In this series from Flatiron School, we’ll be talking to women in tech about their career journey, the essential lessons they’ve learned, and how more women can follow the path to join essential roles in computing.
This interview features Madeline Ryerson, Senior Software Engineer at Guild Education.
How would you explain your role to a 5th grader?
Tell me what you know about college...Exactly! It’s a special kind of school, for people older than you are. And do you think it’s important to go to college?... Yeah, I do too. It’s very important to help you get a job, but sometimes it’s really expensive, so it can be hard to do. So, the company I work for helps people go to college, without having to pay a lot! And I build the websites and computer programs to help people choose and apply to the program they want to do.
What inspired you to follow this particular career path?
Before I went to Flatiron School, I worked in market research for ~2 years. I really enjoyed the big picture of what I was doing -- equipping marketing teams with data to drive their strategy -- but I didn’t love doing the same thing every day. I had taken one computer science class in college, and when I started thinking about leaving my market research job, took a few online programming courses. I realized I loved programming, and decided to apply to Flatiron. The rest is history! I love actually building products, and not just helping other people decide what might be the right thing to do or build.
If you could go back 5 years ago and talk to yourself at that time, what would you share with her about her future in this career?
5 years ago, I had not, even for a second, considered a future in tech. I had recently discovered market research, and figured that when you set out on one career, you didn’t really make a switch for a while. So the first thing I would tell her is to not be afraid to take the plunge onto an unknown path, especially if it means you’ll be doing something you really love! The second thing I would tell her is, “You’re seriously never going to be done learning in this industry, so don’t get discouraged when you feel like you know nothing. You know so much more than you think, and you’re constantly learning more just by struggling through these new problems.”
What were the most important actions you took that helped you land the job role you have now?
Just putting myself out there! I am traditionally terrible at networking, it is not my comfort zone at all. But I had just moved to a new city, without a job, and had absolutely nothing to lose. So, I cold called/emailed friends of friends, got coffee with so many people, and applied to every job that looked interesting, even if I wasn’t fully qualified. Flex those networking and interviewing muscles, even if you really don’t want to!
After starting at Guild: I think it’s really important to make yourself accessible, and show that you are willing to help out with anything and everything, especially when you’re starting in a junior role. Before I was contributing at a more senior level, I made myself known as someone you could come to for help, or to simply get stuff done, which meant I was trusted to take on more individual responsibilities as I grew in my career.
Tell us about the most exciting (or inspiring, or creative) thing you've done so far in your career?
I was engineer #3 at Guild, and was very junior when I started! It was intimidating, but also incredibly exciting to just be thrown into the deep end. I learned so much just by being forced, for lack of a better term, to “make it work.” Starting that early on, I was also able to learn a lot about the company and our business model, which personally helps me do my job a lot better. I don’t think I’d like working for a company whose mission I was not aligned with, or where there was lack of transparency around how the organization worked.
What was it like attending Flatiron School?
In a nutshell, attending Flatiron was one of the best decisions I have ever made. From the technical skills I acquired, to the amazing people I met in my cohort, it was truly a life-changing experience. I especially appreciated Flatiron’s dedication to helping us learn how to learn, through projects, pair-programming and its rigorous curriculum. I certainly graduated well-equipped for my first job: not only technically, but also with the confidence that I could figure out the unknowns as I began to grow in my career.
Explore careers at Guild Education: https://www.guildeducation.com/careers
AWS 101 - Learn CI/CD with CodePipeline
July 24 from 6-8 p.m.
Amazon.com is the largest e-commerce marketplace and cloud computing platform in the world as measured by revenue and market capitalization. So, how does Amazon do it?! Amazon Web Services, or AWS!
AWS is a subsidiary of Amazon that provides on-demand cloud computing platforms to individuals, companies, and governments, on a paid subscription basis. The technology allows subscribers to have at their disposal a virtual cluster of computers, available all the time, through the Internet.
Learn about Continuous Integration and Continuous Deployment with AWS's CodePipeline. We will walk you through deploying a static site onto an S3 bucket and setting up a pipeline with CodePipeline to listen to changes to your Github Repo.
Contributed by: Sarah Parady, Colorado Women's Bar Association's President Elect and member of the Pay Equity Subcommittee
On April 17, 2019, the four women and six men of the House Business and Labor Affairs Committee listened to hours of testimony on Colorado’s own pay equity bill, the Equal Pay for Equal Work Act.
The representatives heard the dismal statistics: Despite passage of the federal Equal Pay Act in in 1963, women in Colorado lag behind men in pay by amounts that are staggering over the course of a lifetime. Compared to white men, white women in our state make 78 cents to the dollar, followed by Asian/Pacific Islander women at 70 cents, Black women at 63 cents, Indigenous women at 56 cents, and Latina women at only 54 cents. For an individual Latina, this amounts to an average lifetime wage gap of over $1 million dollars.
