Dr. Mary Bethune Honored As First Black Woman With Statue In D.C.’S Statuary Hall

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Members of the public view the newly unveiled statue of Mary McLeod Bethune at the News-Journal Center in Daytona Beach on Oct. 12. It's slated to move to the U.S. Capitol's National Statuary Hall early next year. Nigel Cook/News-Journal/USA TODAY NETWORK via Reuters Co

By Erika Stone, The Black Wall Street Times

Dr. Mary Bethune, a pioneering civil rights activist from Florida, is finally getting her due.

The educator, who opened a school for Black children in 1904, will be honored as the first Black woman with a statue in the United States’ Statuary Hall in Washington D.C. It follows the statue’s unveiling in her home state of Florida.

The statue of Dr. Bethune in the nation’s capital will replace a statue of a former confederate general. The iconic Statuary Hall holds two statues of renowned citizens from each state. Dr. Bethune was nominated for the honor by Florida governor Ron DeSantis.

“Dr. Bethune embodies the very best of the Sunshine State — Floridians and all Americans can take great pride in being represented by the great educator and civil rights icon,” noted US Rep. Kathy Castor of Florida, who attended the Florida unveiling.

A trailblazer, educator, an presidential advisor
Dr. Bethune, the daughter of two slaves, founded the Daytona Beach Literary and Industrial School for Training Negro Girls in 1904. The school later transitioned into Bethune-Cookman University, a Historically Black College and University. Dr. Bethune also fought on behalf of womens’ rights, campaigning for voter registration after the suffrage movement won women the right to vote in 1920.

Dr. Bethune also served as an educational advisor to five Presidents. She served as the director of the National Youth Administration’s Office of Negro Affairs under President Franklin Roosevelt, who, along with his wife Eleanor, considered her a friend.

“Dr. Bethune was an amazing trailblazer,” said Nancy Lohman, Board president of the Dr. Mary Bethune Statuary Fund, Inc, in a statement to CNN. “She fought for African American rights, women’s rights. When she saw a problem, she got involved to help create a solution.”

Click here to read the full article on The Black Wall Street Times.

AAAED Virtual Conference Explores ‘Building an Infrastructure for Sustainable and Equitable Change’
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AAAED conference promo flyer

October 11-13, 2022, marked the American Association for Access, Equity and Diversity’s (AAAED) 48th annual national conference. This year’s virtual conference theme was “Building an Infrastructure for Sustainable and Equitable Change” and participants were able to reflect on this call to action through workshops, keynote addresses, plenary sessions, express talks and networking events.

The conference commenced with an introduction by Shirly Wilcher (Executive Director for AAAED), Jerry Knighton, Jr. (AAAED Conference Chair) and Dr. Annette Butler, (AAAED President). The Office of Federal Contract Compliance Programs Director, Jenny Yang, provided the first plenary session, where she discussed the latest corporate scheduling announcement list, recent directives regarding pay and the agency’s role in building infrastructure for equitable and sustainable change.

Other plenary sessions featured the Office of Civil Rights Assistant Secretary Catherine E. Lhamon, Equal Employment Opportunity Commission Vice Chair Jocelyn Samuels and the Office of Disability Employment Policy Assistant Secretary Taryn M. Williams. They spoke of their agency’s recent accomplishments, provided timely updates and shared reflections on the conference theme.

The keynote speakers supplemented these updates with innovative ideas for promoting change. In “Technology-driven DEI Programs: How Technology is Increasing the Impact,” Dr. Christopher Metzler (LEAD Fund President; SVP, DEI and ESG, The National Urban League) explored how companies can use virtual reality to provide impactful training. The following day, Millicent St. Claire (LIGMO Institute) introduced healthy approaches for addressing stressful encounters and eliminating their negative impact on productivity, relationships and business outcomes in “Maintaining Resiliency While Walking the Line.”

Celebrating Title IX’s anniversary, the conference featured sessions on remediating prejudice in investigations and the future applications of Title IX. Building inclusive practices for individuals with disabilities was another common theme, with presentations on service animals, support for mental health in college communities and dispelling fears and stigmas about talented workers with disabilities. Through additional workshops and express talks, attendees learned best practices in areas such as artificial intelligence and hiring, electronic postings, online applications and data discrepancy checks for affirmative action plans.

