Lego, the world’s largest toymaker, has pledged to eliminate gender stereotypes from its products — including labeling that marks toys as “for girls” or “for boys” — as part of a bid to match the wishes of its young customers.
“Despite the progress made in girls brushing off prejudice at an early age, general attitudes surrounding play and creative careers remain unequal and restrictive,” the Danish company known for its colorful building blocks said in a statement on Monday, which was also the United Nations Day of the Girl. “Girls today feel increasingly confident to engage in all types of play and creative activities, but remain held back by society’s ingrained gender stereotypes as they grow older.”
Lego’s move comes amid heightened debate about the role that toys play in creating and perpetuating gender stereotypes. On Saturday, California Gov. Gavin Newsom (D) signed a new law requiring large retail stores in the nation’s most populous state to provide gender-neutral shopping sections for child-care items and toys beginning in 2024.
The toymaker’s announcement also comes in response to a global survey, commissioned by Lego and conducted by the Geena Davis Institute on Gender in Media, that found that parents and, to a lesser extent, their children, are still influenced by gendered notions of career. Young girls are also more willing to participate in activities that cut across “gender norms” than their male peers, the poll found.
For instance, when asked which gender immediately comes to mind upon thinking of scientists, parents from seven countries were much more likely to say “male,” researchers found, using online, opt-in surveys.
And while 82 percent of girls saw nothing wrong with them playing soccer and boys doing ballet, only 71 percent of their male counterparts felt the same way.
While it was heartening to see girls becoming more confident, Madeline Di Nonno, the institute’s chief executive, said the discrepancy might also reflect that boys fear being teased or bullied if they play with toys associated with girls.
“Let the kids decide what they want to play, how they want to play with it and how they want to express themselves,” she said in an interview.
“Our job now is to encourage boys and girls who want to play with sets that may have traditionally been seen as ‘not for them,’ ” Julia Goldin, Lego’s chief product and marketing officer, told the Guardian newspaper.
The company said in an emailed statement that it would work to offer a more diverse array of characters and roles so that no child would “feel that they weren’t welcome or represented” in Lego products.
The campaign to make toys and other children’s products more gender-neutral has been around for several years. Advocates including Evan Low, a Democratic assemblyman who helped write the new California law, note that gender-based divisions of such products have contributed to “the proliferation of [science, technology, engineering and mathematics]-geared toys” for boys and “pursuits such as caring for a baby, fashion, and domestic life” for girls.
Some conservative organizations, however, pushed back on the California bill, arguing that a government-imposed view on gender constitutes a violation of free speech and reflects attempts to impose a gender-neutral ideology.
Click here to read the full article on Washington Post.
Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics, collectively known as STEM make up the fastest-growing and highest paid fields in the U.S. with diverse job opportunities in careers ranging from aerospace engineers, programmer to operations director, yet Latinas only account for 3% of the industry.
Unfortunately, many Latinas are discouraged from pursuing STEM careers and loose interest in these disciplines as early as middle school. This is why early intervention curriculums like the ones provided by XYLO Academy are key to increasing the representation of Latinas in the STEM workforce.
Getting to college is another challenge as underrepresented students face steep costs and challenges to higher education. According to a recent study published in the journal Education Researcher Latino college students drop out of STEM programs at higher rates (37%) that their white peers (27%).
Continual increases in tuition and fees have pushed the cost of college education beyond the means of most minority and underrepresented students. This is why IO Scholarships offers free access to scholarships and financial education so high school, undergraduate and graduate students can find life-changing scholarships where their diverse background is valued.
Despite all the challenges, these two Latinas are working together to fix the leaking pipeline, providing scholarships, and creating STEM curriculums for women of color.
Gabriela Forter Co-founder XYLO Academy
Born and raised in the California San Joaquin Valley, Gabriela’s first introduction to entrepreneurship was during a course with Professor Rostamian at UCLA in 2015. This class significantly shaped not only her academic interests but also her career path. Gabriela and Professor Rostamian have now launched XYLO Academy to scale this same impact. After spending two and a half years at Deloitte Consulting, Gabriela joined Facebook, focusing on Machine Learning and Artificial Intelligence. She is confident that the most meaningful changes in society will come from advancements in disruptive innovations and seeks to inspire students to pursue careers in STEM. She is committed to increasing diversity in STEM and believes that change starts with education.
“Our goal at XYLO Academy is to educate students on disruptive innovation and inspire them to pursue degrees and careers in STEM and with our partnership with IO Scholarships we are creating a pipeline for these students to have access to the best scholarships in STEM and realize their dreams.”
María Trochimezuk Founder IO Scholarships
Her determination and hard work paid off as she won grants and scholarships to pay for her entire education. In realizing how time consuming and complicated the process of finding scholarships for STEM diverse students was, María Fernanda created IO Scholarships to make things much easier. She learned first-hand to find, apply for and win scholarships and became an advocate promoting scholarships nationwide.