They heard the personal stories: One woman testified that she learned a male subordinate made far more than her when he complained about withholdings for child support and showed her his paycheck. Another testified that when she noticed she wasn’t receiving raises commensurate with her evaluations in her pharmaceutical company job, she had the courage to ask her male colleagues about their pay, and was staggered to learn she made less than two thirds of what they did—and that her company refused to correct the issue until it was purchased by a European competitor.
The bill before the Committee, which ultimately passed and will move on to the Appropriations committee for a vote that proponents hope will send it to the House floor, has been years in the making. From 2010 to 2015, a legislatively-created Pay Equity Commission studied the wage gap in Colorado and encouraged business to voluntarily take measure to equalize pay. The Commission was disbanded when the legislature refused to renew it in the 2015 session. In 2016 and 2017, a coalition of organizations concerned with the pay gap backed a series of bills designed to make incremental improvements to wage transparency and other related issues, with a mixed track record of passage.
Despite the value of these measures, the community and legislative partners behind them felt the time was ripe for a bolder step towards change. A high-profile case equal pay case involving female faculty members at Denver University’s Sturm College of Law drew national attention, and particularly the attention of the legal community in Colorado, many of whom were educated by the professor plaintiffs, when the EEOC found that the law school had underpaid them drastically compared to men (by an average of $15,000). The US Women’s National Soccer Team’s courageous self-advocacy raised the profile of the issue with the general public, and several other states including Massachusetts and New Jersey passed state-level measures designed to succeed where the federal EPA had failed.
The result was the bill that has now passed the Colorado Senate and its first House Committee. Under the CEPEWA, businesses would be responsible for taking a host of transparency measures to help make it easier for women to advocate for higher pay, such as sharing all promotional opportunities internally; posting a salary range in job announcements; and refraining from asking for applicants’ salary history. The bill also makes it possible for Colorado women to go to court to recover lost wages if they are paid less than male colleagues in equivalent roles, without a justification such as a difference in seniority, training, or job location. To address the reality that unequal pay is compounded by intersectional factors, women of color, older women, and women with disabilities can recover the entirety of the pay gap they experience even if other women in the workplace are paid more than they are.
Originally drafted by attorney members of the Colorado Women’s Bar Association, the bill has drawn support from a wide range of partners including businesses and business groups, advocacy groups supporting women and women of color, workers’ rights groups, and legal organizations.
As Coloradans, we live in a state with a stronger economy than most, but female workers and especially women of color have not shared equally in the benefits of growth. Women are paid less across industries, across the state, and throughout their careers. We are past due for a change, and hope that 2019 will be the year our elected officials will take on the pay gap.
by Krystal Covington, MBA
At Women of Denver, we regularly hear from startups and established tech firms looking for ways to increase their pipeline of women. They know the value of the diversity of thought that comes with having greater gender parity and are willing to do the work to seek out more women to jump in to write code, lead development teams, and bring new ideas for product development.
Denver is a massive talent pipeline for these companies, which is why so many great firms are choosing to move their headquarters to the Denver area, or launch here from the start.
As the local tech scene explodes, educational institutions such as WeWork’s Flatiron School have come along to continue growing the pool of trained coders, data scientists, UX designers, and software engineers.
Flatiron opened this spring and has made a home in WeWork’s LoHi offices, until their state of the art campus at the Hub opens this summer. The company is providing free sessions to showcase their learning environment and specialized trainers.
As part of their Women Take Tech Initiative, they’ve partnered with Women of Denver to help drive more women to attend the course and explore a potential career path in coding. The school has enacted a plan of improving gender parity in the tech world by providing over $1 million in scholarships to women, hosting events for women in tech, and striving for gender parity in their own classrooms. Sponsoring Women of Denver is just one of the many actions they’re taking to be leaders in this mission.
Learn more about Flatiron School’s Women Take Tech Initiative on their website.
By Angela Jackson
There’s no doubt life in Denver has its perks. This living, breathing metropolis has the Rocky Mountains for a backyard. Its healthy lifestyle and growing economy strengthens its reputation for being one of the best places to live…and work. There are several businesses moving their headquarters here because they recognize an opportunity.
Here’s a look at just a few businesses coming our way.
VF Corp. is a publicly traded outdoor apparel company that recently announced it plans to separate into two independent entities. The first will be called VF Corporation and the other is yet to be named. It is referred to as NewCo in the meantime.
VF Corp. is the headquarters for global brands synonymous with outdoor living. Some of their brands you may know well and use whenever a hike or other adventure calls: The North Face, JanSport, Timberland and SmartWool. It made sense for them to set up shop close to the customers who use their products.
“Colorado is an area with an unrivaled heritage and culture of outdoor and activity-
based lifestyles, as well as a thriving business environment,” said Steve Rendle, Chairman, President and Chief Executive Officer.
Denver is a good fit for VF Corp not only for its culture, but it made good business sense in order to attract a high-level workforce also.
“We believe that the creation of our new headquarters in the area will help us to unlock
collaboration across our outdoor brands, attract and retain talent, and accelerate
innovation,” Rendle said.
Slack Corporation sees the value in Denver too. The San Francisco-based online collaboration company has signed a lease and is expected to move into the Lower Downtown area. If you take a quick glance on LinkedIn, you will see they have several positions to offer. In fact, they may have over 500.