The final day featured a panel discussion regarding the impending Supreme Court decision on affirmative action. The panel was moderated by Dr. Jamal Watson (Editor, Diverse Issues in Higher Education) and featured Carol Ashley (Attorney at Law, Jackson Lewis P.C.), David Hinojosa (Lawyers Committee for Civil Rights Under Law; Director, Education Opportunities

Project), and Theodore Shaw (Center for Civil Rights, Julius L. Chambers Distinguished Professor of Law, University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill).

The conference closed with the presentation of awards:

Cesar Estrada Chavez Award: Margaret Huang, president and CEO of the Southern Poverty Law Center

Roosevelt Thomas Champion of Diversity Award: L2 Defense, Inc.

Founders Award: Renee Dunman, AAAED president, 2006-2010.

President’s Award recipient: Jackson Lewis, P.C.

As the longest-standing national civil rights organization comprised of professionals working in affirmative action, equal opportunity and diversity programs, AAAED is excitedly looking forward towards next year’s event and our 50th anniversary conference in 2024! For more information about how to join and upcoming events, please visit AAAED.org

National Scholarship Providers Association Introduces the NSPA Exchange During National Scholarship Month
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graduate students in caps and gowns smiling

National Scholarship Month, sponsored by the National Scholarship Providers Association (NSPA), is a national campaign designed to raise awareness of the vital role scholarships play in reducing student loan debt and expanding access to higher education.

To celebrate, the National Scholarship Providers Association (NSPA) has announced the launch of the NSPA Exchangethe first and only scholarship metric database.

Thanks to a partnership with the Michael & Susan Dell Foundation, the NSPA Exchange was created to serve as a central access point for scholarship provider data. Currently, the database is home to metrics from over 1,300 organizations, allowing members to search details about peer providers by location, compare scholarship award amounts, eligibility criteria, program staff size, and more. All information is kept in a secure, cloud-based, centralized database maintained through a custom administration system.

“Our goal for the NSPA Exchange is to ultimately define best practices and industry standards for scholarship providers.” says Nicolette del Muro, Senior Director, Membership and Strategic Initiatives at NSPA.

“With this database, members now have the data they need to make strategic decisions. For example, of the over 15,000 scholarships in the Exchange database, the average application is open for 90 days. And 75% of these scholarships open in the months of November, December, and January. This offers applicants a relatively short window of time to apply for all scholarships. Insight like this could help a provider determine to open their application outside of the busy season or encourage them to make their scholarship criteria and requirements available online in advance of the application open date.”

“The NSPA Exchange is a great resource for IOScholarships as the information is constantly updated and enables members to review and update their own organization’s scholarship data”, said María Fernanda Trochimezuk, Founder of IOScholarships and Individual Affiliate Member at NSPA. “IOScholarships also uses scholarships from the Exchange in our own Scholarship Search, and we trust these scholarships are safe for students, vetted, and current offerings.

To learn more about this exciting new NSPA initiative click here –  Launching a New Member Service: The NSPA Exchange or visit www.scholarshipproviders.org. For more details on how to sponsor the NSPA Exchange, contact Nicolette del Muro Senior Director, Membership and Strategic Initiatives at ndelmuro@scholarshipproviders.org.

ABOUT THE NATIONAL SCHOLARSHIP PROVIDERS ASSOCIATION (NSPA)

The mission of the National Scholarship Providers Association is to advance the collective impact of scholarship providers and the scholarships they award. Currently serving over 2,000 individuals, they are dedicated to supporting the needs of professionals administering scholarships in colleges and universities, non-profit, foundations and businesses. Membership in the NSPA provides access to networking opportunities, professional development, and scholarship program resources.

ABOUT IOSCHOLARSHIPS

By conducting a free scholarship search at IOScholarships.com, STEM minority and underrepresented students gain access to a database of thousands of STEM scholarships worth over $48 million. We then narrow this vast array of financial aid opportunities down to a manageable list of scholarships for which students actually qualify, based on the information they provide in their IOScholarships.com profile. They can then review their search results, mark their favorites, and sort their list by deadline, dollar amount and other criteria. We also offer a scholarship organizer which is completely free to use, just like our scholarship search. There are scholarships out there for diverse students in STEM. So take advantage of National Scholarship Month and search for available scholarships today!

