Tara Westover on How We Lead the Way Forward

Tara Westover Tara Westover, the best-selling author of Educated, reflected on how women lead the way forward—the theme of the 2020 Pennsylvania Conference for Women—and suggested it may begin with recognizing what we don't know so we are able to restore meaningful dialogue in these highly polarized times. "As the author of a book called Educated, I am supposed to know what it is like to know things, to be certain about things," Westover said. "But as I thought about this difficult period, I thought it is not so much about education and certainty and facts; it's not just about what we know but about what we don't know." Using her own experience as an example, she observed that she once thought "feminism" was a dirty word, had wrong and hurtful thoughts about race, and was homophobic. But education—and the opportunity to express her opinions, however objectionable they were -- allowed her to think through what she really believed, adding that many in our nation require that same opportunity now.

More excerpts from her talk follow:

  • "Sometimes I wonder if what has gone wrong with our political process is that we have forgotten what we don't know. We are so bombarded with caricatures of each other that we've started to think just because we know one thing about a person, we think we know everything we need to know about them."
  • "What we've forgotten maybe is the difference between ignorance and humility. It's OK not to know everything. And there are some situations where approaching it knowing what you don't know is probably the best thing you can do."
  • "I have to believe that it is worth arguing with people who disagree with you—even on really important issues. Even on important moral issues, things you feel strongly about. It is still worth arguing with those people and explaining your ideas. That is the original idea of what politics is: It's persuasion."
  • "And I have to believe in that because I was someone who at various points in my life was wrong about almost everything—things that now are really important to me, I had the opposite view when I was younger."
  • "I was raised in a household in which feminism was a dirty word. I don't think I ever said it aloud until I was in graduate school. I grew up with really strange ideas about race. And I was lucky enough to be able to be given the opportunity to change my mind and learn more and understand experiences that were different from mine."
  • "I was homophobic. I was raised with strange ideas about that. And strange is a euphemism. They were not correct, they were hurtful."
  • "I am grateful I was given the opportunity through the education system to learn more, to say my views no matter how objectionable they were, and be given a chance to think through what I really believed."
  • "So important as I think all of these issues are and as important as it is to stand up for people, I am so grateful I was given an opportunity to change."
To go forward as a country, she concluded, may mean we need to give more people a chance to change, to have a meaningful dialogue, and for us all to know the things we don't know.
About Tara Westover Tara Westover is the best-selling author of Educated, reflected on how women lead the way is the author of Educated, which was on The New York Times bestseller list for more than 130 weeks. Born to survivalist parents in the mountains of Idaho, she never attended school and, instead, spent her childhood working in her father's junkyard or stewing herbs for her mother—until, at 17, she decided to escape a violent older brother and isolated home life to carve out a new life for herself. She taught herself enough to get into college—having come to believe, as her parents taught her, that you can teach yourself anything better than someone else can teach it to you. Then she went on to graduate magna cum laude from Brigham Young University, earn a master's degree in philosophy, become a Harvard University fellow, and complete a Ph.D. in history from Cambridge University. The experience transformed her; and her brilliant telling of it has been inspiring millions. It has also been sparking important conversations, at a time when millions of young people are suddenly engaged in remote learning, about education, gender roles, and societal divisions and how we might overcome them.
Check out more highlights from the 2020 Virtual Pennsylvania Conference for Women!

What Challenging Times Have Taught This Young Gender and Disability Advocate

Aria Mia Loberti

In her young lifetime, Aria Mia Loberti has faced more challenges than many of us.

In the third grade, she was taken out of school because her teachers were unable to accommodate that she was blind—or, more to the point, they forbid her from using a cane, saying she might trip other students; locked her in a room during recess; and permitted discrimination and bullying.

In middle school, she had an illness that caused memory loss and forced her to be on bedrest for two years.

Still, thanks to online learning and a supportive family, she went on to complete high school two years early and top of her class; graduated this year with a triple major from the University of Rhode Island; and was recently awarded a Fulbright to study in England, where she will travel alone this summer because her parents are in the high-risk category for COVID-19.

It’s a brief lifetime of experience that, coming from a wise young woman, offers unique insights into how to deal with change and challenge.

“Every time I look back on a transition in my life, I think there is a lot more to learn in retrospect than during the time of going through it,” said Loberti, who has represented women with disabilities as a delegate at the U.N. International Human Rights Summit and spoken at the Massachusetts Conference for Women.

“So, I would like to encourage people to look at this period of time with a lot of focus. Pick a goal for each day, each week—something short-term—so you can see the fruits of your labor demonstrated to you,” she said.

Put another way, she added: “Do whatever you need to do to get through this challenging time. It will be easier looking back. You survive and eventually thrive.”

As for what she is learning from living through a global pandemic, Loberti said: “So many people keep telling people my age that we have to be changemakers. I think that is really important and everybody can bring about change. But it is important to recognize that not everyone is going to bring about grandiose change.”

Her mother, for example, changed Loberti’s world by stopping work to homeschool her and care for her through two years of bedrest—something no one outside her circle would be likely to see as world-changing.