In May 2018, the Colorado Office of Economic Development approved and offered the company a $10.5 million incentive to encourage the company to open an office here. Slack accepted, and the tech firm told the state that it estimates its Denver hub would create up to 550 full-time jobs with an average salary of $107,975.
Slack’s presence downtown will add to the numerous technology companies relocating to Denver.
ezCater opened its second office in Denver earlier this year. They state they are the only nationwide marketplace for business catering. Their model is to connect corporations with reliable catering to meet any culinary need.
You would think with the word ‘cater’ in its name, everyone who worked there would be a great chef. However, the Boston-based company considers itself a tech company. They spent years improving their technology to connect corporate clients with a local catering service. ezCater selected Denver based on the city’s strong emergence as a technology center with a diverse and experienced talent pool.
"Denver has great talent," said Stefania Mallett, CEO of ezCater. "We’re growing so fast
that we had to open our Denver office to find enough of the insanely helpful people that our customers love."
Funding Circle connects small businesses with investors who want to finance them.
Funding Circle is becoming the leading global small business loans platform that allows investors to lend to businesses looking for finance in the United States, UK, Germany and the Netherlands.
Entrepreneurship and the presence of small businesses is ever increasing. Funding Circle’s growth motivated them to spread their wings and look for another place to call home. The management team considered other areas but finally settled on the Mile High City.
“Denver has a great quality of life, low cost of living, and thriving tech and financial services industries from which we can recruit candidates. We also considered things like how many direct flights there are to San Francisco and London, where we have large offices,” said Libby Morris, Funding Circle's Head of US Loan Operations who heads up the Denver office.
Funding Circle looks to hire almost 300 people over the next two years to support its growing needs, and they are taking steps to make sure their workforce is diverse.
“Our mission at Funding Circle is to ‘build a better financial world,’ and we recognize that we can only do this by being inclusive to a workforce from all different backgrounds,” Morris said.
One of their most active employee groups is Women@FC. This group is focused on making the company welcoming for women. They also have a partnership with BankWork$, a program that trains people from diverse backgrounds and communities for careers in financial services.
“Across the company, we pay close attention to building diverse teams, starting with how job descriptions are written to eliminate non-inclusive language, all the way through to unconscious bias training for all staff. We also offer unlimited vacation and flexible working hours, which helps support working parents,” Morris said.
There are several benefits any company can hope to gain by hiring a diverse workforce.
“A wealth of research over the past decade consistently demonstrates that companies often experience many advantages and benefits when they hire and retain a more diverse and inclusive workforce,” said Lisa Christie, Senior Director of Communications for the Women’s Foundation of Colorado.
Some of these advantages include improved operational and financial performance and increased innovation and group performance. Women in particular are more likely to build consensus and collaborate with colleagues, Christie explained.
“Hiring a diverse workforce doesn’t just make sense, it makes good business sense,” Christie said.
Although some companies place priority on hiring a diverse workforce, Elaine Marino, founder of Equili, a company whose mission is to build a more diverse tech community that levels the playing field for underrepresented or underutilized groups, says there is another piece to the puzzle.
“Hiring is a really narrow focus for solving the diversity problem because it’s really an inclusion problem,” said Marino. “My advice to companies is to track attrition and dive very deep into why the attrition is occurring.”
“If you solve for inclusion, diversity will follow,” Marino said.
She said a good first step for that is to conduct exit interviews and ask those hard questions and not be afraid of the answers.
So, what’s the best way to improve hiring diverse candidates overall? In Marino’s mind, it starts at the top with a diversified leadership.
“Women and people of color need to see themselves represented at the top. Companies that have representation have no problem receiving resumes from underrepresented candidates. They see themselves at the top and a path forward.”
As new corporations continue to enter our dynamic Denver community, we hope to see a growing focus on prioritizing diversity and inclusion to continue making Denver a great place for women and minorities of all kind to thrive and grow their careers.
National Mentoring Month Event Kicks Off New Partnership
The Colorado Women’s Hall of Fame (CWHF) and the Women of Denver (WOD) network have entered into a partnership to broaden the reach of both organizations in educating and inspiring Colorado women of all ages. The partnership will support brand awareness building and community outreach for both.
“One of the challenges CWHF has as an established organization with a solid following of both men and women, is the need to diversify our reach to include and engage younger generations,” says Beth Barela, CWHF board chair. “Women of Denver is one of the most diverse, active and progressive organizations in Denver with a solid following of next generation women bringing fresh perspectives about the roles and impact of Colorado women making a difference.”
To kick off the partnership, CWHF and WOD, along with the Colorado Center for Women’s History, are hosting an evening with a multigenerational panel of CWHF inductees and WOD founder Krystal Covington as panel moderator. The event, “Mentors & Role Models: Diverse Pathways to Success,” focuses on the importance of both mentors and role models along the career-life continuum and celebrates January as National Mentoring Month.