“IOScholarships was inspired by my own experience as I was very fortunate to access scholarships to attend prestigious universities and realized that more could be done to support minority students especially now as STEM education becomes more important to workforce opportunities,” said María Fernanda Trochimezuk, Founder of IO Scholarships. “IO Scholarships will not only help underrepresented students find scholarships, but level the playing field so all students have the opportunity to achieve their education goals.”
ABOUT XYLO ACADEMY
We are a group of passionate and skilled storytellers. We believe that students everywhere should have the power and ability to access a world-class education. We believe that technology and innovation, especially disruptive innovation, provides unlimited potential for the future. XYLO Academy introduces this space to students in a bold, story-telling format breaking down any barriers that impede equal opportunity to explore, learn and thrive in the 5 disruptive innovation platforms: Artificial Intelligence, Blockchain & Cryptocurrencies, Robotics, Energy Storage and Bio Tech. We have diverse experiences and backgrounds across technology, product innovations and education. We are united in our passion to provide equal access to the study of technology and innovation. Our diversity is our strength, and our mission is our singular focus. XYLO – Unlimited space for learning and opportunity.
ABOUT IO SCHOLARSHIPS
Most of the scholarships featured on the IOScholarships website come directly from corporations and organizations, rather than solely from competitive national pools – thereby maximizing the number of opportunities students have to earn funding for their education. Each month IO Scholarships adds hundreds of new curated scholarships to its database and posts “The Scholarship of the Week” on its Twitter, Facebook and Instagram social media accounts (@IOScholarships), making it easy to find new scholarship opportunities.
In addition to providing scholarships, IO Scholarships website offers a free scholarship organizer, news articles designed to provide guidance on how to apply for scholarships, and money saving tips. The platform also offers a Career Aptitude Quiz designed to help students identify the degrees and professions that best fit their skills.
Professional Woman’s Magazine recently spoke with Ashley Mehta, chairwoman, CEO and president of Nolij Consulting, a woman-owned, solutions-focused healthcare IT company that specializes in digital healthcare modernization for the military, public and commercial sectors.
Mehta founded the Northern Virginia-based Nolij Consulting in 2013, and since then, has scaled the company to be the leader in healthcare IT.
We asked the Ohio native more about Nolij, her challenges as a female business owner and her goals for the future:
Professional Woman’s Magazine (PWM): Tell us a little bit more about your background. Were you always interested in IT?
Mehta: I am a graduate of the Ohio State University’s Max. M. Fisher College of Business. I have two children and am privileged to be in a position where I can create a positive, impactful work environment for my employees while giving back to the community and championing causes that I am passionate about, including veterans’ and women’s issues. I love working in IT because, whether it’s making systems more efficient, reducing client expenditure or producing better outcomes, technology is able to create a significant and real change in organizations and people’s lives. Yes, I’ve always been interested in technology as it increases business efficiencies and brings people together to solve the most pressing business problems.
PWM: What led you to create Nolij Consulting?
Mehta: I was a former stay-at-home mom with two young children who found herself in a position where I needed to go back to work. I joined a large consulting firm and had the opportunity to learn the entire spectrum of the business – from compliance to proposals, business development, technology and everything in between. As the industry started shifting from large business opportunities to more small business opportunities, I recognized my chance to start my own company and make a real difference in the industry while having the work/life balance I wanted so I could juggle all of my responsibilities. From there, Nolij was born. Over the past 9 years, we have made great strides against considerable odds in establishing ourselves amid a crowded GovCon marketplace! Ironically enough, I have trained several previously stay at home moms in this business and they now work for Nolij.
PWM: What challenges, if any, have you experienced as a female founder and CEO in this space?
Mehta: The biggest obstacle I’ve faced to date is the lack of prime IT opportunities specifically set aside for women-owned businesses. As Nolij has grown its footprint across the GovCon space, and is now expanding into the commercial sector, I’ve continued to focus on key areas, such as cybersecurity, RPA and AI, where we can expand our partnerships to create new opportunities for women-owned businesses.
PWM: What would you say is your greatest accomplishment to-date?
Mehta: Building a successful, thriving business and creating an outstanding consulting company with a great work environment for my employees while being a great mother is my greatest accomplishment so far. Our employees gave us a 4 on Glassdoor, which is no easy feat to achieve for an organization. Glassdoor is a website where current and former employees anonymously review companies. I am proud of employing leading talent across the industry and having the expertise to serve our clients and add to their success.
Nolij is proud to give back to various charities and support the less fortunate in our community. As a little girl, I’ve always dreamed of having extra money to give to those in need.
I’ve been able to do this while raising two beautiful children who have worked hard as well and have bright futures ahead of them. These successes inspire me every day to keep moving forward.
PWM: What advice would you give to another female entrepreneur?