“The concept of what it means to change the world needs to be flipped on its head,” Loberti added. “Not everyone is going to be a future president or CEO. But you can change someone’s perspective for the better. You can influence your family or community for the better.”


More from the July 2020 Newsletter

Posted in Speaker Articles, Embrace the Unknown, Transitions, Inspired, Inspiration Tagged , |

A 3-Point Framework for How to Be a Better Ally

Dr. Tiffany Jana

If you are a white woman who feels a little tentative to speak out or take action on the movement to confront racial injustice right now, you should know this: You are not alone.

“There is a massive sense of fear and resistance in this moment that white people are feeling that is rooted in a lack of understanding,” says Dr. Tiffany Jana, Conferences for Women speaker and diversity and inclusion expert.

Overcoming this—and becoming part of the solution at this critical time—does not lend itself to quick, easy fixes. There is much unlearning and new learning to be done, and much courage and generosity to be tapped.

But there is also a clear three-step framework that Jana offers as a way to become, as they say, “a tool and not a weapon” in confronting racial injustice. Jana is founder of TMI Consulting Inc. and co-author of the 2020 book, Subtle Acts of Exclusion.

1. Invest time in your own education—and know that, in itself, is a big deal.

In any kind of showing up for other people, you are either going to be the tool or the weapon,” says Jana. “An undereducated or malinformed person is going to be a weapon moving through the world causing harm in this moment. An introspective, well-informed person will be able to serve as a tool also known as ally, accomplice or co-conspirator.”

That’s why the best first step is to take a good look at yourself and advance your own understanding, Jana says. “Embracing your own education is a big freaking deal, particularly if you are a woman and there is a good likelihood that you are raising children or raising a spouse or taking care of business,” they said.

“If you are doing it right you are spending hours upon hours internalizing,” they added. “What happens when you take this kind of information in is it disturbs your equilibrium and that is not small. I don’t want anyone thinking that reading and introspecting now is something small.”

Jana also advises: Be sure to read a mix of Black and white voices, adding that—while it is clearly important to learn directly from Black voices—there is also something sacred about hearing from people like you about their journey in becoming more inclusive.

Two black authors Jana recommends:

Two white authors Jana recommends:

For a roundup of Black voices on race, visit the Conference for Women’s new Resource Center for Confronting Racial Injustice.

2. Reach out to other white people—in a spirit of “each one teach one.”

“We don’t need you on Day One to reach out to Black people; you need to reach out to white people. Bring a sister up with you. Make your reading into a book club so you have accountability. Talk about a chapter a week. Then you have people you can have conversation with. You don’t have to sit in your discomfort alone,” says Jana.

“The wonderful thing about the nature of diversity is even if you are of the same race, you still experience things a little differently; and one white sister might be further in the journey and able to unpack something you haven’t looked at yet,” they added.

3. Hold each other accountable.

“Before, it was typically people of color who had to hold the system accountable, and we were often yelling in the wind,” says Jana. “Now what we want to see from our white allies is once you’ve done that education, bounced things off your girlfriends, worked together to become more culturally fluent—stand up and use your newly informed and empowered voice to make sure you are calling out racial injustice when you see it.”

It is also important, they added, to pro-actively support Black people in service of cultivating greater equity in the workplace and society. Some specific ways Jana suggests you can do this:

  • Sponsor Black women. “Sponsoring means when I’m not in the room, you are actively advocating for me to be able to participate more fully. Or, when you hear someone saying something racist, you speak up and say that is not appropriate. I’ve worked with her and know firsthand she is a stellar employee.”
  • Buy from Black-owned businesses. “One of the most powerful things you can do is spend money in Black-owned businesses. Virtually everything can be purchased from Black businesses.”
  • Make room for Black women to advance in the workplace. “If we are advocating for each other across racial lines, particularly when the privileged are advocating for the underrepresented, you embed a level of innovation and resilience and cultural competency and fluency into an organization that serves the mission’s goals more than homogeneity every would. If a white woman does not get a job, trust me, she will find another opportunity at another moment. But Black women are so far behind the starting line, it has been fundamentally unfair and weighted against her from birth,” Jana says—which is why there are times when a white woman should step back and make room for a Black woman to advance. “That’s really putting your money where your mouth is.”

Finally, do not stop.

“My invitation to everyone who is emerging in this moment and waking up to the reality and intensity and the atrocity of racial violence,” Jana says, is this: “I beg that you don’t give up. Do not stop until we have eliminated the fallacy of the hierarchy of human value—because if we stop and settle for something less, we are denying ourselves, our children and grandchildren the beautiful future we can absolutely guarantee if we do this work now.”

Learn more at the Conferences for Women’s new Resource Center for Confronting Racial Injustice.


Also, new this month:

  • Two-time National Book Award-winner Jesmyn Ward speaks about “Giving Voice to All” – on the latest episode of our Women Amplified podcast.
  • Also, check out the newly released sessions on Best Breakouts, an audio series featuring timeless insights from our archives including ways to expand your knowledge and make important changes to advance inclusivity and mitigate bias, better support women of color in the workplace, and how to advocate through authentic activism.
Posted in Speaker Articles, Life on Your Terms, Communication Skills, Negotiating, Inspired Tagged , |

What to Do When Your Plans Encounter a Pandemic

young woman pinning notes on a bulletin board to keep track of plans

Now that at least some of the shock of living in a global pandemic is diminishing, it may be time to ask: How do we pick up the pieces and start thinking creatively about next steps—or, perhaps, even how to re-invent ourselves in a new world?