For more information about IOScholarships visit www.ioscholarships.com

Why Women Are Turning Away From MBAs
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Asian woman standing on stairs wearing a grey suit

Despite the coronavirus pandemic, business school applications are booming. MBA providers have been grappling with record numbers and increasing class sizes to accommodate a rush of executives seeking to improve their management credentials.

However, the gender divide persists. Demand among men for MBA places has been much stronger than among women, raising concerns that years of progress towards greater inclusion in business education is at risk of regressing.

(Image Credit – Financial Times)

The Forté Foundation, which lobbies for gender equality in education, found last year that the proportion of women enrolled in MBAs at their 52 member schools remained unchanged compared with 2019. Although almost half of schools managed to break the 40 per cent barrier in 2020, improvements in female representation across the membership had stalled. Female enrolment in full-time business programmes had been inching up in recent years as admissions teams promoted female alumni, and schools offered scholarships specifically for women and targeted sectors where women hold more of the management roles.

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Female enrolment in full-time business programmes had been inching up in recent years as admissions teams promoted female alumni, and schools offered scholarships specifically for women and targeted sectors where women hold more of the management roles.

When Forté was formed in 2001, it calculated that less than 28 per cent of MBA students in the US were women. A third of full-time MBA students at member schools were women in the autumn of 2013 and that rose to nearly 39 per cent of the group in 2019.

“There is a concern that the progress that has been made will go into reverse,” Elissa Sangster, Forté’s chief executive, says. “Concern has been higher among women about returning to full-time study during a pandemic, given that the jobs market may be far harder after graduation,” she says. The financial risk is often the biggest factor for female MBA applicants, she adds, and suggests the most effective change schools can make is cutting the price tag for those considering a return to formal education.

Read the full article at Financial Times.

How to Apply for Higher Education Careers – Revised Edition
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How to Apply for Higher Education Careers promo

“How to Apply for Higher Education Careers – Revised Edition” is a free ebook for anyone interested in getting a job in higher education.

If you’re starting your career or considering a career change, this ebook dives into what’s needed to apply for higher ed jobs: understanding the difference between a curriculum vitae and a resume, drafting a career-change resume, and checking if your resume can pass the 10-second test. The revised edition includes cover letter writing tips and candid advice from higher ed professionals, including representatives in HR and recruiting.

Download the ebook for strategies to tackle that crucial early step of putting yourself out there to secure your ideal job in higher ed.

Getting Girls Into STEM by Improving Education for Everyone
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young girl in stem discussing STEM education for everyonefor the Young science challenge

ByAsia A. Eaton, Psychology Today

Although women make up about half of the U.S. workforce, they have long been underrepresented in many STEM fields (science, technology, engineering, and math).

Given that boys and girls perform similarly in STEM, this means a lot of STEM talent is being left untapped. Until we are successful at including diverse women and girls in STEM, we will be unable to address STEM labor shortages or stay globally competitive in research and development.

Our failure to include all available STEM talent in our workforce is even more dire for women of color. For example, Hispanic women represent 7 percent of the total U.S. workforce, but just 2 percent of STEM workers.

Various efforts have attempted to address these gender gaps in the last few decades, including the creation of STEM toys targeted at girls, large-scale research efforts, government funding, and afterschool programming. Despite this, the gaps haven’t narrowed as quickly as needed. In a 2022 review in the journal Social Issues and Policy Review, Drs. Sophie Kuchynka, Luis Rivera, and I explore (1) why these gaps persist and (2) ways to bridge them in K-12 education through policy and practice.

Why Do Gender Gaps in STEM Persist?
Features of the systems we live in and of our own social and psychological functioning serve to keep gender gaps in STEM alive.

1. Macrosystem influences.

Macrosystems, like our educational, economic, and justice systems, uphold gender stereotypes about the superiority of boys and men in STEM. STEM textbooks, for example, disproportionately portray male role models in STEM, sending the message that STEM is for boys. Further, system-justifying myths perpetuated in the media, such as the protestant work ethic and the myth of meritocracy, lead people to believe that the representation of men vs. women in STEM is just, and a result of differences in interest, aptitude, or hard work.