Mehta: I would say that leading by example, putting yourself in front of clients and marketing your company on social media is very important. It’s also critical to set yourself apart and create a differentiator for your company. Distinguish your company and invest heavily in training resources and certifications for your organization and your employees. To build a successful team, be sure you are offering the right benefits that will keep employees with you and give them the chance to grow professionally. It’s no longer expensive to provide the benefits and resources that larger companies do. It is important to create a strong foundation to make people feel valued and enjoy coming to work each day. And remember, once you have a strong service/product offering, no one will care if you are a man or a woman.
PWM: What are your goals for Nolij Consulting? What do you hope to achieve in the future?
Mehta: We are focused on strategic growth in a number of areas going forward to make the company future-ready. We are also focused on strong partnerships and relationships to further strengthen our capabilities to meet our clients’ goals. We’ve created three new joint ventures (JV) focused on cybersecurity, artificial intelligence, emerging technologies and health IT services. These joint ventures are a combination of 8A, WOSB, Hubzone, and SDVOSB managed JVs. We also have a mentor protégé JV relationship with a large health IT company where we plan to win opportunities under relevant IT contract vehicles. We are currently working to win several contract vehicles that give us the ability to win task orders under those vehicles. We just recently won GSA 8A STARS III and Navy Seaport NxG. We are also strengthening our AI /ML solutions to establish a strong capability in software testing and Electronic Health Records (EHR). We just won an artificial intelligence sole source opportunity with Health and Human Services (HHS). We’ve established several emerging, next-generation technology product partnerships and are currently establishing a workforce that is well trained on delivering these products. Our goal is to achieve an even stronger health IT company focused on our employee’s wellbeing while providing excellent health IT services to our clients.
PWM: What is something colleagues would be surprised to know/learn about you?
Mehta: I have a twin brother who is also in IT. He is more in the sales and software product side of the business. My son looks quite a bit like him. I also have an older brother who is in healthcare mergers and acquisitions. I grew up with my father owning his own consulting business around continuing education for CPAs. He did not have the luxury of the business conveniences that we have today. Due to the lack of technology, he had to educate CPAs in person, ship heavy training materials for his classes and had to conduct business over a phone hooked up to a wall. Today we can offer e-learning opportunities, send large documents over the internet, use our mobile phones to have Zoom or WebEx meetings with clients across the world. As a business owner and mother, I have a tremendous amount of respect for what my dad accomplished while raising kids without the technological advances we have today.
PWM: Anything else you would like to add that we missed?
Mehta: If your company has predominately male leadership, if it’s not leaning more towards a healthy even split, then the next generation of women will consider your company yesterday’s product. A product not worth their investment and time; a place where innovation and creativity will be stifled by outdated norms.
I want to take a moment to recognize the bright daughters of my outstanding employees and all that they are accomplishing. It’s exciting to think about a future where their contributions will not only be recognized but will be sought-after. Ultimately, empowering women in the workplace ensures your company will be ready for whatever challenges lie ahead.
Facebook this week announced a $100 million commitment to a program that supports small businesses owned by women and minorities by buying up their outstanding invoices.
By buying up outstanding invoices, the Facebook Invoice Fast Track program puts money in the hands of small businesses that would have otherwise had to wait weeks if not months to get paid by their customers.
The program is the latest effort by Facebook to build its relationships and long-term loyalty among small businesses, many of whom rely on the social network to place ads targeted to niche demographics who may be interested in their services.
Businesses can submit outstanding invoices of a minimum of $1,000, and if accepted, Facebook will buy the invoice from the small business and pay them within a matter of days. The customers then pay Facebook the outstanding invoices at the same terms they had agreed to with the small business. For Facebook, which generated nearly $86 billion in revenue in 2020, waiting for payments is much less dire than it is for small businesses.
Facebook piloted a smaller version of the program in 2020 after hearing how much the company’s suppliers were struggling in the wake of the Covid-19 pandemic, said Rich Rao, Facebook’s vice president of small business.
“We just heard first-hand the financial hardships that these suppliers were facing, and it was created really quickly and brought up as an idea and pitched to our CFO to say, ‘Hey, would we be able to help our suppliers with this?’” Rao said. “It was a very small pilot, but we did see that be very successful.”
Now, Facebook is drastically expanding the program and will buy up to $100 million in outstanding invoices. Rao estimates this will support approximately 30,000 small businesses.
“It’s a new concept, but we’re really excited about it,” Rao said.
U.S. businesses owned by women and minorities, and that are members of supplier organizations that serve underrepresented groups, are eligible to apply for the program. This includes the National Minority Supplier Development Council, Women’s Business Enterprise National Council, National LGBT Chamber of Commerce, the National Veterans Business Development Council, Disability: IN and the U.S. Pan Asian American Chamber of Commerce. Facebook is also exploring adding more partner organizations for the program, the company told CNBC.
“We deserve multicultural projects. We deserve to see ourselves. Everyone deserves to see themselves, and not just see themselves up there [on the screen] but also behind the scenes too,” shared Primetime Emmy and Grammy winner, Tiffany Haddish.