The event will be held on Thursday, January 31st from 6:00-8:00pm at Women in Kind, located at 3899 Jackson St, Denver, CO 80205. Doors will open at 6pm; the program begins at 6:30pm. Register for tickets here. Seating is limited.
“I’m excited to moderate this special kickoff panel event and showcase some of Denver’s most well-known mentors,” says WOD’s Covington. “Mentors are an important part of the journey to success in both career and life, and the Colorado Women’s Hall of Fame is a premier resource for modeling mentorship by elevating women who make an impact. I’m thrilled to partner with an organization that supports the elevation of women and eager to put our ideas into action.”
● Krystal Covington, panel moderator, founded Women of Denver in 2014 to connect and inspire 100,000 women through educational events and dynamic thought leadership, so they can acquire knowledge and confidence to earn their worth.
● Juana Bordas has built a successful career teaching leadership skills, and spending her life work with and developing organizations to help women and people of color empower themselves and their communities. Bordas was inducted into CWHF in 1997.
● Gerie Grimes, CEO and president of the Hope Center and community advocate for quality education for children in their early years regardless of level of capability, race, or how society has labeled them. Grimes was inducted into CWHF in 2018.
● Ding-Wen Hsu is a business executive and community leader with a tireless commitment to presenting Asian culture and highlighting the deep traditions of Colorado’s Asian population. She was inducted in 2010.
● Gail Schoettler was the first woman to be both Colorado’s Lt. Governor (elected in 1994) and State Treasurer (from 1987 to 1994). She ran for governor in 1998 and lost by 5000 votes, leading her to found Women Electing Women, a national alliance of women who financially support women running for Governor and U.S. Senate. Also she was appointed by President Clinton as U.S. ambassador to negotiate a global treaty with 189 nations on the use of radio spectrum for all commercial, civil and military purposes. Schoettler was inducted in 2018.
● Understand the meaning and purpose of mentoring and how being a mentor differs from being a role model.
● Discover the economic and inspirational power of mentorship.
● Learn how to build and maintain effective mentor relationships.
This event is Ideal for:
● Experienced leaders with the desire to "give back," by becoming a mentor.
● Young professionals who want to create mentor relationships with leaders they admire.
● Experienced "mentees," who love to share their experiences with building and maintaining great relationships that lead to valuable results.
About the Colorado Women's Hall of Fame:
The Colorado Women's Hall of Fame was created to recognize, honor and preserve the contributions of trailblazing Colorado women. Both historical and contemporary women have shared foresight, vision and accomplishment, but lacked a forum for recognition. Since 1985, the Hall has inducted 152 extraordinary women who have been outstanding in their field, elevated the status of women, helped open new frontiers for women or inspired others by their example. Inductees include scientists, teachers, social activists, philanthropists, authors, business leaders, elected officials and more.
To learn more about inductees, visit: http://www.cogreatwomen.org/inductees/women-in-the-hall/
Stay in touch via Facebook: www.facebook.com/cogreatwomen, the LinkedIn group: Colorado
Follow CWHF on Twitter @ColoradoWHF.
About Women of Denver:
Women of Denver (WOD) is the most diverse and active women's organization in Denver. With over 40 events per year their dynamic network helps women increase their business acumen, sharpen leadership skills and connect with other high-achieving women. WOD’s mission is to connect and inspire 100,000 women through their educational events and progressive thought-leadership, so they can acquire the knowledge and confidence to earn their worth. Learn more at www.thewomenofdenver.com.
by Krystal Covington
Winter in Denver is never a dull season. When you're not out on a mountain adventure these free activities will give you tons to smile about. (Note: while some activities are free they may tempt you to purchase holiday goodies or food.)
Denver Christkindl Market, November 16 – December 23
The Christkindl Market at Skyline Park includes vendors from Germany, Ukraine, Ireland and other countries, as well as local artisans, offering high-quality, handcrafted gifts such as traditional hand-carved wooden figurines, handmade candles and ornaments. Traditional German food, warm Glühwein (hot spiced wine), and traditional Christmas carols and live German music make the market a full holiday experience.
Downtown Denver Rink at Skyline Park, November 20, 2018 – February 3, 2019
One of the most popular holiday events in Denver, the Downtown Denver Rink at Skyline Park returns in 2018 with ice skating and family fun. The rink is FREE and open to the public with the option to bring your own skates or rent a pair at a minimal cost.
Grand Illumination, November 23
On the Friday after Thanksgiving, Downtown Denver's major landmarks will light up for the holidays during the Grand Illumination. The event features entertainment and lighting ceremonies at Denver Union Station and the City & County Building. Hundreds of thousands of lights will also illuminate the 16th Street Mall, Skyline Park, the D&F Clock Tower, 14th Street, Larimer Square and more.
Light the Lights: City & County Building Holiday Lights, November 23 – December 31
The largest lighting display in Denver comes on nightly at 6 p.m. at the City & County Building, where 600,000 lights deck the neo-classical building. The bell tower plays carols nightly as well.