2. Microsystem influences.

The macrosystems we live in influence the smaller social systems closer to us (microsystems), like our families, schools, and peer groups. They also affect our individual psychology—how we see, interpret, and act on our social worlds.

Being raised in a world where STEM is associated with boys and men may implicitly lead parents to use less scientific language with daughters compared to sons, for example. It can also affect the amount of air time boys vs. girls get to work out their ideas in STEM classrooms. Eventually, these messages can be internalized by girls, negatively affecting their STEM self-image, interest, and participation.

How to Improve STEM Education for Everyone
Based on our review of macrosystem and microsystem factors that sustain gender-STEM inequities, we make several recommendations for K-12 STEM policy and practice to optimize success for all children.

In terms of practice, we recommend:

  • Classrooms be designed to promote relational and collaborative learning. Teachers should emphasize gender-inclusive classroom norms that promote positive working relations between girls and boys.
  • Classes should teach the history of gender inequality and bias so teachers and students can actively work to create equitable and inclusive STEM environments.
  • Teachers should encourage cooperation between children, and vary the roles students are assigned so they do not automatically adopt traditional gender roles in the classroom.
  • Teachers should promote active learning and growth mindset strategies. Cross-discipline evidence indicates that active learning, rooted in constructivist theories, is more beneficial in STEM education.
  • STEM should be reframed as helping students achieve communal goals through scientific collaboration. Emphasizing socially-meaningful aspects of STEM can help stimulate STEM interest in girls, because they tend to place more value on communal than dominance goals.
  • Classes can utilize near-peer mentorship programs, which pair students with similar mentors slightly more advanced than them. These near-peer mentors can be especially important for marginalized students who often feel isolated or excluded in STEM.
  • Schools should expand STEM evaluation metrics beyond traditional and standardized tests to include the assessment of skills like motivation, empathy, problem-solving, and adaptability, which are closely tied to positive educational outcomes.

Click here to read the full article on Psychology Today.

Young L.A. Latina wins prestigious environmental prize
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Nalleli Cobo holds the ouroboros environmental prize

By Edwin Flores, NBC News

At age 9, Nalleli Cobo was experiencing asthma, body spasms, heart palpitations and nosebleeds so severe she needed to sleep in a chair to prevent herself from choking on her own blood.

Across the street from her family’s apartment in University Park in South Central Los Angeles was an oil extraction site owned by Allenco Energy that was spewing fumes into the air and the community around her.

After speaking with neighbors facing similar symptoms, she and her family began to mobilize with their community, suspecting that was making them sick. They created the People Not Pozos (People Not Oil Wells) campaign. At 9 years old, Cobo was designated the campaign’s spokesperson, marking the start of her activism and organizing career.

In March 2020, Cobo, the co-founder of the South Central Youth Leadership Coalition, helped lead the group to permanently shut down the Allenco Energy oil drilling site that she and others in the community said caused serious health issues for them. She also helped convince the Los Angeles City Council and Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors to unanimously vote to ban new oil exploration and phase out existing sites in Los Angeles.

After pressure from the community and scrutiny from elected officials, Allenco Energy agreed to suspend operations in 2013. The site was permanently shut down in 2020, and the company was charged in connection with state and local environmental health and safety regulations. There are ongoing issues around cleaning and plugging up the oil wells.

Cobo co-founded the South Central Youth Leadership Coalition in 2015 to bolster efforts against oil sites and work toward phasing them out across the city.

That year, the youth group sued the city of Los Angeles, alleging violations of the California Environmental Quality Act and environmental racism. The suit was settled after the city implemented new drilling application requirements.

Cobo, now 21, was recognized Wednesday for the environmental justice work that has spanned more than half her life. She received the prestigious Goldman Environmental Prize, which is awarded annually to individuals from six regions: Europe, Asia, Africa, Islands and Island Nations, North America, and South and Central America.

“I did not want to answer the phone because it was an unknown number,” Cobo, who was getting bubble tea when she received the call about the prize, told NBC News in a Zoom interview Wednesday. “I didn’t even know I was nominated. I started crying.”