“You’re entertaining multicultural people. You’re entertaining a nation that is a melting pot. It’s not one thing. We are a melting pot. So, it needs to be that represented by our industry.”
To the critically acclaimed comedian, actress, producer, author, activist and philanthropist, diversity, equity and inclusion are not just buzz words. They are the bedrock and foundation of her career, as well as the legacy she hopes to leave in the world. That fortitude and dedication to service is what made Haddish an easy choice for Professional Woman’s Magazine’s 2021 Wonder Woman of the Year.
It would be hard to go anywhere in the country and find someone unacquainted with Haddish’s work. From her comedy performances and television appearances (Def Comedy Jam, The Carmichael Show and her hit Showtime special Tiffany Haddish: She Ready! From the Hood to Hollywood) to her New York Times bestselling memoir, The Last Black Unicorn (which debuted at the number 15 spot) and her hit films like Girls Trip, where she starred alongside other greats, Regina Hall, Jada Pinkett Smith and Queen Latifah, or Nigh School co-starring with Kevin Hart, Tiffany Haddish is easily considered one of the most recognizable women in comedy.
Her comedy album, Black Mitzvah, made history as the second time an African American woman has won the Grammy Award for Best Comedy Album since Whoopi Goldberg in 1986. Her accolades further include hosting the revival of the historic CBS special, Kids Say the Darndest Things, as well as a frequent guest host of the award-winning The Ellen DeGeneres Show, when fellow comedian Ellen DeGeneres needs to take breaks. She is also a successful entrepreneur as the founder and owner of her own production company, She Ready Productions.
About the Vision
She Ready Productions has been a dream in the making for Haddish, who started her company to make a change, not only in her life, but the lives of as many people as she could. “It was important to me because I wanted to be able to tell our stories the way that I think they should be told, and I wanted to provide jobs for people,” said the star. “I could be that selfish person like, ‘I’m the star. It’s all about me!’ It’s not all about me, and I don’t have all the stories. There are so many stories to be told. I wanted to create a company that is female-run and that is telling our stories and giving opportunities.”
Because the country is currently in a rebuilding phase from the pandemic, especially the entertainment and media industry, Haddish wants to support those who need work and opportunity the most. “The vision is 500 jobs every 3 months for 500 people. That’s my vision,” she said. “Every time we do something, that’s 250, right? So, if I get two projects going at the same time, that’s 500 people working. In my mind, this time next year, 1600 people would have been employed, put their kids through school and paid their rent. In my mind, that’s what I see.”
About the Future
Born to an Eritrean refugee and African American businesswoman in South Central Los Angeles, Haddish grew up in and out of the American foster care system. Her father left when she was very young, thus her mother remarried and had two more girls as well as two boys. When Haddish was nine years old, their mother was in a car crash that her stepfather later admitted to causing, leaving her mother with severe brain damage that caused aggressive and violent changes to her behavior. After that, Haddish became the major caregiver for her siblings until they were temporarily separated in foster care when she turned 12. When she turned 15, their grandmother reunited them once more under her care.
These experiences left a special place in Haddish’s heart for displaced children and those in the foster care system. She has partnered with Living Advantage, a nonprofit that focuses its work on the welfare of foster children, as well as the Laugh Factory Comedy Camp and her own organization, the She Ready Foundation, which facilitates programs for foster youth like the She Ready Internship Program.
When asked about the program, Haddish was effusive. “It’s going actually very good. The kids are learning a lot, and we have these meetings every few weeks, just checking in with them to make sure they have the skills. We’re giving them life skills as well.” She continued, “They’re coming from a place, well, you know where they’re coming from: where I came from. Nobody showed me how to do a lot of things that I wish somebody would have shown me instead of me having to bump my head and figure it out.”
Haddish has often described her formative years and experiences as difficult and without much guidance. From not understanding her body in her early years (and even being hospitalized with toxic shock syndrome at one point) to living in her car during her twenties, Haddish had to learn a lot about life for herself, something she wants to spare the youth in her program. Along with life skills, they are also learning about the entertainment and media industries and how to navigate the business of bringing people joy.
“We’re showing them. We’re giving them the blueprint…they’re talking about their experiences so far…how much they’ve grown and learned. I’m just excited for them. I’m a big believer in Whitney’s song, Greatest Love of All,” Haddish shared while reciting the lyrics, like a poem and a motivational speech. “It is my mantra. Every month, we say this honey! So, that’s what I’m trying to do, and I see it. I see them growing. I see their whole demeanor, their whole energy, changing. I know they are my future. People who know where I come from are about to be running this business, and it just fills my heart up with so much joy.”
About Her Business
So, what comes next for the woman who has starred in at least one profitable blockbuster every year for the past five years, now that she’s adding producing credits to her acting accolades?
“Director,” she said immediately. “And then we’ll go for my doctorate because I want people to call me Dr. Haddish,” she continued. “I just want to hear people call me Dr. Haddish…I would probably get it in communications. A doctor of communicating; I love it.”
