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."

Photo by Anna Shvets from Pexels
True

Increasingly customers are looking for more conscious shopping options. According to a Nielsen survey in 2018, nearly half (48%) of U.S. consumers say they would definitely or probably change their consumption habits to reduce their impact on the environment.

But while many consumers are interested in spending their money on products that are more sustainable, few actually follow through. An article in the 2019 issue of Harvard Business Review revealed that 65% of consumers said they want to buy purpose-driven brands that advocate sustainability, but only about 26% actually do so. It's unclear where this intention gap comes from, but thankfully it's getting more convenient to shop sustainably from many of the retailers you already support.

Amazon recently introduced Climate Pledge Friendly, "a new program to help make it easy for customers to discover and shop for more sustainable products." When you're browsing Amazon, a Climate Pledge Friendly label will appear on more than 45,000 products to signify they have one or more different sustainability certifications which "help preserve the natural world, reducing the carbon footprint of shipments to customers," according to the online retailer.

Amazon

In order to distinguish more sustainable products, the program partnered with a wide range of external certifications, including governmental agencies, non-profits, and independent laboratories, all of which have a focus on preserving the natural world.

Keep Reading Show less

Of the millions of Americans breathing a sigh of relief with the ushering in of a new president, one man has a particularly personal and professional reason to exhale.

Dr. Anthony Fauci has spent a good portion of his long, respected career preparing for a pandemic, and unfortunately, the worst one in 100 years hit under the worst possible administration. As part of Trump's Coronavirus Task Force, Dr. Fauci did what he could to advise the president and share information with the public, but it's been clear for months that the job was made infinitely more difficult than it should have been by anti-science forces within the administration.

To his credit, Dr. Fauci remained politically neutral through it all this past year, totally in keeping with his consistently non-partisan, apolitical approach to his job. Even when the president badmouthed him, blocked him from testifying before the House, and kept him away from press briefings, Fauci took the high road, always keeping his commentary focused on the virus and refusing to step into the political fray.

But that doesn't mean working under those conditions wasn't occasionally insulting, frequently embarrassing, and endlessly frustrating.

Keep Reading Show less
True

If the past year has taught us nothing else, it's that sending love out into the world through selfless acts of kindness can have a positive ripple effect on people and communities. People all over the United States seemed to have gotten the message — 71% of those surveyed by the World Giving Index helped a stranger in need in 2020. A nonprofit survey found 90% helped others by running errands, calling, texting and sending care packages. Many people needed a boost last year in one way or another and obliging good neighbors heeded the call over and over again — and continue to make a positive impact through their actions in this new year.

Upworthy and P&G Good Everyday wanted to help keep kindness going strong, so they partnered up to create the Lead with Love Fund. The fund awards do-gooders in communities around the country with grants to help them continue on with their unique missions. Hundreds of nominations came pouring in and five winners were selected based on three criteria: the impact of action, uniqueness, and "Upworthy-ness" of their story.

Here's a look at the five winners:

Edith Ornelas, co-creator of Mariposas Collective in Memphis, Tenn.

Edith Ornelas has a deep-rooted connection to the asylum-seeking immigrant families she brings food and supplies to families in Memphis, Tenn. She was born in Jalisco, Mexico, and immigrated to the United States when she was 7 years old with her parents and sister. Edith grew up in Chicago, then moved to Memphis in 2016, where she quickly realized how few community programs existed for immigrants. Two years later, she helped create Mariposas Collective, which initially aimed to help families who had just been released from detention centers and were seeking asylum. The collective started out small but has since grown to approximately 400 volunteers.