During the 1920s, Los Angeles was one of the world’s largest urban oil-exporting regions. More than 20,000 active, idle, or abandoned oil wells still reside in the county, and about one-third of residents live less than a mile from an active oil site.

Studies have shown that living near oil and gas wells increases exposure to air pollution, with nearby communities facing environmental and health risks including preterm birth, asthma and heart disease.

Click here to read the full article on NBC News.

Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson Confirmed as U.S. Supreme Court Justice!
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Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson headshot

First African-American woman to join.

The Senate has voted 53 to 47 to confirm Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson as the 116th Supreme Court justice.

When sworn in this summer, Jackson will be the first Black woman to serve on the nation’s high court.

“This is one of the great moments of American history,” Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer said before the vote. “Today we are taking a giant, bold and important step on the well-trodden path to fulfilling our country’s founding promise.

This is a great moment for Judge Jackson but it is an even greater moment for America as we rise to a more perfect union.”

President Biden called the vote a “historic moment” for the nation. “We’ve taken another step toward making our highest court reflect the diversity of America,” Biden posted on Twitter.

All 50 Senate Democrats, including the two independents who caucus with them, voted for Jackson’s confirmation. They were joined by three Republicans: Sens. Mitt Romney of Utah, Susan Collins of Maine, and Lisa Murkowski of Alaska.

Click here to read the complete article posted on NPR.

Selena Gomez says she’s ‘happier’ after being off social media for over 4 years: ‘It makes me feel normal’
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Selena Gomez smiling at the camera at a red carpet event

By David Artavia, Yahoo! Life

Selena Gomez is taking her passion for mental health advocacy to new heights.

On Monday, the singer, actress and entrepreneur celebrated the launch of her multimedia company Wondermind alongside her two co-founders, her mom Mandy Teefey and fellow mental health activist Daniella Pierson. The new platform aims to be a free resource to help users navigate their own mental wellness. The 29-year-old, who has spoken candidly about living with bipolar disorder, says she wants to use her own experiences as a conduit to help others, particularly as it pertains to the toxicity of social media.

“I haven’t been on the internet in four and a half years,” Gomez said in an interview with Good Morning America. “It has changed my life completely. I am happier. I am more present, I connect more with people. It makes me feel normal.”

Last year, she told InStyle she “created a system” where she doesn’t know the passwords to her social media accounts — a step she said was necessary in order to focus on herself.

The Only Murders in the Building star explained that “growing up in the spotlight has definitely taught me so much.”

“I can’t believe that I am where I am mentally just because of how I took the necessary steps in order to kind of remove myself from that because it’s just not normal,” she said.

Gomez, who has spoken candidly about living with bipolar disorder after publicly revealing her diagnosis in April 2020, says her mental health journey has been “freeing.”

“I started to have a relationship with myself,” Gomez said. “I think that’s the best part. I’ve probably been the happiest I’ve ever been.”

With Wondermind, Gomez says she wants “people to be understood and seen and heard. It’s OK to not be OK.”

“If I’m known for anything I hope it’s simply just for the way I care about people,” she added. “Those days where I don’t want to get out of bed, if I had something like Wondermind, even if it took me a minute to get into it, it’s just there. And there’s something that’s really comforting about that.”

Now, as the star is getting closer to turning 30, she hopes to take all the lessons she learned in her 20s and apply them to a better future.

“I couldn’t be more thrilled to step into this chapter. Alone, independently, strong, confidently,” she said. “That’s all I really want, you know?”

This isn’t the first time Gomez has spoken openly about her mental health.

In an interview with Elle magazine last year, she touched on the public scrutiny she faced over the years — including a very public breakup with Justin Bieber, undergoing a kidney transplant due to her lupus diagnosis and seeking mental health treatment.

“I don’t even know what they really believed I was doing — drugs, alcohol, running around, partying,” she explained of the negative press she endured. “The narrative was so nasty.”

Click here to read the full article on Yahoo! Life.

Padma Lakshmi: Advocating for a Better World
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Padma Lakshmi collage of professional photos

By Samar Khoury

You could describe Padma Lakshmi in many ways.

Inspirational.

Brave.

Trailblazing.

Advocate.

It goes on.