But that’s not all. Haddish also plans to publish more books in the future. “Yes, there will be another book coming, sooner than later,” Haddish admitted. “There’s three books coming. One is a memoir that picks up where Black Unicorn left off. There’s a middle-age/YA teen book coming and a children’s book.”
Each book is very different and has a unique focus that you might not expect. “The children’s book is about unicorns,” Haddish said, “and about being comfortable with yourself. The YA book is about my experience going into high school, or junior high I should say. And the memoir is about these last five years.”
“I really focus mostly on adults. I’m a grown up. But I do realize that these kids need something too, and I love them. They love me. I work well with children, and they’re my future. So, I want to give them something that’s going to bring them up…it’s books I wish I could have read when I was a kid.”
Haddish is focused on using her experiences, lessons and unique brand of funny to give the industry a better tomorrow. Ultimately, it’s her goal to help people overcome the same obstacles that she’s had to face, to build the futures they want and experience life with dignity. She wants everyone to know that it all starts with you.
“I want [people] to know that it is important to love yourself. You take care of you first and then take care of everybody else. Don’t ever feel guilty for that.”
Read this story and more fascinating articles in the digital issues here!
By Shonna Jordan, owner of Jordan & Jordan Marketing
It was only about three weeks until my big event. I had sold tickets. I had sold exhibit tables. I had sponsors, food and beverage, volunteers, models and music all lined up. I put deposits on the venue and vendors. I invested in programs and pop ups, promotions and products. All the pieces of the puzzle were in place.
And I had just hung up with a friend who told me, “You can NOT have the event! No one is going to come!”
Not just my world, but THE whole world, had just gone on lockdown due to this thing called COVID.
What the hell was I going to do?
Jumping into Action
If you have not read Ken Blanchard’s book, Who Moved My Cheese, I strongly recommend that you do. Someone had just moved my big cheese and I had no time to hem or haw… I HAD TO sniff and scurry… like IMMEDIATELY!
I quickly wrote a script, downloaded a teleprompter app, turned my kitchen into a little studio, put on my “news anchor” face that I learned during my college days, recorded a great “don’t fear, the event isn’t cancelled it’s just postponed temporarily” message, uploaded it to YouTube and blasted it out through every social media outlet and every email I had in my database in less than a day. And then? Then I caved, crumbled, withdrew and went into hiding. I had put on the brave face, but underneath it all, even knowing I really had to keep moving, I was a mess and at a loss. Accustomed to producing and directing events, I found myself with lack of direction in uncertain times.
Not only did I have the March 2020 event, The Business Women’s Mega Mixer, which had to be postponed, I also had already started promoting my second large event, The Business Explosion, slotted for October 2020… both are annual events that were in their eleventh year. On top of that, I own and operate a women’s networking group, Good Ol’ Gals Business Connections, for which I held monthly meetings in three locations. Yea… those also came to a screeching halt in March 2020 and those also had attendees, sponsors and marketplace tables that had already been purchased for March AND April.
Before I could really get a game plan together, I had to get a read on where those who had invested in the meetings and events stood. I was in awe that the vast majority were incredibly understanding and committed to weather this storm with me. And that’s when it REALLY hit me. I wasn’t in this alone. There were a multitude of events that could no longer be held and we didn’t know for how long: no sporting events, no school or school-related functions, no weddings, celebrations, dance parties. No gatherings… at all. The magnitude of this pandemic had finally sunk in and after what I would consider a “fair” amount of time had passed and more than enough wallowing had been done, I started planning again.
Crafting a Plan
Determined to be ready the very second things started to open up again, I got creative. How would I handle putting on an event while still abiding by safety protocols? What could I do to create a safe environment in which participants would be comfortable attending while providing a platform for reconnection and rebuilding while ALSO honoring and respecting the choices of each individual? Ain’t that a doozy? And I wanted to be first to welcome everyone back to in-person events without jumping the gun. Quite the balancing act.
Month after month, I stayed up to date on the state and county guidelines. I took the networking group online and down to just one meeting a month and kept the same vibe behind the computer as I did in front of the room. Maintaining the connection was critical. For the larger business events, I kept in touch primarily with the venue, as they were truly on top of all the most current safety guidelines and projected dates for reopening or moving to the next tier.
It was challenging to keep plugging away, I won’t lie. But as I watched and listened, not only to the news but to my community of business professionals, I had hope. People were chomping at the bit to get back to “normal,” and I was prepared!
From providing commemorative kerchiefs to use as a personal microphone cover to personal, event-branded bottles of hand sanitizer to stars on a “walk of fame” that served double duty as social distance markers! My favorite creative idea was the one that honored individual choices… I provided pins to affix to each attendee’s name badge lanyard that had one of four symbols on it to denote the wearer’s comfort level with contact — from “no contact” or “fist bump only” to “handshakes ok” to “I’m good with it all”! No guilt, no judgement. The Good Ol’ Gals had their first in person meeting at the very end of April 2021… and it was a huge success!
