You can do small things to help women succeed at the office. Here are 5 of them.

Barack Obama is probably the most feminist commander-in-chief we've ever had in the White House.

There are a ton of reasons why that claim is valid.

But I will say — prepare yourself, Obama fans — things weren't always easy for women staffers at the White House on the president's watch.

According to a report from The Washington Post, Obama's White House once looked a whole lot like most other White House staffs before it: a total boys' club.


"If you didn’t come in from [his presidential] campaign, it was a tough circle to break into," Anita Dunn, former White House communications director, told the outlet. "Given the makeup of the campaign, there were just more men than women."

This meant women had to work extra hard just to get a seat at the table (literally) and even harder for their voices to be heard.

Did the few women in the early Obama administration days crack under the pressure? Hardly. They strategized.

Using what they called "amplification," women staffers made a concerted effort to support one another. When a woman would make a key point at the office, another woman would make sure to reiterate its importance and value. This not only put more weight behind the idea, but also placed more emphasis on who voiced it in the first place (read: not a dude).

Their subtle, sort of sneaky, kind of brilliant plan worked.

The president noticed their initiative and began calling on more female staffers to take part in important discussions. Today, his inner circle is split evenly between men and women.

GIF via "Saturday Night Live."

Unfortunately, America's boys' club problem doesn't stop at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue.

Across the rest of the country, women are often overlooked for important roles they need to advance their careers, and business executives (who are disproportionately male) are less likely to try and build relationships with their female subordinates, which can hinder a woman's networking prospects.

You can't dismiss these inequalities when you look at the facts.

Women are the CEOs at only 4.4% of S&P 500 companies. They make up a disproportionate number of low-wage positions. And they continue to make far less money than their males peers.

We're better than this.

If those stats have you gunning for a punching bag, don't fret. Be part of the solution!

Here are five ways you can change the gender dynamics in your own workspace.

1. Become a vocal ally to the women at work. Heck, you'll benefit too.

I'm sure most of us can name off one or two (or a dozen) talented women we work with. Like the White House staffers learned, fighting alongside these women to make sure their skills and drive are recognized by managers doesn't just help them, it can help you too.

Doing things like, say, tossing out their names for big assignments or including them in important discussions can work out to be a total win-win.

GIF via "Lindsay."

"It will help your women colleagues have access to more opportunities," according to Jennifer Thorpe-Moscon, a director at Catalyst, an organization that advocates for women in the workforce. "And you will be recognized for identifying and nurturing top talent that helps your organization grow."

2. Provide "air cover" for women with risky ideas.

Let's face it: Bringing up bold, out-of-the-box ideas to your boss can be a very scary thing.

But these types of ideas can spur some of the best results and help bolster careers to new heights.

That's why providing women colleagues with "air cover" — protection and encouragement — when they have one of these ideas can be hugely helpful in empowering them to speak up, said Thorpe-Moscon. Let them know they have your support.

3. If you're a guy, be aware that sexism is still a very real thing in the workplace, and it often slips right under our radars.

Sexism is still affecting women at the office — in ways both big and small — and it's probably far more harmful than we even realize.

Men, you can especially help in curbing this behavior.

If you're a dude, don't shy away from defending your women colleagues. Speak up when you hear a misogynistic joke or see a woman getting left out of a critical conversation.

GIF via "Lord of the Rings."

And make sure to actually listen when someone needs your help.

"Men can listen to women and trust their experiences [to promote gender equality]," said Thorpe-Moscon. "When women in your company tell you they’re being excluded, take their concerns seriously and work to fix them."

4. Recognize that women from disadvantaged groups face even more barriers to success, and fight to change that too.

Minority women, in particular, face big obstacles even just getting a seat at the table, let alone climbing their way up to managerial roles. Unfortunately, negative stereotypes and a lack of trust between workers of color and managers play roles in this discrepancy.

Some may call that racism, others may call that unconscious bias (I call it both). Either way, it's flat-out wrong that talented women of color are overlooked for positions and promotions every single day because of the color of their skin.

GIF via "How to Get Away With Murder."

Even though there are ways women can fight to overcome these challenges at the individual level, we must recognize there's a larger problem at play.