She is the host, judge and executive producer of Top Chef. She produces Taste the Nation, where she takes viewers around America to enlighten them with immigrant culture and cuisine. And she’s a bestselling author, known for her first children’s book, Tomatoes for Neela.

But Padma, 51, doesn’t only have a large influence in the food space — she also promotes health and wellness all over the world.

At age 13, Padma began experiencing symptoms of endometriosis but wasn’t diagnosed until age 36. Her experiences led her to co-found The Endometriosis Foundation of America (EFA) with advanced gynecological surgeon Dr. Tamer Seckin.

“I didn’t want another generation of women and girls to suffer in silence like I and millions upon millions of people did,” Padma told Professional WOMAN’s Magazine (PWM). “I lost a week of my life every month for 23 years because of this disease. Many doctors didn’t even know how to diagnose it or treat it properly.”

Since its creation in 2009, the foundation has made it a mission to fund research and raise awareness about the disease, and it has helped launch the first Center of Gynepathology Research at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT).

“I am so immensely proud of all we have accomplished in awareness of the disease, international research and educational programs,” she said. “I have also seen real change in the way the media covers this disease in just one decade. That’s very exciting to me.”

As if Padma couldn’t be any more of a role model, she is also an Artist Ambassador for immigrants’ rights and women’s rights for the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) and a Goodwill Ambassador for the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP).

“All the experience and knowledge I gained through starting the EFA with my co-founder has helped me to be a better ambassador for both the ACLU and the UNDP with confidence. Everything I learned at the EFA, I use in my work with these two organizations.”

Padma Lakshmi attends the 71st Emmy Awards at Microsoft Theater in Los Angeles.
Padma Lakshmi attends the 71st Emmy Awards in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by John Shearer/Getty Images)

The activist is also passionate about mental health and advocates for survivors of sexual assault and abuse. At age seven, her life changed forever when she was sexually molested, and then raped at age 16. Padma kept her rape a secret for 30 years, until she wrote an opinion piece for The New York Times titled, “I Was Raped at 16 and I Kept Silent.”

“I wrote an Op-Ed for @nytimes about something terrible that happened to me in my youth, something that happens to young women every day. We all have an opportunity to change the narrative and believe survivors,” Padma wrote on her Twitter page.

Through her piece, Padma wanted to let other survivors know they’re not alone. Her bravery to speak about her trauma serves as an inspiration to survivors of sexual abuse to tell their story and raise awareness.

“Identifying the problem and speaking up about it in a safe space, wherever that is, is the first step to diminishing its power over you,” she said. “Our world is not built for people who want to speak up and do the right thing. There are many systems in place that have not supported our collective well-being or safeguarded a woman’s safety. It can feel lonely and exhausting to speak about any kind of trauma with very little benefit. But in order to free oneself of the yoke of trauma on one’s future, one has to identify the trauma outright and say what happened or what is happening to you out loud. And do not underestimate the help of support groups, even online ones.”

This open-hearted influencer also advises to talk to someone right away, and not just anyone, but someone who is capable of receiving the information you’re about to give them and can help you or help you find help.

“None of us do it alone,” she said. “And to me, the first step is to try and say out loud what is troubling you to someone else. If you can’t find that person right away, then write down everything you can remember think of surrounding what’s troubling you. If the trauma is recent, these details will also be helpful to law enforcement.”

Not surprisingly, Padma’s efforts don’t stop here. She has a laundry list of accolades, including 32 Emmy award nominations, the 2018 Karma award from Variety, the 2016 NECO Ellis Island Medal of Honor and the 2021 Advocate of the Year Award by the United Nations Correspondents Association (UNCA).

In fact, the pioneer also stresses the importance of diversity and inclusion and defends marginalized communities, especially in light of recent injustices against Asians, Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders (AAPIs). Her influence led to another honor — the AI Award from Gold House, a nonprofit that aims to increase AAPI visibility.

Padma Lakshmi holds her new cookbook smiling
Padma Lakshmi attends The Build Series to discuss Her New Cookbooks And Tableware Lines. (Photo by Santiago Felipe/Getty Images)

Padma strongly believes in food as a vehicle for diversity, and emphasizes that we should be exposed to different foods and ethnicities, advocating that American grocery stores and supermarkets should integrate “ethnic” or “exotic” foods into their “mainstream” aisles.