Expect the Unexpected
But what about the two annual events? The GOG Gala (that April networking meeting I just mentioned) was maxed out at 60 attendees to stay within the 25 percent indoor capacity rule at the time. I realized early in 2021 that having the Mega Mixer in March wasn’t going to be an option as it draws upwards of 250 participants and that wasn’t permitted yet. But the Business Explosion could most likely be held in October… so what to do? Get creative, start planning, be prepared… and expect the unexpected. That came in the form of my venue being sold and would no longer be used for events! What the…?!?
The idea came to take the best elements from both events and blend them into ONE BIG EVENT… MegaBOOM2021! But where to hold it now that the venue I had used for years was no longer an option? And within the same budget? I put it out there to my tribe and they came through. The first big business event in my area is ON! And guess what? Even with less time to promote, I’m ready and so are those who have patiently waited.
This journey for me had its major ups and downs, both professionally AND personally, but like many I’ve heard from, I used this unprecedented situation to take stock, do some introspection and self-analysis, set a few things straight and let a few things go. Going through this ordeal gave me a new perspective on my business, my life and my self…. Emerging from it surprisingly a better human for having gone through it.
No matter what life throws our way, getting creative, being prepared and understanding that the only certainty in life is change will keep us moving forward in a positive direction.
Shonna Jordan is the owner of Jordan & Jordan Marketing, a North San Diego County-based marketing agency which, in addition to brand development, marketing messaging and marketing materials development for small businesses, also produces two annual events: The Business Women’s Mega Mixer and The Business Explosion. Jordan writes, speaks and trains on various marketing and business-related topics and owns and operates the women’s networking organization, Good Ol’ Gals Business Connections. You can contact her via e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.
By Andrea Zopp, Managing Partner at Cleveland Avenue
In 2021 women are finally in the room where it happens. Whether it’s politics, business or higher education, it’s hard to deny the impact of women on our world.
Women — most notably women of color — have long been underrepresented in entrepreneurship. But over the last 20 years, female entrepreneurs have taken the reins in the business world. They’ve ranged from small startups all the way to chief executives of Fortune 500 companies. Women are inevitably changing the game by creating new jobs, strengthening communities, and ultimately helping grow the economy.
Yet, despite a rich heritage in entrepreneurship and proven results in leadership, women in business are still facing several challenges. The main one being the ability to get credit or capital needed for their businesses. Part of this is due to the lack of representation in the venture capital industry. This results in Black, Latinx and female entrepreneurs struggling to access venture capital support. In Chicago, Black and Latinx entrepreneurs have 80 percent of their equity capital needs going unmet compared to 46 percent of white business owners. As a means of combating this challenge, women are turning to crowdfunding, grants or professional organizations for help to run their business, make industry introductions and advise them on how to do what they’ve never done before. That’s where we come in.
Cleveland Avenue and our diverse team of professionals are committed to addressing the capital gap for underrepresented entrepreneurs and underserved communities starting right here in Chicago. In March, we launched CAST US, a $70 million venture investment fund focused on investing in Black, Latinx and female entrepreneurs to close the racial wealth gap and make huge, historic inroads in gender equity over the next 20 years. Our public-private partnership will create a business ecosystem that will make Illinois a hub of innovation able to support a more diverse, talented group of entrepreneurs. The lack of venture capital investment in these businesses means we need to make more connections to build a stronger, more diverse network. There are clear and measurable benefits to helping women-owned businesses, including shaping an equitable, robust and more resilient economy as we recover from the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic. It’s undeniable that the time to recognize the impact of female entrepreneurship is now.
Whether they’re starting a business out of necessity or passion, women are both conducting business in new ways and ensuring that more businesses have a positive social and environmental impact. As we celebrate women this and every year, we reflect on these women’s own version of success and how they continue to inspire the next generation. It’s clear that despite the challenges, women are changing the landscape of business along with its outcomes; creating deep, real and lasting change.
Female entrepreneurship is on the rise with no signs of slowing down. We’re here to open more doors to the rooms where business happens.
It’s the era of women entrepreneurs, and we’re not throwing away our shot.
When it comes to running your small business, one of the greatest assets you can acquire to help you succeed is a government contract.
The U.S. government is the largest customer in the world. It buys all types of products and services — in both large and small quantities — and it’s required by law to consider buying from small businesses.
The government wants to buy from small businesses for several reasons, including:
To ensure that large businesses don’t “muscle out” small businesses
To gain access to the new ideas that small businesses provide
To support small businesses as engines of economic development and job creation
To offer opportunities to disadvantaged socio-economic groups
There are a multitude of contracts that can be obtained and further searched into using Sam.gov, but here are a few of the different types of government contracts that could help fund your small business:
Set-aside contracts for small businesses:
To help provide a level playing field for small businesses, the government limits competition for certain contracts to small businesses. Those contracts are called “small business set-asides,” and they help small businesses compete for and win federal contracts.