Denver Holiday Flea, Fridays - Sundays, November 23-December 16
The Denver Holiday Flea is a contemporary marketplace showcasing makers and retailers who cultivate the Colorado lifestyle. This year's biggest and best ever Denver Flea will be the 10th annual; and it will take place on the Plaza at Denver Union Station.
Ice Skating Rink at DEN, November 23, 2018 – January 6, 2019
Back for a second year, Denver International Airport's (DEN) free ice skating rink will be on the DEN Plaza for everyone to enjoy daily from 9 a.m. to 9 p.m. This year's rink will be bigger and will be accompanied by a variety of entertainment and family-friendly music playing in the background.
9NEWS Parade of Lights, Nov. 30 (8 p.m.) and Dec 1 (6 p.m.)
The 9NEWS Parade of Lights is a signature event of the Denver holiday season. The countless sparkling lights, marching bands, majestic floats and delightful characters will once again wow hundreds of thousands. Viewing along the parade route is free, and grandstand tickets are sold for seating in front of the beautifully illuminated City & County Building.
Denver Jackalope Holiday Market, December 8-12
Celebrate the holiday season with Jackalope, an indie artisan market on December 9th and 10th from 10 a.m. – 5 p.m. at the newly renovated McNichols Civic Center Building downtown. Shop more than 150 handmade vendors from art and photography, fashion and accessory design, home decor, housewares and more. Enjoy local food, full bar, and DIY workshops at this free and family friendly event.
New Year's Eve Fireworks
The sky will once again sparkle over downtown Denver at the close of 2018 with the New Year's Eve Fireworks Downtown. The two spectacular fireworks shows will occur at the family-friendly hour of 9 p.m. and the traditional midnight. For the best viewpoints, stand along the 16th Street Mall, where there will also be costumed entertainers including magicians, mascots, balloon artists, stilt walkers and comedians.
You'll find more activities like these at VISITDENVER.
Interviews with Tarana Burke and Laura Richards
On October 15, 2017 actress Alyssa Milano, tweeted, “If you’ve been sexually harassed or assaulted write ‘me too’ as a reply to this tweet.” Within 24 hours, the #metoo hashtag had been used over 800,000 times.
Stories of women who were assaulted as children to stories of women experiencing injustice in the workplace are now being told all over the world using those two little words.
But Milano didn’t start the #metoo movement. In fact, it started in 2006 when Tarana Burke founded the me too Movement™ through Just Be Inc. to help survivors of sexual violence—particularly women of color from low-wealth communities—find pathways to healing. Her career as a youth worker exposed her to heartbreaking stories about broken homes and abusive or neglectful parents, she says.
Now, Burke says, survivors are feeling seen, validated and supported in ways they never have before.Today, the movement continues to liberate women to declare that they, too, have been sexually harassed or assaulted, including Lady Gaga and Gabrielle Union.
Women of Denver Magazine interviewed Burke and Colorado activist Laura Richards about #metoo, supporting survivors and getting involved.
Tarana Burke: Showing empathy is powerful
WODM: The me too Movement™ was birthed from your organization, Just Be Inc. which focuses on the health, well being, and wholeness of young women of color. Why was that mission important to you?
Burke: Women and girls of color are consistently treated as though our lives and humanity don't matter. We endure violence of all kinds, erasure and criminalization at disproportionate rates and have limited access to the support and resources necessary to navigate those things. As a black woman who is also a survivor of sexual violence, I knew that if I was going to do this work, I had a responsibility to center women and girls of color in it not only because it's the right thing to do, but because so few people and organizations acknowledge our humanity.
WODM: You founded the me too Movement™ in 2006 using the idea of "empowerment through empathy." Why use this method?
Burke: Empathy does far more for people than sympathy, which is the emotion many people pour onto survivors of sexual violence and abuse. Sympathy is rooted in remorse and pity, but empathy is the act of trying to understand what someone has gone through by putting yourself in their shoes.
Being a survivor myself, I remember feeling very alone, like no one understood what I was feeling. Pity doesn't help people move through their pain, but people showing empathy, saying in their own way “me too” and “I see you,” is powerful.
WODM: How did it feel to have Alyssa Milano, promote #MeToo on social media?
Burke: I was very surprised at first. It happened so quickly that I didn't have much time to process it. But Alyssa reached out to me shortly after the hashtag went viral to thank me for the work I have been doing for more than a decade.
WODM: How can we continue to support survivors outside of the me too Movement™ ?
Burke: Each survivor is different and has a different story, a different path to healing and different needs. It's important to not make blanket statements and assumptions about survivors and the kinds of support they need. Approaching survivors with compassion and empathy is key. Listening to them is the best way to learn how to support them.
Laura Richards: I want sexual assault in all its forms to be extinct
Laura Richards, a Colorado activist, decided to make her voice heard about the #metoo movement by organizing a rally at the Colorado state capitol in November 2017. She is a survivor of several sexual assaults. She gathered other survivors and advocacy leaders to bring more awareness to the issue and to highlight resources that are available in Colorado. Here’s what she had to say.
WODM: Why is it important to demand respect and equality for women?
Richards: Women have worked hard to open doors; when we first began in the workplace we juggled everything: career, children, home and marriage. It has been a long hard road.
