could about contracting and I did,” said Keith.

The first contract she landed was with Davey Tree Expert Company, a large nationwide landscaping company. They have a huge fleet in California and Elite Auto Network provided a lot of their vehicles.

Following-up on bids.

After being awarded a contract with Davey Tree Expert Company, Keith continued submitting bids for work with the State of California and Los Angeles County. If she was not awarded the contract, she immediately followed-up to receive feedback on her proposal. She advises other companies that want to be awarded contracts to do the same.

“Always ask ‘why?’ If you lose a bid, you can’t just walk away, because there’s going to be another opportunity and you have to make sure you don’t make the same mistake again.”

Information gained from lost bids enabled Keith to learn how to prepare proposals, what customers are looking for and what was important to them.

Being prepared.

Keith said it is important for your business to look professional to attract the right clients.

“Your website has to look professional and your business card should match your website and your capabilities statement. All of these things are a reflection of the company you want to portray,” she said.

Keith recommends spending the extra money to work with a graphic designer to create a signature brand. A well-rehearsed elevator pitch is also an essential business tool.

“You have to build that image because that’s how you’re going to attract people to do business with you.”

Attracting, Recruiting and Retaining a Diverse Energy Workforce
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The energy industry is one of the largest in country, and employs millions of people around the world. In addition, energy is also wide ranging and includes not just oil and gas, but also renewable sectors, like solar, hydrogen, wind and other emerging technologies. Yet, it is also one of the least diverse, according to the American Petroleum Institute (API), who reports that nearly 75 percent of employees are white.

This is especially true in the highest levels of management at the utilities and major oil companies. Alternative industry fairs slightly better with middle management and below, but has the same representation of women and underrepresented groups as traditional oil and gas, where nearly 90 percent of leadership is white.

But these numbers are not news, and the lack of diversity in the energy sector has long been reported. Still, not much progress has been made in terms of the hiring and promotion of women and people of color. Many mature industries find it difficult to adapt to changes in the workforce, often struggling to find the optimal balance between entry level and experienced workers. For the past several years, Energy has had a particularly challenging time attracting new talent. Years ago, companies like ExxonMobil had their pick of the top candidates from the best schools—now these graduates are more likely to work for Silicon Valley tech giants like Apple, Google, and Facebook, or create their own startup. Whenever the largest companies are having a hard time finding talent, you know there is a problem. Perhaps making things even worse, is the Great Crew Change, which refers to the large age gap in the workforce brought on by the upcoming waves of older workers reaching retirement age and the scarcity of workers under the age of 35. Many young people just don’t want to work in the same industries as their parents and grandparents. In addition, energy has seen more than its share of problems dealing with both racism and sexism, both contributing to why young people shy away from jobs in these fields.

So, what is the solution? First, the energy industry has to come to terms with the fact that their lack of available talent is their NUMBER ONE barrier to future growth. Innovation in the areas of emerging technology demands more workers than are currently available. To fill these jobs, we must hire or train to be hired, more women and people of color. Simply put, our current efforts are not sufficient for future needs. The next step is to invest in organizations that are successful in doing this right now. Millions have been spent talking about the lack of diversity, now it’s time to spend money on creating sustainable solutions to fix this problem. That means looking at the ENTIRE talent pipeline. While it’s critical to address the issues of attracting new workers to the field, if we don’t solve the problem of why underrepresented people don’t stay and are not promoted to senior levels, then we really haven’t accomplished much, especially since we don’t have the luxury of failing at this. How much untapped talent is being lost because of systemic discrimination keeping people from reaching their highest potential? What innovations could be discovered if this industry supported EVERYONE at the same level?

Because the fields are wide open, there are tremendous opportunities for women and people of color to advance in the clean energy and renewable sectors. Thanks to the effects of COVID and geopolitical instability around the world, oil and gas will undoubtedly never be the same. Many of the jobs lost are never coming back. A large number of workers will need to pivot to other types of jobs to stay employed. As the needs for the products they produce continues to decrease, others like biomass and hydrogen fuel cell, will rise as they continue to get cheaper and easier to produce. Partnerships between industry, academia and government can play a large role in educating new workers to these fields, but they can’t do it alone. Grass roots efforts via non-profit participation (and funding thereof) are key to helping to promote these opportunities to underrepresented communities. They can also work to ensure there are clear, distinct and attainable paths that exist to not just senior leadership in energy, but entrepreneurship as well. The future of energy is dependent on harnessing this untapped potential.