There are two kinds of set-aside contracts: competitive set-asides and sole-source set-asides.
Competitive set-aside contracts:
When at least two small businesses could perform the work or provide the products being purchased, the government sets aside the contract exclusively for small businesses. With few exceptions, this happens automatically for all government contracts under $150,000.
Some set-asides are open to any small business, but some are open only to small businesses who participate in SBA contracting assistance programs.
Sole-source set-aside contracts:
Most contracts are competitive, but sometimes there are exceptions to this rule. Sole-source contracts are a kind of contract that can be issued without a competitive bidding process. This usually happens in situations where only a single business can fulfill the requirements of a contract. To be considered for a sole-source contract, register your business with the System for Award Management (SAM) and participate in any contracting program you may qualify for.
In some cases, sole-source contracts must be published publicly, and will be marked with an intent to sole source. Potential vendors can still view and bid on these contracts. Once the bidding process begins, the intent to sole-source may be withdrawn.
Contracting Assistance Programs:
The federal government uses special programs to help small businesses win at least at 23 percent of all federal contracting dollars each year. There are different programs for different attributes of a small business, such as:
8 (a) Business Development Program: Small Disadvantaged businesses.
Women-Owned Small Business Federal Contracting Program: Women-owned businesses
SBA Mentor-Protégé program: Sets up your business with an experienced government contractor
Natural Resource Sales Assistance Program: Provides natural resources and surplus property to small businesses.
Joint Ventures: Allows businesses to team up and acquire government contracts (more info below)
Two or more small businesses may pool their efforts by forming a joint venture to compete for a contract award. A joint venture of multiple small businesses still qualifies for small business set-aside contracts if its documentation meets SBA requirements.
Small businesses that have a mentor-protege relationship through the All-Small Mentor-Protege program can form a joint venture with a mentor (which can be a large business). These joint ventures can compete together for government contracts reserved for small businesses.
A joint venture can also bid on contracts that are set aside for service-disabled veteran-owned, women-owned, or HUBZone businesses, if a member of the joint venture meets SBA requirements to do so.
If you still have questions or are looking for additional information, visit sam.gov or sba.gov. No matter what your situation is, there are many opportunities available to help your small business succeed.
For many of us, the pandemic has provided an opportunity to reflect and reprioritize aspects of our lives.
Some individuals have built up the strength to undertake new initiatives and business prospects – and Kristy Ramsey, founder of Certified LGBTBE® Content Maven Media, is no exception.
“Being a one-woman show, I am most proud of having the courage to even start my own business, and during a pandemic no less!” Ramsey said.
Located in Chicago, Illinois, Content Maven Media is a content solutions group that draws on various forms of media to create custom digital plans for clients. Through her business, Ramsey focuses on podcast and video production services, photography, social media management, and overall content creation for audiences.
“What is unique about my business is my approach to relationships,” explained Ramsey. “I focus a lot on building relationships with my clients, so much so that I strive to know their business, just as well as they do.”
Content Maven Media was certified through the NGLCC in 2020, having joined the organization to explore further networking and partnership opportunities. As a result of the certification, Ramsey’s business has been able to connect with larger and larger suppliers.
“A strong network made even stronger through relationship building is an important part of the success of my business,” said Ramsey.
Ramsey also emphasized the need to share knowledge and resources with clients, striving to go above and beyond what is expected of her and her company.
“Be humble, collaborate, and listen,” she advised.
In the future, Content Maven Media aims to become a household name as an LGBT and minority-owned media business. Ramsey seeks to grow the business by continuing to place a strong emphasis on relationship building. Several years down the line, she hopes to introduce her own LGBT nonprofit to the world, which will focus on “getting young adults into the media and technology fields as a career.”
“My company will be known for quality, service, integrity and communication, and producing content that makes a difference in the business of our clients,” she explained.
Ramsey had stellar advice to offer to future LGBT entrepreneurs.
“To any LGBT+ person starting a new business, I would say join your local chamber, join the NGLCC, and keep going no matter what,” she said.
Despite the competitive hiring environment, small business employment growth grew 0.26 percent in June, according to the data released in the latest report of the Paychex | IHS Markit Small Business Employment Watch.
It shows momentum in job growth with the Small Business Jobs Index gaining 4.53 percent during the second quarter of 2021 (in part driven by the 2020 comparison period).
Hiring is particularly strong in the leisure and hospitality sector, which gained 12.65 percent in the past quarter. Hourly earnings growth increased slightly, from 2.82 percent in May to 2.84 percent in June.
Wages are also on the rise in leisure and hospitality. The sector ranks highest in hourly earnings and hours worked growth, with weekly earnings growth up double digits.
“With re-openings across the country, the leisure and hospitality jobs index regained its pre-pandemic level,” said James Diffley, chief regional economist at IHS Markit.
In further detail, the June report showed:
The South continues to lead all regions in small business job growth.