Before 1993 we did not have the right in every state to press charges against our spouses for rape. We still do not get equal pay for equal work. I once found out a male colleague received more money than me for doing the same job. When I asked for a raise I was told he had to care for a family. At the time, I was a single mother having to do the same.
For me, the question should be, why would you not treat us with respect and equality? We have had to battle for every right we have today. The right to vote, the right to not be beaten by our spouse, the right to have control over our bodies and the right to own property. We must continue to demand respect and equality and fight for what is right. We have to honor the women that sacrificed so much so we can have the opportunities we have now.
WODM: What do you think of the culture for women in Colorado?
Richards: Women in Colorado are proactive, vocal, and engaged in their communities, families and careers. It’s amazing to see them embrace feminism in a way I couldn’t have imagined in the ‘80s. There’s a diversity that is phenomenal to watch.
We have strong, diverse women in our state legislature that bring so much perspective to the legislative process. The women who organized the Women’s March are young and vibrant, and they are carrying on the work of my generation. I am always in awe and have been honored to work alongside so many impressive women.
WODM: You told the Denver Post that you don't want the conversation to go back to the shadows. Can you explain?
Richards: Sexual assault hits the media for a minute then disappears off into obscurity. We make a few changes but can never really move the agenda to changing the culture. Organizations that provide free or sliding scale services get a little bump in donations, but then they fall back to the bottom of the list.
There’s a fear that we have been fighting this fight for so long, that once Donald Trump is not President and the issues (are not covered by the media) it will be like every other time. I think now we can capitalize on this opportunity and not allow it to fall back into the shadows.
WODM: What inspired you to organize the rally outside the capitol?
Richards: Our stories have power, but telling them only moves the agenda so far. In 10 years, I don’t want to hear more stories. I want to see women feeling safe reporting sexual harassment and receiving fair and equitable treatment (so they no longer) fear ending their careers. When rape victims report, I want to see more than 3 percent of of those cases being prosecuted. I don’t want people telling us what we should have done to avoid sexual assault.
I hope that one day, men and women will read history books to know what sexual assault is because the education exists. I want sexual assault in all its forms to be extinct.
That is what inspires me. I am driven by my sad story, but I am inspired by the courage of women who want to end sexual assault, especially for those who haven’t found their voice.
This article was originally published in Women of Denver magazine.
By Ali Correll
Ashley Beirne is a driven, inspired woman who has identified a critical need that is often neglected and unmet in the majority of the homeless population in our current society. She has gone above and beyond to provide the homeless with period kits, effectively ensuring that many of Denver's homeless population will no longer wonder how they will care for themselves every month when the need arises. This selfless act improves the quality of life around and in Denver, and helps to build and foster the sense of community in which we call home.
What inspired you to start collecting and providing period kits for the homeless?
I grew up very poor with a single mother and 3 siblings, and like so many, we eventually became homeless. We were lucky enough (after being waitlisted) to find beds at the Red Cross Emergency Shelter where we stayed for the next 7 months. It was during this experience that I personally witnessed and felt the impact that just one volunteer or staff could make and, 10 years later, I still remember many of their names.
From ages 15 to 18, every period I had was sustained by the donation and kindness of others. I never thought twice about it. At the end of February this year, I walked past a homeless woman who was around my age while I was on my period and thought: where does she get products? Does she have to use the money she gets for food to purchase products? What does she do about cramps? And leaks?
My mind started racing and I went home and looked for someone who was already meeting this need. To my surprise there wasn't an individual providing this service! I thought that I would do a drive and try to collect enough supplies for one third of the women living on the streets in Denver for a three month supply to try to alleviate any worries.
How does the program work? How do you collect and distribute them?
We have a few different ways to collect products. The first is through collection boxes that local businesses sign up to host and promote. We also have an Amazon wish list, which is kept updated with the items we are in need of, and people can purchase directly from that list and send supplies and donations right to us. Lastly, we use the crowd-fundraising on YouCaring to fund needed items that haven't been donated, like drawstring bags from the Dollar Store. We fill each bag with a 3-month supply of period products and distribute them to those living on the streets around Denver and to programs that serve the homeless, such as Metro Caring, The Empowerment Program, Volunteers of America Colorado, and Father Woody's.
Why is this mission important to you?
As a human, I think it is my job to do what I can for those who are in need. It's important to look at what these people are going through, how they survive, and what their experiences might be like. So often we look away and don't make eye contact because we are afraid that we might feel something or we may feel called to action. It is important and crucial to me that I support these women in a way that lets them know that we are thinking of them, they are not forgotten, and that we love them.
What's at stake for the women you're supporting?
The women we support often have no other resources for products. What we've heard is that women have gone as far as digging through the trash for napkins to use as pads, or even leaves to help sustain their periods. Imagine only having 1 pair of underwear and leaking through it. So many of these women have told us that it directly effects their self-esteem and sense of dignity, which are two things that are critical to maintaining a healthy and hopeful mental state.