Risk Intelligence solutions are powered by BWise technology and support companies of all sizes through a wide range of deployment models, from on-premise implementations to out-of-the-box SaaS solutions streamlining single initiatives to complex integrated GRC projects. BWise is proud to be the GRC vendor of choice for many diverse energy and utility companies. This includes regional utilities and energy suppliers, pipeline and distribution business, oil and natural gas exploration, and large, multi-national gas and oil suppliers.

What COVID-19 Is Teaching Us About Employee Engagement
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By Roxanne Martinez, Chief Human Resources Officer for DentaQuest

COVID-19 has touched every U.S. industry, business and employee in multiple ways. Some are dealing with tragic losses. Many are experiencing significant financial consequences. Nearly all are coming up with new strategic plans to face an uncertain future. Through it all, business leaders are looking for new ways to keep employees connected and engaged.

As a purpose-driven leader in oral health, DentaQuest places a high premium on employee engagement. We take pride in how we communicate with our teams and regularly measure engagement and employee well-being. And we are serious about the plans we develop to drive improvements to our processes and systems. Like many organizations, our executive team started the year with a clear set of ideas about work we would do in 2020 to improve our employee experience. Then, in mid-March, everything changed. The pandemic hit, threatening the health and well-being of our communities and creating a completely different experience for the vast majority of our employees.

So, what has COVID-19 taught us about employee engagement?

Communication Is Key

Our movement of all but a few essential employees to remote work settings revealed some outdated communication practices and gaps in our ability to quickly reach employees with important messages. But we were quick to address and remedy these problems. In less than 48 hours, we implemented a new texting service for emergency updates and office opening and closing notifications. We changed the cadence of our internal e-newsletter from weekly to daily, providing shorter, more frequent updates. We introduced bi-weekly virtual CEO Connect meetings to enable two-way communication between our employees and leaders. We also created an internal site to serve as the go-to place for company-wide news, local and national COVID-19 updates, public health regulations and technical support guides. We all got a lot more comfortable with Microsoft Teams. And then we measured. Through a series of six pulse surveys, 91 percent of employees told us that our efforts were helping them stay engaged and informed.

Flexibility Is Critical

While many may yearn for a return to business as usual, we understand that our ‘new normal’ will require ongoing adjustment, adaptation and learning. And we’re using input from our employees to drive and enable those changes. Our review of hundreds of surveys showed that employees needed more support with work-life balance. In response, we accelerated our Employee Assistance Program services, including new stress management offerings, and enabled managers to support their teams with more flexible schedules and work arrangements. When employees said they needed work-related items left behind in our offices, we orchestrated collections days so they could safely retrieve essential tools and supplies and be more comfortable and productive working from home. And we introduced new benefits, including identity theft protection services, discount buying programs, and even began offering pet insurance to better support the whole employee. As we begin planning for a future return to offices, we will again survey each employee on their preferences and will use their input to drive decisions. This will ensure that employees have a strong voice in their future work environments.

Managers Drive Engagement

We already understood the important role managers play in driving and improving employee engagement, but the business challenges created by COVID-19 required us to take an even closer look at how we support our managers so that they can effectively support their teams. Following each management team meeting, we distribute a toolkit that includes a summary of key take-aways and next steps to help managers take an active role in their team’s overall well-being. This is by no means a ground-breaking practice. Bringing more rigor to the process and the timing of distributions, however, is helping managers understand what they can expect and when. And this helps them more effectively manage through some of the new and unpredictable issues they are currently facing as part of a new remote workforce. Longer-term, we’re working to build new leadership capabilities for the remote workforce of the future.

As we continue to live and work through the pandemic, each of us is on a different track and schedule. Companies that are willing to rethink what they know about employee engagement and apply the lessons they learned from COVID-19 will be in a stronger position post pandemic. And their employees will recognize and remember the way they were supported during a global health crisis.

Kristin Malek: Redefining Supplier Diversity at CDW
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A woman leading a business meeting

As the senior manager of Supplier Diversity at CDW, Kristin Malek drives CDW’s strategies to achieve supplier diversity objectives. She is responsible for CDW’s $2+ billion annual Supplier Diversity spend initiatives. Kristin is the architect of the CDW’s diverse supply chain, which today is defined as more than 1100+ suppliers that serve the needs and offers solutions to CDW and their customers.