“I feel integrating things like udon, ramen, tortillas or gochujang and tahini would actually do a lot to normalize these foods and make shoppers who are unfamiliar with them more likely to try them, thereby expanding what more Americans eat. We are a country of many influences. Our stores should look like it.”

The food guru, who is also an ambassador for Impossible Foods, recently became an investor with DAH!, an Indian-inspired yogurt food company.

“Only invest in something you know very well. I felt a great affinity with the DAH! Yogurt brand because I grew up in a house where we made our own yogurt every day,” she said. “Indian cuisine has a millennia-old connection to homemade yogurt that many Westerners may not yet grasp. And, just as the 1980s saw a wave of French yogurt sweep the U.S. consumer with Yoplait, and the 2000s saw the advent of Greek yogurt, I believe the 2020s will be about Indian slow-cultured lassi and yogurt. I look forward to helping bring about this wave in the U.S. because I genuinely think the American eater will benefit from it.”

So, what shaped Padma to be the strong-willed, diversity-seeking, inspirational food enthusiast we love today? To understand Padma, it helps to know her past.

Padma was born in India, and after her mother and father divorced, she came to America with her mother at age four. She grew up in the United States, graduating from Clark University with a Bachelor’s degree in Theatre Arts and American Literature. Padma wasn’t always in the food space — she started her career as a model and actress, working in Europe and the United States. What launched Padma’s modeling career was her seven-inch scar on her right arm — a result of a serious car accident from when she was a teenager.

“I hated it. But then I was, you know, shot by a very great photographer named Helmut Newton. And he liked the scar. I think that your flaws and your scars really make you who you are,” she told CBS News. Padma was dubbed India’s first supermodel.

She kicked off her food career by hosting Padma’s Passport and Planet Food. She’s also a best-selling author, known for book Easy Exotic, cookbook Tangy, Tart, Hot & Sweet, memoir Love, Loss, and What We Ate, The Encyclopedia of Spices & Herbs, and of course, her recent Tomatoes for Neela, which is inspired by her own family memories.

Padma Lakshmi, host of Top Chef interacts with children at the launch of Nickelodeon Fit for Wii
Padma Lakshmi, host of Top Chef interacts with children at the launch of Nickelodeon Fit for Wii. (Photo by Astrid Stawiarz/Getty Images for Nickelodeon)

“Through food, my grandmother and my mother taught me so much about life and culture and being a person in the world. And so, I’m hoping that, through this book, I can encourage families to actively cook together, to value the recipes that they’ve been making for their family get-togethers and also to remember all of the different people who bring us our food and to be mindful of our environment,” Padma told The North State Journal.

Padma continues to make memories with her 11-year-old daughter, Krishna, by cooking together in their New York home. This heartwarming mother and daughter bonding time — which consisted of filming “quarantine” cooking videos on TikTok and Instagram — inspired Padma to write Tomatoes for Neela.

“It’s a tale about a mother and daughter who enjoy cooking together, and the story is meant to help children learn about eating seasonal foods, learning to cook and the joy of creating meals together as a family,” Padma told USA Today.

“I think children eat healthier and become more mindful of the planet when they learn about the origins of food,” she says. “One of my earliest memories is making dosas (a traditional South Indian dish of crepes made from fermented rice and lentils) with my mom,” she continued.

Which brings us to Padma’s Emmy-nominated Taste the Nation, an appetizing adventure that sheds light on indigenous cuisine and people and how they’ve shaped American food.

Padma Lakshmi has spiced up our screens, aimed to make a difference one step at a time and raised awareness for different cultural causes. But she’s not done — there’s so much left on this powerhouse’s plate.

If you’re hungry for more Taste the Nation, you won’t be waiting long, as the show has been renewed for a second season.

“Creating this show has been the joy of my life,” Padma said. “But in the time since it’s come out, there already have been a bunch of shows trying to mimic our format and thesis, so I need to make sure our take is always fresh and deeper. That’s the big project until fall when I go to film another season of Top Chef, our 20th!” she said as she wrapped up her interview with PWM.

We’ll definitely stay tuned!