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by Joce Blake
Behind every painting or piece of art, there is a creative individual that gave their entire soul to make you feel connected to the work of art. As a young girl, Adri Norris had no idea that she would blossom into a startlingly impressive artist. When meeting this powerful woman of Denver, you can sense her intense compassion.
Instantly, you can tell that she seeks compassion. She said, “There is a lot in this world to be angry about, but I find that if I communicate with compassion, it is easier to be heard. That is where my art comes from. I could rail on about the injustices against women and people of color, but I choose instead to hold up examples of people who overcame those injustices in order to pursue their own goals and to improve the world around them.” The unique thing about this female artist is her tenacity through diversity.
The defining moment of Norris’ career was the moment she agreed to do a show about women in history. For her, taking the time to look deeply into the lives of these women and the times in which they lived has changed the way she views the world. “I see patterns of thought and behavior and recognize the need for context. It has relieved me of much of my judgment while encouraging me to question my own actions and those of the people around me,” Norris explained.
For years, people have told Adri that she should find a career with more stability but like the renegade she is, she persevered. Norris shares this characteristic with many of the women she has depicted in her revolutionary collection entitled, Women Behaving Badly. The aim of this collection is to highlight the indispensable contributions made by women from various realms like activism, athletics, arts, science, and politics. As for the title, Norris said, “I wanted a provocative title for my series to showcase women who stepped outside of their pre-prescribed roles to do meaningful work. The title grabs you and makes you want to learn more, even if it's not what you originally thought you'd learn,” Norris said.
Adri Norris was born in Barbados and her family moved to New York shortly after. She also spent some of her childhood in New Mexico. Falling in love with traveling the world, she decided to study abroad in Italy and then made the brave decision to join the Marine Corps. No matter where she was in the world, one thing remained constant: her sketchbook.
Norris told us, “When I was seven years old, I announced that I would be an artist when I grew up after flipping through a book containing the work of Leonardo da Vinci. That was the first time I realized that you could get famous as an artist.” She went on to say, “Growing up, I became fascinated by all the ways you could put marks on some surfaces and how you could manipulate other surfaces. I became a maker. It is something I can't not do.”
Norris created Afro Triangle to show the world her art. Creating Afro Triangle was something Norris knew she had to do. Each and every creation is from Norris; from the fine art to the clothing. “I started this company back in 2009 with a simple Facebook page to showcase my work,” Norris wrote on her website. The Facebook page has become an amazing presence on multiple social media platforms, art shows and festivals around the Mile High City.
Moving to Denver seemed like the right choice for the artist. Norris shares, “I had already applied to the Art Institute Online when I was sent on my second deployment to the Middle East with the Marines. By the time I returned, I had only six months left on my contract, so it made sense to wait and go to school in person. The Colorado school has a program I was interested in called, Illustration and Design. Although this was canceled before I got to Denver, I opted to switch to Media Arts and Animation and follow through with the original plan. I figured that Animation would be Illustration-plus. I love the sense of life I am able to bring to my paintings.”
For centuries women painters have been ignored by art historians. We are familiar with names like Leonardo da Vinci, Turner, and Monet but are not aware of names like Artemisia Gentileschi or Rosa Bonheur. Norris shared some of the trials and triumphs she has experienced as a black female artist. One of her biggest challenges came from doing commercial artwork for the corporate sector.
Norris shared, “The office was always freezing and I found that there was this weird split between how I was treated and how I was compensated. My work was highly praised, but my paycheck was tiny.” According to the National Center for Education Statistics, black women are now the most educated group in America. The more shocking statistic is that they are grossly underpaid across many platforms. With this in mind, Norris had to make a decision that ultimately changed her life. “When I left, I had to learn how to be an entrepreneur, something they didn't teach in art school. Over the past two years, I feel like I am finally seeing my efforts pay off,” Norris said.
That’s why “Women Behaving Badly” is so important. This series, according to the artist, has brought more meaning to her life than any of her creations. Of all of her work, she feels that this series is truly inspirational and made her feel complete. Norris exclaimed, “I started to tell the stories of women from all races, nationalities, and walks of life through my series “Women Behaving Badly.” I want people to see themselves in those stories, to consider how they may be like those women and think differently about women in general. Originally, I aimed these stories and this art at women and girls. I wanted to inspire them to be more than they thought they could be. Now, I see that these pieces can become a vehicle to combat an ideology that puts people into a box with an incorrect label in order to stop them from being their full selves.”
From Dolores Huerta, a Latina civil rights activist to Shirley Chisholm, the first black woman in the House of Representatives, Norris has found a way to depict these powerful women in the most beautiful way. Combining watercolor paintings with old photos and newspaper clippings, she creates artwork that is unmatched. In creating these masterpieces, Norris wanted to focus on three questions: Who was she? What did she do? Why does that matter? Norris said, “I started learning about women who invented things I use every day or who enacted policies which benefit me and I asked myself, why have I never heard of them before?" Often times the historical achievements of women are not documented and shared with the world. Norris has championed the role of showing recognition to those powerful women who have been overlooked and neglected.
