by Joce Blake
Pop Quiz. Which of the following statements do you agree with?
We would all love to answer ‘yes’ to the questions above, but in many cases we need guidance to do so. Forbes has suggested that having someone help you define goals, solve problems and see situations in new ways is one way to take control of your life and career path. Sounds to us like mentorship is the solution. It is essential for us to have someone in our life that pours into us. Whether it is encouragement, sharing insight or helping to build discipline, mentorship is wildly invaluable.
For example, 12 year old actress, J.Lee has found her passion in life because of the impactful people in her life. J.Lee has done extensive commercial work for clients like Children's Hospital, King Soopers and Furniture Row. Lee said, “My mentors are my mom and dad. They are both actors, so I'm able to learn a lot from their experience.” She went on to say that having her parents, Tammy and Lewis Brown, as mentors has always impacted her passion for acting. She loves watching them on television and they inspire her to pursue her goals. “The most powerful thing my mentor has shared with me is to be authentic. That means always be yourself and don't be afraid to do so. This goes for acting and life. People can always tell when you're faking,” Lee shared with us. This shining star says that she plans to be a mentor in the future. “I know how helpful having mentors is to me, and I want to help someone else be their best too,” Lee exclaimed.
On September 27, 2017, the Women’s Foundation of Colorado hosted its Annual Luncheon and it was full of laughs, tears and “ah-ha” moments. The audience was packed with women of all different ages waiting to receive the award-winning actress, Octavia Spencer, who was the keynote speaker.
As J.Lee sat in the audience listening to the Hidden Figures actress talk about her life growing up in Montgomery, Alabama, her face glowed like no other. In an open and honest conversation with President and CEO of the Women’s Foundation of Colorado, Lauren Casteel, Spencer shared that she decided to buy out a movie theater for young girls to view Hidden Figures. She got the idea from comedian, Kevin Hart, and was not expecting it to have such a significant effect.
In a heart-wrenching moment, she began to tear up as she recalled her mother working multiple jobs and how she could not afford to take Spencer and her siblings to see movies in theaters. “Hidden Figures had an educational impact and I felt a lot of people should see it. I remember being in class as a child and hearing the kids talk about movies they had seen and I knew what it felt like to not know,” Octavia shared as she choked back her tears. “I just wanted little girls to know that even if their families couldn’t afford to take them to opening weekend that no matter what dreams you have for yourself...these women weren’t maids, they were scientists and they were doing what they loved doing. They had no idea the impact they would have on the world. I felt like every little girl should see that so that they knew in that moment that if that was something they wanted to do, they could do it.” Spencer shared with tears streaming down her face.
Lauren Casteel told us that WFOC chose Spencer because the actress’ personal story of how her mother taught her and her six siblings to believe in themselves is beyond inspirational. Casteel continued, “That inspiration is magnified when the beloved Academy Award-winning actress brings strong women's voices to the screen. Through the characters she portrays, she brings important issues and history to life.”
With Casteel’s 20-year experience in philanthropy, she had so much to share about success through mentorship. “Mentorship can be formal or informal. What's important is that during an exchange, individuals share real stories not only of success, but of missteps and lessons learned. Mentorship requires authenticity and listening,” Casteel said. The CEO even shared a mentorship success story that happened during the summer. She said, “WFOC has been honored to host two to three diverse college interns and fellows. They are invariably passionate, curious and dedicated. I like to think the team contributes to their future success by giving them meaningful work and opportunities to learn and grow. We integrate them into the team and share real-time feedback and support. We have close ongoing connections with these students, who in some instances have gone on to join various WFCO committees. We grow by learning from them as well.”
There is no doubt that Spencer is a formal and informal mentor. Through her filmography over the years, the actress has continued to portray powerful women of color, spreading inspiration to the masses. Her first film debut, A Time to Kill, as Roark’s nurse began her journey of depicting an unrepresented minority: black women.
Spencer’s breakout role as Minny Jackson in the period drama, The Help, has to be one of her most memorable roles. As a colored maid in racially charged Alabama in the 1960s, Minny Jackson was the perfect balance of extreme strength and vulnerability. Spencer told the audience at the WFOC luncheon that her portrayal of Minny Jackson was the closest to home for her because she grew up with five sisters. “I realized after playing Minny, that if, as a woman, you have no agency, you don’t really know if the glass is half empty or full because you don’t own the glass. So I realized that, wow, I am happy that I own the glass and I know Minny in the 1960s couldn’t own the glass and now Octavia does.”