She is a member of the National Minority Supplier Diversity Council (NMSDC), Board Member of the Chicago Minority Supplier Diversity Council, Women’s Business Enterprise National Council, National LGBT Chamber of Commerce, National Veteran-Owned Business Association (NaVOBA) and TIG (Technology Industry Group), sharing her voice and best practices on inclusive business strategies.

 Under Kristin’s leadership at CDW; the supplier diversity program at CDW has been named a finalist for Corporation of the Year with NMSDC in 2018 and 2019. In 2019, the supplier diversity program was named the Best of the Best Supplier Diversity Programs for veteran-owned businesses.

 Earlier this year, Kristin was named one of Top 25 Women in Power Impacting Diversity. Under Kristin’s leadership, CDW was inducted into the prestigious Billion Dollar Roundtable in October.

Professional WOMAN’s Magazine (PWM) spoke with Malek about her career.

PWM: Describe a moment you felt like a Wonder Woman and made a difference.

Malek: To describe a moment in which I felt like a Wonder Woman is hard to define, as every day I hold myself to high levels of accountability, being available to my family, teams, customers, and friends, and live with integrity. To find a day in which I perhaps elevated myself and pushed myself out of my comfort zone presented itself this spring when the world was sheltered in place. I found myself being tasked to support my third-grader with learning from home and getting her through fractions, having the responsibility to be a special education teacher for my fifth-grader who while in school received 1:1 paraprofessional support and lost that when distance learning presented itself while leading the Supplier Diversity program at CDW. Many days, I felt it was an overreach for me, but staying true to asking for help, staying honest with my capabilities and being able to set boundaries maybe made me Wonder Woman for the day – title or no title, it’s OK to ask for help.

PWM: What values do women bring to the workforce?

Malek: Competitiveness, leadership, empathy, solution thought leadership, and perspective, but I think men bring the same things; the more we separate skills by gender the farther we get away from inclusion.

PWM: What are your tips to keep growing professionally?

Malek: Take opportunity of changes; changes create needs, and needs create opportunities. Embrace Change. Second, compete with yourself only.

PWM: What are some things you think women can do to advocate change in the workplace?

Malek: Advocate from a place of respect, authentic gratitude and confidence in your abilities.

PWM: What lessons have you learned that you would like to share with our readers?

Malek: My lesson that has come to be reoccurring is that courage doesn’t always roar but can be the quiet voice that says I will try again tomorrow.

Rihanna: PWM’s Wonder Woman of the Year
LinkedIn
rihanna posing at the Fashion Awards

By Samar Khoury

It’s difficult to describe Robyn Rihanna Fenty—better known as Rihanna—in one phrase, but two words sum her up perfectly: Wonder Woman.

She has created a $600 million fortune.

She’s the world’s richest female musician.

She was the third highest-paid female singer of 2019.

And she holds various titles: businesswoman, activist, philanthropist, and actress, to name just a few. Plus, she’s been honored with countless accolades throughout her career.

But Rihanna is anything but complacent.

In fact, the musician is more active than ever, advocating for equality, showing enormous support for the Black Lives Matter movement, providing relief during the COVID-19 pandemic, and launching her new skincare line.

Rihanna has left a mark, and it’s only going to get greater.

 

The Face of Activism

Following the tragic death of George Floyd, Rihanna was one of the first celebrities to speak out. The business mogul closed her online Fenty beauty, fashion, and lingerie stores on June 2 in honor of #BlackoutTuesday. “This is not a day off,” Rihanna said through Fenty’s Twitter page, “this is a day to reflect and find ways to make real change, this is a day to #PullUp.”

“We are not staying silent and we are not standing by,” she continued. “The fight against racial inequality, injustice, and straight up racism doesn’t stop with financial donations and words of support.”

Rihanna on stage singing
The Barbadian singer Rihanna during the ANTI World Tour hosted in Milan. (Photo by Francesco CastaldoArchivio Francesco CastaldoMondadori via Getty Images)

Rihanna also pledged, through her charity organization the Clara Lionel Foundation (CLF), that she’d donate funds to Black Lives Matter Greater NY and The Bail Project.

What’s more, the fashion icon’s 2019 viral tie-dye dress made a special comeback to support Black Lives Matter. Fashion label A Sai Ta specifically created the dress for the 32-year-old singer, which made numerous headlines. “No one else has this dress apart from me and Riri,” a post on the label’s Instagram page read. “We will be producing this iconic dress EXCLUSIVELY for 3 charities. Finally, you can also have this dress!!”