Watercolor is a unique form of painting as it allows for glow and transparency in a brilliant light. Norris told us, “ I am the kind of person who, if you tell me something is hard, I have to try it. Most people consider watercolor to be a difficult medium but I love that it has a mind of its own. It forces me to adapt to the changes I see as I put color down.” She goes on to say, “That said, it is also more forgiving than most people think. I routinely go back and pull out pigment to create highlights in my paintings. And because it is a transparent medium, there is this luminosity in my paintings that I have not achieved in other media.”
With the current climate of our country, this powerful woman feels our world is not a safe climate for her and her wife. Being a black, queer woman and a part of a mixed race couple is frightening. However, if she could tell her 10-year-old self something, she would tell her, “Keep doing what you’re doing because it will all come together someday.”
By Angela Jackson
The battle of the sexes has been going on for centuries. But the young women at Wrestle Like A Girl are building their defenses to win.
“I have learned that I can be something bigger, something better. As an athlete and as a (young) woman, it gives me confidence. It gives me strength,” said Raquel Gray, a WLAG wrestler.
What else is a girl to gain from participating in a historically male sport? The answer: a lot.
“Combat sports are great for girls, as it helps with confidence and requires you to become very self aware. Wrestling offers knowledge of self-defense, fitness, nutrition and body appearance,” said Katherine Shai who is a board member of WLAG and founder of her own educational blog LuchaFIT.
WLAG was originally founded by Sally Roberts, a two-time World Bronze Medalist in women’s wrestling and a three-time national champion.
Her goal is to bring the mission of WLAG all around the country. She takes her team of elite coaches to different schools to advocate, empower and support young female athletes.
“We teach them the importance of nutrition, hydration and sport psychology including how to build their confidence, how to dig within themselves so that they can become whoever, whatever they want to be both on the mat and off the mat,” Roberts said.
It was a natural fit for Shai to become part of WLAG because she is a lifelong athlete herself. And you might say it‘s in her blood. Literally. Her father competed in the 1956 and 1960 Olympic games in wrestling. He began coaching women’s club wrestling in the 1980’s and went on to start the only four-year college women’s wrestling program in California.
The sport had such an impact on her life there was no other choice but to share it with others. Her love and experience for the sport led her to become part of an organization that specifically advocates and speaks to girls.
The young women featured in our photos are members of the Chatfield Junior Wrestling Team in Littleton. Their coach, Sandra George, also knows firsthand the difference this sport can make on a person’s life.
“I played team sports when I was younger until I learned I could wrestle, my life literally changed. Wrestling is a sport where you learn self-motivation, how to strive to do better, how to learn to lose on your own. With a team sport you have others to help you win or lose,” George said.
The eleven girls on her team may be typical in that they are interested in everything from hashtags to the latest headphones, but they are also “tough.”
George says her girls are dedicated to the sport and as opportunities grow each year, stereotypes are being broken when they get the right support.
“Girls are breaking the barrier to sports and accomplishing great things,” she said. Six of her wrestlers also practice Jiu Jitsu with a Black Belt judo professor in Lakewood, CO.
Train. Fight. Win. is the name of the gym these young wrestlers were at the day we caught up with them. Gym owner, L.A. Jennings, Ph.D.‘s goal is to create a place where female athletes can feel comfortable.
She says over the years she has encountered some coaches and gyms out there that weren’t necessarily vested in the success of female athletes. That was not the type of space she wanted to create with her gym.
“One of the things that has been really important to me as a gym owner, and that I know was important to WLAG too, is to change the dialogue around women in sports and to not use the idea of ‘wrestling like a girl’ as a pejorative, but rather to see that as a strength,” Jennings said. “What I’ve tried to do as a coachis provide a place where women are valued as athletes and not seen as anomalies and that they are in an environment that is welcoming to them.”
Jennings also authored the book She’s a Knockout! A History of Women in Fighting Sports. She shares that women’s participation in sports was a very natural part of cultural play thousands of years ago. It wasn’t until the 19th century that rules were put in place that omitted women.
“It’s not like women are suddenly doing something new. We are in a certain extent in mass, but rather that we’re combatting those institutional forces that have sought to exclude women from doing something that is very human,” Jennings said.
She offers her vision of the future of female fighters.
“I think we will see much more growth as we see acceptance of and interest in girls being able to participate in sports like wrestling and boxing and kickboxing at a younger age,” Jennings said. That is a sentiment shared by the other female coaches.
“Providing more opportunities for girls to be exposed to combat sports will help their parents and the public realize this is not a sport exclusively for boys,” Shai said.
“With all the female athletes in MMA (Mixed Martial Arts) more and more girls are learning wrestling is a foundation to all other sports. Girls are breaking the barrier to sports and accomplishing great things,” said George.
The young women of WLAG, like many Women Of Denver members, are rewriting their story and getting the tools to slay with the best.
“Wrestling is a stepping stone to help you with confidence and bravery and just to step out of your own element of comfort,” George said. “A girls comfort line gets pushed further as she realizes how hard she can work, what she can endure and what she can accomplish because of that.”
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