Why International Women’s Day matters
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in honor of international women's day, the washington post posted U.S. Soccer Women's National Team member Megan Rapinoe speaks as President Biden and first lady Jill Biden watch during an event to mark Equal Pay Day in D.C. in March 2021. (Evan Vucci/AP)

By Suzanne Cope, Washington Post

International Women’s Day, which is now celebrated on March 8 around the globe, has for more than a century been a day to highlight the plight of women, especially mothers, in the workplace and fight for reforms. Over the years, women have used this day to help win concessions on issues such as a five-day, 40-hour workweek, child labor laws, safety codes and a minimum wage. But more recently in America, the day has become divorced from its labor history roots and morphed into an occasion to generically celebrate women and girls in our lives on social media, while the full promise of the women’s labor movement has not been fulfilled, notably around paid family leave, affordable child care and equitable pay. The demands made over a century ago remind us of the need for women to reclaim this history and power by walking out, literally and figuratively, on this International Women’s Day.

American Socialists declared the first National Woman’s Day (it would be renamed in the plural decades later), with a focus on workers’ rights and suffrage. The event took place in New York City in 1909 on the last Sunday of February — a day when working women could attend. Charlotte Perkins Gilman, a noted feminist, socialist and author, gave a speech calling for women’s influence and freedom beyond their households: “It is true that a woman’s duty is centered in her home and motherhood but home should mean the whole country and not be confined to three or four rooms of a city or a state.”

The protest laid the groundwork for the largest strike by women workers that fall. At 9 a.m. on a cold morning in November 1909, thousands of garment workers walked out of their shops in Manhattan, Brooklyn and the Bronx and marched to their union headquarters at 151 Clinton Street. Their demands included a 52-hour workweek, higher pay and an end to workplace abuses, such as unsafe working conditions and what we later came to understand as sexual harassment. Women continued to strike, many with their children by their side, until their individual shops negotiated with workers.

This “Uprising of the 20,000,” as the event became known, was mostly settled in days or weeks, with varying degrees of success. Labor leader Rose Schneiderman wrote that she pleaded with the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory workers to strike, to no avail. A little over a year later, on March 25, 1911, unsafe conditions at the Triangle factory led to a massive fire and the death of 146 workers. But the Uprising of the 20,000 no doubt prevented other tragedies like this from happening and showed women as a powerful and steadfast force to be reckoned with when they protested in large numbers.

In 1910, German socialist Clara Zetkin proposed codifying International Woman’s Day at an International Socialist Congress in Copenhagen, with delegates from 17 countries unanimously agreeing. The next year, more than a million women took part in this holiday, flooding the streets across Europe and demanding political and worker rights.

Over the next decade, International Women’s Day became a day for protests against the burgeoning imperialist war in Europe, and in 1917, Russian women demanded “peace, land, and bread.” Such protests helped to spark the Russian Revolution and earned women the right to vote and run for office that same year.

Throughout the 20th century, March 8 continued to inspire protests for women’s working and political rights around the globe. Under threat of arrest, torture, rape and death, women in Nazi-occupied Italy in 1944 and 1945 walked out of factories and homes en masse, demanding better wages, maternity leave, child care and an end to German requisitioning of Italian-made goods. Even Nazi fascists capitulated to the power of these women, offering shorter hours, hot soup and heating fuel so that the women would continue to work.

Women workers were also instrumental in the Allied war effort, and their organizational initiatives played a role in winning the war. Italian labor leaders such as Bianca Guidetti helped organize female factory workers to continue to support anti-fascist soldiers and fight for women’s rights over the last brutal year of World War II. In many northern Italian cities, these efforts culminated in women taking up arms and securing factories during the final bloody battles against Germany as the Allied forces advanced.

These organized demonstrations then gave women political power in the new Italian government. Following the war, they secured political representation, labor unions, child-care assistance and more equitable pay. On March 8, Italian women carried the yellow mimosa — an early spring bloom — to represent “solidarity with women throughout the world.” This flower became a reminder during the war of their obligation to fight for a better future, scholar Jomarie Alano wrote. Even today, many countries celebrate women and mothers on this day with flowers, but also annual protests for equal rights and better pay.

Click here to read the full article on the Washington Post.

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