Standing by the Black Lives Matter movement is only scratching the surface of Rihanna’s efforts to make change.

Amid the pandemic, Rihanna made it a mission to lend a hand to those in need. In addition to donating $5 million to COVID-19 relief efforts through CLF, she gave away personal protection equipment to New York, which used to hold the highest number of coronavirus cases in the country.

“Protecting our frontline health workers and marginalized communities around the world requires getting ahead of it FAST,” her foundation’s site read. “The time to act is now.”

Rihanna has made such a difference that the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) presented her with the President’s Award during its 51st Image Awards on February 22 in Pasadena, California.

“From her business achievements through Fenty, to her tremendous record as an activist and philanthropist, Rihanna epitomizes the type of character, grace, and devotion to justice that we seek to highlight in our President’s Award.”

Rihanna receives he Harvard University Humanitarian of the Year Award on stage
CAMBRIDGE, MA – Rihanna receives the Harvard University Humanitarian of the Year Award from Dr. S. Allen Counter at Harvard University’s Sanders Theatre (Photo by Paul Marotta/Getty Images)

And devoted she has been.

“If there’s anything I’ve learned,” Rihanna said while accepting her award, “it’s that we can only fix this world together. We can’t do it divided…We can’t let the de-sensitivity seep in. The ‘If it’s your problem, then it’s not mine.’ ‘It’s a woman’s problem.’ ‘It’s a black people problem.’ ‘It’s a poor people problem.’”

The Queen of Philanthropy

Rihanna constantly aims to make the world a better place. Growing up, she often came across poor and needy children, inspiring her to give back.

Her commitment to charity work earned her Harvard’s humanitarian of the year in 2017.

In 2012, she founded CLF (named after her grandparents), a nonprofit organization committed to aiding underserved communities through health care and education.

“I feel strongly that all children everywhere should be afforded the opportunity of a quality education,” she says.

Through her annual Diamond Ball gala, Rihanna has been able to raise millions for the foundation. The Clara Lionel Foundation has since funded programs, including Children’s Orthopedic Center and the Mark Taper-Johnny Mercer Artists Program.

But it doesn’t end there.

The philanthropist is also an ambassador of her hometown, Barbados; the Global Partnership for Education; and the Global Citizen Project. She dedicates much of her time traveling and raising money for these roles.

As an ambassador of the Global Partnership for Education, Rihanna advocates for education for girls, gender equality, and those affected by war-ridden countries.

In 2016, she met with Prince Harry to celebrate the 50-year anniversary of Barbadian independence and spread awareness about AIDS.

And her donations to many charities are endless.

“My money is not for me; it’s always the thought that I can help someone else,” Rihanna says.

The Road to Stardom

Although we admire Rihanna’s philanthropy and activism, we can’t forget

Rihanna on stage in Barbados at an HIV event with Prince Harry
BRIDGETOWN, BARBADOS – (2nd L-R) Rihanna, Prince Harry and councillor Ministry of Health HIV Program Susette Neblett-Straughn talk on stage at the ‘Man Aware’ event held by the Barbados National HIV/AIDS Commission.(Photo by Chris Jackson – Pool/Getty Images)

how we first fell in love with the Barbadian beauty—her chart-topping hits.

Rhi-Rhi, as fans like to call her, has become the youngest solo artist to score 14 No. 1 singles on the Billboard Hot 100, has sold more than 54 million albums and 210 million tracks worldwide, and holds nine Grammy Awards.

Her top hits include “Diamonds,” “Umbrella,” “Work,” and much, much more.

Rihanna’s road to musical stardom is an inspiring one.

While she was growing up in Saint Michael, Barbados, her parents’ marital problems and dad’s battle with drug and alcohol addictions began to take a toll on the star. To cope, Rihanna turned to music, leading her create a musical trio with two of her classmates.

Her big break came in 2003 at age 15 when Rihanna and her bandmates were introduced to record producer Evan Rogers, who was vacationing in Barbados with his wife.

Rogers was immediately in awe. “The minute Rihanna walked into the room, it was like the other two girls didn’t exist,” he said to Entertainment Weekly.

At age 16, Rihanna moved to the US with Rogers and his wife, later being signed by Jay-Z to Def Jam Records.

From there, her career took off instantly, and she debuted her first single, “Pon de Replay.” The catchy hit made the top five in 15 countries and became a major U.S. club hit.