"The leadership gender gap is significant, persistent and systemic," reports a 2016 study from the American Association of University Women on this issue. "Individual choices alone simply will not solve the problem."

In order to rework the systems that leave many women of color out, we may need to start some conversations in our own work environments — and yes, fellow white people, they may even be uncomfortable (we generally hate talking about race, after all). But they're necessary.

Reach out to make sure women of color feel supported and valued in your office (remember #1 and #2 on this list?), and assure them they have an ally in you.

5. If you're a woman, don't be afraid to be yourself — even if the world's suggesting otherwise.

There's a ton of patriarchal pressure on women to act (and look) a certain way, and this pressure can understandably bleed into your work space. Entrepreneur Zeynep Ilgaz, however, learned that simply being authentic can be a real asset — not to mention it's good for business.

"When I started my company, I thought that if I acted tough, I’d achieve more success," she wrote in Forbes. "I wore pants to work and rarely dared to talk about my family. But one day, I decided to stop pretending. I started talking about my family with customers, and to my surprise, people began relating to me, our relationships grew stronger, and the company culture became unbelievably transparent."

You being you can help other women around you be themselves, too.

We have to get better at guaranteeing equal and inclusive work environments for women.

Down the road, this conversation will (hopefully) feel dated and unnecessary. Maybe we'll have equal pay. Maybe we'll have equal representation amongst our business leaders. Maybe we can declare success.

But until that day, we need to keep fighting for what's right. And it starts with us.

GIF via "Modern Family."

Images courtesy of John Scully, Walden University, Ingrid Scully
True

Since March of 2020, over 29 million Americans have been diagnosed with COVID-19, according to the CDC. Over 540,000 have died in the United States as this unprecedented pandemic has swept the globe. And yet, by the end of 2020, it looked like science was winning: vaccines had been developed.

In celebration of the power of science we spoke to three people: an individual, a medical provider, and a vaccine scientist about how vaccines have impacted them throughout their lives. Here are their answers:

John Scully, 79, resident of Florida

Photo courtesy of John Scully

When John Scully was born, America was in the midst of an epidemic: tens of thousands of children in the United States were falling ill with paralytic poliomyelitis — otherwise known as polio, a disease that attacks the central nervous system and often leaves its victims partially or fully paralyzed.

"As kids, we were all afraid of getting polio," he says, "because if you got polio, you could end up in the dreaded iron lung and we were all terrified of those." Iron lungs were respirators that enclosed most of a person's body; people with severe cases often would end up in these respirators as they fought for their lives.

John remembers going to see matinee showings of cowboy movies on Saturdays and, before the movie, shorts would run. "Usually they showed the news," he says, "but I just remember seeing this one clip warning us about polio and it just showed all these kids in iron lungs." If kids survived the iron lung, they'd often come back to school on crutches, in leg braces, or in wheelchairs.

"We all tried to be really careful in the summer — or, as we called it back then, 'polio season,''" John says. This was because every year around Memorial Day, major outbreaks would begin to emerge and they'd spike sometime around August. People weren't really sure how the disease spread at the time, but many believed it traveled through the water. There was no cure — and every child was susceptible to getting sick with it.

"We couldn't swim in hot weather," he remembers, "and the municipal outdoor pool would close down in August."

Then, in 1954 clinical trials began for Dr. Jonas Salk's vaccine against polio and within a year, his vaccine was announced safe. "I got that vaccine at school," John says. Within two years, U.S. polio cases had dropped 85-95 percent — even before a second vaccine was developed by Dr. Albert Sabin in the 1960s. "I remember how much better things got after the vaccines came out. They changed everything," John says.

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It's one thing to see a little kid skateboarding. It's another to see a stereotype-defying little girl skateboarding. And it's entirely another to see Paige Tobin.

Paige is a 6-year-old skateboarding wonder from Australia. A recent video of her dropping into a 12-foot bowl on her has gone viral, both for the feat itself and for the style with which she does it. Decked out in a pink party dress, a leopard-print helmet, and rainbow socks, she looks nothing like you'd expect a skater dropping into a 12-foot bowl to look. And yet, here she is, blowing people's minds all over the place.