Most recently Spencer portrayed Dorothy Vaughan in the film, Hidden Figures. The critically acclaimed film depicts the true and untold story of several African-American women who provided NASA with essential information needed to launch the program’s successful space missions. Spencer’s amazing performance has earned her multiple nominations including the Screen Actor’s Guild, Golden Globe and NAACP Image Award to date. The Space Race would not have been the same without mathematician and colored computer, Dorothy Vaughan.
When Casteel asked the actress about her experience of conquering the role and the machine, Spencer’s advice was powerful. She advised the audience to allow boys and girls to choose their toys. “Let the little boys play with dolls; if they want to pull the doll’s head off, let them! And if the little girls want to play with trucks and science gadgets, let them. I think we start steering them into gender roles and then when a child shows acumen for a certain field of study like mathematics, science or anything STEM related, we say, ‘Oh that’s for boys’. If they have the academics, then we need to make sure they have programs available for them to express themselves.”
Spencer noted that she became veracious after she found her way around her reading challenges and she is a strong believer that when a child is supported, they have no choice but to flourish. Octavia also left us in awe after the film, Gifted, which is J.Lee’s favorite role to date. Lee shared, “Of Octavia's amazing roles, my favorite character was Roberta in Gifted. I liked that she was like a mother to the little girl, Mary, and a great friend to her and her uncle. She was also willing to fight for her! Her love, playfulness, and strength reminded me of my Nana.” Over a slice of chocolate pie, Octavia ended the luncheon by wishing the women and girls of Colorado dream big and that the men step up to help the women and girls achieve those dreams.
In Spencer’s “spare time”, she mentors formally as an AT&T Hello Lab Mentor. AT&T designed this mentorship program to pair entertainment industry leaders with aspiring filmmakers from diverse backgrounds as they create new short films. The program is focused on supporting each filmmaker by introducing them to studio and production company executives, agents and attorneys. Also, mentors including writer-director Rick Famuyiwa, rapper Common, film director Desiree Akhavan and producer Nina Yang Bongiovi are responsible for counseling filmmakers on pitching their work, managing budgets and directing character-driven narratives. Most importantly, these films will highlight and celebrate untold stories from neglected communities like LGBTQ, women and people of color. This program is proof that mentorship is crucial throughout our entire life span.
We had the amazing opportunity to have a heart to heart with Octavia after the luncheon and she poured out about the importance of mentorship. As she embraced young actress, J.Lee, you could see them connecting and building this beautiful rapport. While this actress did not have a mentor growing up, she remembers learning much from Whoopi Goldberg. Spencer told us, “She shared some solid advice and that was be true to yourself at the end of the day. I know what that means now.”
We asked the Hidden Figures actress what advice she would share with aspiring actresses like J.Lee and she said, “1. Train because it does not come naturally and while some people make it look easy, it’s not. 2. Live your life because life experiences is what an actor brings to a role. If you haven’t lived and gone on those trips and experienced things then you’re not going to be able to bring depth to the role. If you think that you will be an overnight success, then acting isn’t for you. Most people I know became successful in their 40s. I became successful in my 40s. It’s a marathon not a sprint.”
It is also very interesting that Spencer does not want to take on the title of “role model” because she realizes that she will do things that people like and dislike. Above all, she strives to make her mother proud of her by keeping her legacy intact. “I just want to be the best person I can be,” Octavia said. Amazingly enough, J.Lee left the room feeling empowered and inspired. Lee said, “After meeting Octavia Spencer, I had to pinch myself. Days later it still felt like a dream! I really enjoyed hearing her speak, and I'm motivated to work harder at being a great actress like Octavia."
- From WOD Magazine's Winter issue
By Karen Einisman, communications contractor and freelance writer.
If hashtags tell us anything about American culture and the current political environment, then the #FutureIsFemale. From #IAmANastyWoman and #ShePersisted to #MeToo and #TimesUp, our nation is reckoning with its history of inequality, misogyny and sexual harassment.
As this new era unfolds, more women are stepping forward, raising their voices and entering the political arena for the first time.