The popular single was included in her debut album, Music of the Sun. A year later, she released her sophomore album, A Girl Like Me—featuring No. 1 singles “SOS” and “Unfaithful.”

The rest is all history.

Rihanna’s eighth and most recent album, Anti, released in 2016, saw major success: She achieved her second consecutive No. 1 album with 166,000 first week sales.

Rihanna kisses Chase Sullivan, a child of Harvard professors, after receiving the Harvard Humanitarian of the Year Award in Cambridge, MA.

Although fans are anxiously awaiting new music, Rihanna assures them it will be worth the wait. Currently, the entrepreneur has been focusing on her new skincare line.

“I am always working on music, and when I am ready to put it out in the way that I feel fit, it’s gonna come out. And you’re not going to be disappointed when it happens,” the singer told Entertainment Tonight.

 

Thriving Businesswoman

In addition to hit albums, world tours, and movie roles—such as Home, Annie, and Ocean’s 8— Rihanna has built a beauty and fashion empire.

Her new skincare line, Fenty Skin, made its debut on July 31. People of all skin tones and types can enjoy products from the singer’s new venture. Sales have already skyrocketed.

But Rihanna has been shining in business for years. Her businesses include makeup line Fenty Beauty; Fenty, a Paris-based fashion house she created in partnership with luxury fashion group LVMH (Rihanna was the first woman and black woman to be added to the LVMH group); intimates collection Savage X Fenty; and now her new skincare line. She has also released 11 fragrances throughout the years.

It should come as no surprise that when Fenty Beauty launched in 2017, it took the world by storm. According to Forbes, the brand reported $100 million in sales in its first six weeks, reaching more than $550 million in its first year.

Rihanna’s goal was to create an inclusive makeup collection catered to people of all skin types—not just white women. So, when Fenty Beauty launched, 40 shades of foundation came along with it. This move paved the way for the beauty industry. Rihanna’s “Fenty Effect” set the precedent for foundation ranges to come.

Like her singing career, Rihanna’s love for makeup started in Barbados. She was intrigued by her mother’s lipstick and when she tried makeup for the first time, she never looked back, making it her choice for self-expression.

“Makeup is there for you to have fun with,” Rihanna says. “It should never feel like pressure. It should never feel like a uniform. Feel free to take chances, and take risks, and dare to do something new or different.”

Shining Bright Like a Diamond
Rihanna has been living in London for the past three years, focusing on her music, leading the fight for change, and continuing to be the musician we know and love.

As Rihanna’s whopping 85 million+ Instagram followers and slew of fans can attest, she’s not going anywhere.

But we can’t help but wonder: What change will she spark next?

The one characteristic that will make you an all-star according to science
LinkedIn
Smiling young African American businesswoman leaning on a table in her office

By Amy Stanton

A few years ago, an interesting study came out of Harvard Business Review titled “The Business Case for Curiosity.”

In the study, HBR reported how an increase in employee curiosity led to a dramatic increase in company-wide creativity; how curiosity leads to empathy, which leads to reduced conflict among team members; and how “Google identifies naturally curious people through interview questions such as these: ‘Have you ever found yourself unable to stop learning something you’ve never encountered before? Why? What kept you persistent?’”

And then a few weeks ago, I came across a piece on Medium titled “The 2-Word Trick That Makes Small Talk Interesting.”

What are the two words?

“I’m curious…” before asking a question.

Whether we realize it or not, curiosity is one of the most appealing qualities . . . in a friend, an employee, a boss, or a leader. Curiosity leads to improved problem-solving—in just about every capacity (logistically, emotionally, financially, etc.).

As the HBR study goes on to explain, “To assess curiosity, employers can also ask candidates about their interests outside of work. Reading books unrelated to one’s own field and exploring questions just for the sake of knowing the answers are indications of curiosity.”

I didn’t realize it at the time, but when I was starting my company, originally focused exclusively on female athletes and women’s sports, a number of people told me, “There’s no money in women’s sports.” And the reason I pressed on regardless was that I was curious. “Is that true? If it is true, why? And shouldn’t we change that?” Those questions and my curiosity started the Stanton & Company journey (thank goodness!).

And then a few years ago, when I decided I wanted to write a book about femininity, I was curious about my behaviors, feelings, and ideas—was I experiencing something unique, or were my feelings and human responses part of a larger societal reality? (The answer turned out to be the latter.)

Continue on to Fast Company to read the complete article.

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