But before even beginning to try to answer that, it may be helpful to recall Anne Lamott’s classic insight into the creative process.

In Bird by Bird, Lamott writes: “the only way I can get anything written at all is to write really, really shitty first drafts.” There are no “good second drafts and terrific third drafts” for anyone, she says, without that first messy step.

That truth about creativity, like innovation, prompted us to talk recently with Mary Laura Philpott, Conference for Women speaker and bestselling author of I Miss You When I Blink.

“Now, and moving forward with every passing week, we have to be even more creative because we’re not coasting on novelty anymore,” said Philpott, who has been compared to Nora Ephron. “We can’t coast on the excuses we had in the beginning, when there was a snow day-like feeling. We have to figure it out.”

If You Feel Blocked

But what if you feel like you don’t have it in you to create what comes next?

“What I always tell younger writers who ask me about how to overcome writer’s block is that there is no such thing. It’s a label we give to fear, when we are afraid of what we have to do or it is difficult,” says Philpott.

The same applies to innovation in business settings, she says. “There is no such thing as innovation block. There is fear. There is exhaustion. But we can do it.”

“I know many women in this audience are planners by nature and visionaries,” Philpott continued. “So many women at these conferences have told me what they were working on now, and what they were planning for five years from now.”

“I know it can be deeply demoralizing to someone who has that visionary tendency to hit an obstacle, and an obstacle that drags on a long time like this one. But we need to remember that time keeps moving forward. This is not life forever. This is life right now.”

Obviously, she added, we still have to focus on how to get through this moment. But don’t give up on your plan or vision in the process. “Save a little time every day to think about it.”


More from the May 2020 Newsletter

Posted in Speaker Articles, Life on Your Terms, Embrace the Unknown, Goals & Priorities, Innovation Tagged , |

Making It Easier for Women of Color to Get Support from a Therapist of Color

Black female mental health professional listening to patient as she lays on the couch and talks freely

Charmain F. Jackman is a licensed psychologist who grew up on Barbados, where many people of color, she recalls, had an all-or-nothing view about mental health: You had it, or you didn’t. There was no in between.

Today, she says, there is still a stigma about mental health among people of color that makes women of color less likely than white women to access mental health services. For example, according to the National Alliance on Mental Health, mental health services are used by:

  • 21.5 percent of white women
  • 10.3 percent of black women
  • 9.2 percent of Hispanic women
  • 5.3 percent of Asian women.

But over the past several years, that has been changing, according to Jackman, who has made it her mission to destigmatize mental health services—and make it easier for people of color to access to therapists of color.

“There has been a real groundswell of people being more open about mental health issues, and understanding that therapy can be helpful,” Jackman said in a recent conversation with the Conferences for Women for Mental Health Awareness Month.

Superstar rapper Jay-Z has publicly spoken about the benefits of therapy; and Taraji Henson, the actress who appeared in Hidden Figures, started a foundation to help her father who suffered from PTSD.

Jackman also has been working to educate people of color about the benefits of therapy—and dismantle

The cultural message that if you seek therapy, it means you are crazy or weak;
The idea that you shouldn’t share family business with strangers; and
The cynicism bred of infamous historical events, such as the Tuskegee Experiment.

Another big obstacle that Jackman has been working to overcome is helping people find a therapist of color—since most people prefer to speak to someone from their own background.

This year, she launched a new nationwide directory that makes it easy. Check it out here.


More from the May 2020 Newsletter

Posted in Speaker Articles, Life Balance, Health & Wellness Tagged , , |

Who Do You Want to Be When This Is Over?

Indian businesswoman thinking about the future

There’s a difference between being a go-getter and being gutsy, Reshma Saujani, CEO of Girls Who Code, observes in her book, Brave Not Perfect.

“So many women stick to doing only the things at which they excel, rarely going beyond what makes them feel confident and comfortable,” she writes.

But what happens when we’re outside our comfort zones—either by choice or by circumstances, such as the challenging ones we now find ourselves in?

That’s where being brave comes in. And, that’s why we thought it a good time to catch up with Reshma, a bravery expert, and hear how she is navigating these times at home with her husband, eight-week-old baby and five-year-old son with whom she’s making time to master TikTok dances. One of several things that she said is helping her is asking the question: “Who do you want to be when this is over?” Read the interview here.

In this month’s episode of “Women Amplified,” Reshma also joins another amazing woman, Laysha Ward, executive vice president and chief external engagement officer for Target, for a dynamic conversation about why we need to give up on perfectionism to find our courage. Tune in here.

Finally, in case you missed it, here are some new resources and initiative we launched last month:

Stay strong, friends! And, if you found this helpful, please share it with someone.


More from the May 2020 Newsletter

Posted in Speaker Articles, Life on Your Terms, Embrace the Unknown Tagged , |