Job growth in North Carolina spiked 6.36 percent during the second quarter.
Tampa once again leads all metros job growth.
The national jobs index uses a 12-month same-store methodology to gauge small business employment trends on a national, regional, state, metro and industry basis.
National Wage Report
Hourly earnings growth ticked up slightly, from 2.82 percent in May to 2.84 percent in June.
Weekly earnings growth has slowed more than one percent during the past two months due to a reduction in weekly hours worked.
Regional Jobs Index
All four regions saw employment growth gains in June. The top-ranked region, the South, gained the least (0.05 percent). The lowest-ranked region, the Northeast, gained the most (0.45 percent).
At 99.43, the South remained the strongest region for small business job growth, more than one point above the next highest region, the West (98.25).
Regional Wage Report
Hourly earnings growth in the West was 3.18 percent, strongest among regions.
Hourly earnings growth in the Northeast slowed to 2.93 percent in June.
State Jobs Index
North Carolina has spiked 6.36 percent during the second quarter of 2021, best among states, improving its rank from 10th to 3rd.
The bottom two states last month, Washington and Virginia, had two of the top three largest increases this month.
Note: Analysis is provided for the 20 largest states based on U.S. population.
State Wage Report
Missouri (4.09 percent), led states in hourly earnings growth again in June, followed by Massachusetts (3.57 percent) and California (3.54 percent).
Illinois ranks last among states in hourly earnings growth (1.70 percent) and weekly earnings growth (0.85 percent).
Georgia remains the top state for weekly earnings growth (3.96 percent).
Note: Analysis is provided for the 20 largest states based on U.S. population.
Metropolitan Jobs Index
Tampa continues to lead all metros at 101.60, despite a 0.61 percent decrease in May and 0.52 percent decrease in June.
Three of the four lowest ranked metros, San Francisco, Washington, DC., and Seattle, saw the largest increases in June.
Note: Analysis is provided for the 20 largest metro areas based on U.S. population.
Metropolitan Wage Report
Two California metros, Riverside and Los Angeles, lead earnings growth among metros.
Thirteen metros have hourly earnings growth below three percent.
Seattle ranks first among metros in weekly hours worked growth, 1.44 percent.
Due to a reduction in hours worked year-over-year, three metros have weekly earnings growth below one percent (Minneapolis, Detroit, and Baltimore).
Note: Analysis is provided for the 20 largest metro areas based on U.S. population.
Industry Jobs Index
Leisure and hospitality gained 12.65 percent during the second quarter of 2021. Its index now ranks third among sectors.
Construction had the largest decrease among sectors again in June (0.63 percent). This follows a decline in May of 1.78 percent.
Industry Wage Report
Leisure and hospitality ranked first among sectors for earnings and hours worked growth, with weekly earnings growth up double digits.
Other services continue to lead in employment growth; due to an influx of part-time employees. However, the sector is lowest both in hourly earnings and hours worked growth.
For more information about the Paychex | IHS Markit Small Business Employment Watch, visit
Eva Longoria has wrapped production on her directorial feature debut, Searchlight Pictures’ “Flamin’ Hot.”
“I’m so honored to have led this team in telling a beautiful story where people can see themselves in these characters and are inspired by the endless beauty and talent that is so rich in our community,” Longoria tells Variety exclusively. “Every day we were on set, I was reminded again and again by our amazing cast and crew that our community is smart, creative and endlessly talented.”
From a script by Lewis Colick and Linda Yvette Chávez, the film tells the story of Richard Montañez, a Mexican American who turned the iconic Flamin’ Hot Cheetos snack into a global pop culture phenomenon. The film is produced by DeVon Franklin (“Breakthrough”) for Franklin Entertainment. Searchlight has yet to set a release date.
“From the moment I found Richard Montañez’s story, I was inspired by his sheer determination to succeed against all odds,” says Franklin.
The film stars Jesse Garcia (“Quinceañera”) as the inspirational Richard, with Annie Gonzalez (“Gentefied”) playing his wife, Judy. The rest of the cast includes Dennis Haysbert (“Far from Heaven”), Emilio Rivera (“Venom”), Emmy winner Tony Shalhoub (“The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel”), Matt Walsh (“Veep”), Pepe Serna (“Scarface”), Bobby Soto (“Narcos”), Jimmy Gonzales (“The Conjuring: The Devil Made Me Do It”) and TikTok star Brice Gonzalez. Also attached to the ensemble are Vanessa Martinez, Fabian Alomar, Mario Ponce and Hunter Jones.
In a statement, Searchlight Pictures presidents Matthew Greenfield and David Greenbaum said: “Eva and DeVon came to Searchlight with a powerhouse pitch, a singular vision and a deep passion for this exhilarating story of entrepreneurship. We are thrilled to bring this film to audiences everywhere.
“Flamin’ Hot” is overseen by Searchlight’s senior vice president of production Taylor Friedman and director of development Zahra Phillips.