For those who may not fully appreciate the impressiveness of this feat, here's some perspective. My adrenaline junkie brother, who has been skateboarding since childhood and who races down rugged mountain faces on a bike for fun, shared this video and commented, "If I dropped in to a bowl twice as deep as my age it would be my first and last time doing so...this fearless kid has a bright future!"

It's scarier than it looks, and it looks pretty darn scary.

Paige doesn't always dress like a princess when she skates, not that it matters. Her talent and skill with the board are what gets people's attention. (The rainbow socks are kind of her signature, however.)

Her Instagram feed is filled with photos and videos of her skateboarding and surfing, and the body coordination she's gained at such a young age is truly something.

Here she was at three years old:

And here she is at age four:


So, if she dropped into a 6-foot bowl at age three and a 12-foot bowl at age six—is there such a thing as an 18-foot bowl for her to tackle when she's nine?

Paige clearly enjoys skating and has high ambitions in the skating world. "I want to go to the Olympics, and I want to be a pro skater," she told Power of Positivity when she was five. She already seems to be well on her way toward that goal.

How did she get so good? Well, Paige's mom gave her a skateboard when she wasn't even preschool age yet, and she loved it. Her mom got her lessons, and she's spent the past three years skating almost daily. She practices at local skate parks and competes in local competitions.

She also naturally has her fair share of spills, some of which you can see on her Instagram channel. Falling is part of the sport—you can't learn if you don't fall. Conquering the fear of falling is the key, and the thing that's hardest for most people to get over.

Perhaps Paige started too young to let fear override her desire to skate. Perhaps she's been taught to manage her fears, or maybe she's just naturally less afraid than other people. Or maybe there's something magical about the rainbow socks. Whatever it is, it's clear that this girl doesn't let fear get in the way of her doing what she wants to do. An admirable quality in anyone, but particularly striking to see in someone so young.

Way to go, Paige. Your perseverance and courage are inspiring, as is your unique fashion sense. Can't wait to see what you do next.

Images courtesy of John Scully, Walden University, Ingrid Scully
True

Since March of 2020, over 29 million Americans have been diagnosed with COVID-19, according to the CDC. Over 540,000 have died in the United States as this unprecedented pandemic has swept the globe. And yet, by the end of 2020, it looked like science was winning: vaccines had been developed.

In celebration of the power of science we spoke to three people: an individual, a medical provider, and a vaccine scientist about how vaccines have impacted them throughout their lives. Here are their answers:

John Scully, 79, resident of Florida

Photo courtesy of John Scully

When John Scully was born, America was in the midst of an epidemic: tens of thousands of children in the United States were falling ill with paralytic poliomyelitis — otherwise known as polio, a disease that attacks the central nervous system and often leaves its victims partially or fully paralyzed.

"As kids, we were all afraid of getting polio," he says, "because if you got polio, you could end up in the dreaded iron lung and we were all terrified of those." Iron lungs were respirators that enclosed most of a person's body; people with severe cases often would end up in these respirators as they fought for their lives.

John remembers going to see matinee showings of cowboy movies on Saturdays and, before the movie, shorts would run. "Usually they showed the news," he says, "but I just remember seeing this one clip warning us about polio and it just showed all these kids in iron lungs." If kids survived the iron lung, they'd often come back to school on crutches, in leg braces, or in wheelchairs.

"We all tried to be really careful in the summer — or, as we called it back then, 'polio season,''" John says. This was because every year around Memorial Day, major outbreaks would begin to emerge and they'd spike sometime around August. People weren't really sure how the disease spread at the time, but many believed it traveled through the water. There was no cure — and every child was susceptible to getting sick with it.

"We couldn't swim in hot weather," he remembers, "and the municipal outdoor pool would close down in August."

Then, in 1954 clinical trials began for Dr. Jonas Salk's vaccine against polio and within a year, his vaccine was announced safe. "I got that vaccine at school," John says. Within two years, U.S. polio cases had dropped 85-95 percent — even before a second vaccine was developed by Dr. Albert Sabin in the 1960s. "I remember how much better things got after the vaccines came out. They changed everything," John says.

Keep Reading Show less