In Colorado, women serving in political positions is nothing new. In 1893, the Centennial State became the first to give women the right to vote through a popular election. The following year, voters elected the first three female legislators in the country to the State House of Representatives.
And, while Colorado comes the closest to gender parity than almost any other state, we have yet to elect a woman to serve as either governor or U.S. Senator.
The question that remains unanswered in 2018 is whether the current movement toward gender parity can shatter the glass ceiling that seems to have kept Colorado women from reaching the state’s highest offices.
What changed following the 2016 election and the subsequent Women’s March is that women are no longer waiting for encouragement from others to run for office. In 2017, organizations that train women to run saw increased interest from potential first-time candidates who want to make change in their communities.
As we commemorate Women’s History Month, Women of Denver is celebrating three remarkable women who have made the leap into politics and who hope to inspire others to do the same.
REP. FAITH WINTER
At 27, state Rep. Faith Winter ran for office because someone she admired asked her to run. While lobbying then-state Senate President Joan Fitz-Gerald, the senator encouraged her to consider a run for office. And so began Winter’s political career, one in which she addresses the issues women care about most, first as a Westminster city council member and then as a state representative. Now, she is parlaying that political work into a run for the state senate.
Winter’s mission is to improve the lives of Coloradans through affordable housing, paid family leave and climate-change legislation. She also believes that Colorado is reaching a boiling point on housing affordability.
“Even in rural places, housing is not affordable,” she said.
She hopes to address the state’s lack of paid family leave as well, working to pass legislation that would provide leave to families by creating a state insurance pool. Currently, only 21 percent of residents have access to this benefit.
“Whether you need to take care of a child, an adult parent or yourself, you would pull from the insurance pool for wage replacement,” she explained, noting the cost per individual is as inexpensive as a cup of coffee per week.
Aside from making news for the issues she supports, Winter recently joined the #MeToo movement by telling her story. She came forward to protect other women, she says, after hearing about continued harassment by fellow legislator, Rep. Steve Lebsock. By speaking up, Winter believes she is helping move our culture toward one of zero tolerance. We need to not only “stop [this] behavior, but also empower women and other survivors to hold sexual harassers accountable,” she said.
Winter is also helping to shift the makeup of our political landscape. For the past 12 years, she has encouraged and trained women to run for office.
“Our democracy is based on a diversity of ideas,” she said. “If all elected officials look the same, we’re not going to come up with the best solutions.”
That’s why she believes our legislatures need more diversity, including more women. She is inspired by working to empower them raise their voices.
“It’s fun work. It’s necessary work. And, I think its work that is going to change the world."
A sense of obligation to others runs deep in Cary Kennedy’s family. Her mother, a social worker, felt so strongly about this notion that she fostered three children, giving them opportunities to succeed and motivating Kennedy to dedicate her work to helping people who do not have those same opportunities.
Beginning her political career as an intern in Governor Roy Romer’s office, Kennedy has gone on to serve as Denver’s Deputy Mayor and Chief Financial Officer and, most recently, Colorado State Treasurer. In keeping with those values, she helped create the “Building Excellent Schools Today” program, which works to ensure that all students have the same opportunity to attend modern learning facilities.
“Students in poor school districts were in buildings with lead pipes, asbestos, mold and sewage backups,” she said. “[This] program has rebuilt or remodeled over 380 schools across the state.”
Kennedy’s next move? She is running for governor. In addition to education, her top priorities are health care accessibility and affordability, and protecting open spaces, air and water in the face of the state’s continued growth.
As governor, Kennedy would give all Coloradans the option to buy affordable public health insurance, and she would address climate change by ensuring the state meets the Paris Agreement’s emissions-reduction target, “with or without Washington,” she said.
Kennedy is among a long list of Colorado women who have helped shape the state in the past 140 years, but she points to the glass ceiling that needs to be shattered.
“Women in office pass laws that help women and families,” she said. “Improving our public schools, expanding health care, growing Colorado’s economy and working to protect our beautiful state.”
Can you hear that ceiling cracking?
After entrepreneur Heidi Ganahl sold Camp Bow Wow, her chain of pet care franchises, in 2014, she wanted to give back to her community. Her belief that education is the key to the American Dream led her to run for the Board of Regents at her alma mater, the University of Colorado.
Since winning her at-large seat in 2016, Ganahl has worked on campus issues of affordability, free speech, and safety. She’s made progress in the area of affordability, by instituting a four-year tuition guarantee, eliminating extra fees, and reducing the cost of course materials by piloting a digital library. And in the area of free speech, Ganahl helped CU create a new student debate group to teach students “how to think, not what to think,” she said.
During her term, she has tackled student safety by addressing issues of drugs & alcohol, depression, and sexual assault—a personal topic as the mother of a sexual assault survivor. After watching the justice system fail her daughter following the assault, Ganahl founded the Fight Back Foundation to try and change the harrowing experience. Of the #MeToo movement, she is hopeful that it can bring about real change, but notes that “we have to back up the bravery of those speaking up with a justice system that works.”
Ganahl, who was named one of Fortune Magazine’s 10 Most Promising Women Entrepreneurs, wants to see change in the number of women in Colorado politics as well. She is mentoring potential candidates on both sides of the aisle, encouraging them to run for office.
“Women across the country are recognizing that the decisions made at all levels of our society have a direct impact on them, and their families,” she said. “We have to encourage our current female leaders to step up and aim big because [we] bring a different perspective to the table.”
Ganahl has proven that if anyone can mentor someone to “go big”, it’s her.
Life is a process. Laundry is a process. Dishes are a process. Getting gas is a process. Getting ready for the day is a process. All throughout our life we must endure processes.
Overcoming Cancer was no different.
First you must find the Cancer. Tests, Colonoscopies, Scans. Once you find the Cancer, more process. Get a port in your body for easy chemo access. One round of chemo for me was six months going every other week on Mondays. Go home with Chemo bag. Wednesday go back and get bag removed. Next process. Side effects. Sometimes hair loss. Sometimes nausea or sickness. Lose taste in things because the chemo makes everything taste like metal. Take pills. Go to Yoga. Meditate. Power of Positive thinking. Process.
When a friend of mine mentioned this idea to me when I was struggling through the Cancer journey, it all made sense to me. It was easy for me to understand. It was easy for me to grasp. It was a concept I could adhere to and make sense of.
When I was down I remembered the process.
When I was sick I remembered the process.
When I was scared I remembered the process.
One year later and I am officially in Cancer Remission and I carry this idea with me still. How do we overcome the obstacles in our lives? Process.
Whatever you are fighting, whatever you are struggling through, whatever battles you are facing, whatever anguish, strife, trail or adversity you are enduring right now, I challenge you to think about The Process. What process are you going through to become who you really want to be? What process can you relate to that will get you through this? What lies have you told yourself through the years that you are ready to let go and what process do you need to go through to release them?
Life is a process. Learn it. Love it. Live it.
Contributed by TrishaTrixie
Contributed by: Alexandra Correll
As chief revenue officer of Global Healthcare Exchange (GHX), Tina V. Murphy is the driving force behind the company's customer focused culture. GHX specializes as a healthcare business and data automation company that works tirelessly to help healthcare providers bring better patient care and savings to patients and the growing healthcare industry. Since 2000, Tina V. Murphy has worked for GHX through a number of roles, including senior vice president of Global Product and Corporate Development, and as president of GHX Europe's business unit.
These are the secrets to her success:
"I don’t believe that success is about natural ability; rather, it is about outperforming your gaps through hard work," Tina V. Murphy stated when asked about her work philosophy. Her stellar track record and many accomplishments can be credited to her deeply rooted beliefs in the need to work hard, remain tenacious, and building and drawing upon the strengths of her teammates.
"Just as I expect myself to rise to the occasion, I expect that of others as well. Nothing pleases me more than to hear from the team that I created an environment where they felt valued and able to achieve more than they thought they could."
This philosophy is experience based. Tina V. Murphy knows personally how rewarding rising to the occasion can be. "At one of my first jobs, I was asked to do something that I thought was impossible, but being new in my role, missing expectations wasn’t an option. Two months later, I surpassed expectations. The lesson learned was the thrill of having an ambitious goal and then achieving it."
"That feeling has fueled my leadership philosophy - hire smart people and push them until they are uncomfortable, support/mentor them and then celebrate their successes. I continually raise the bar for myself and my team, while providing an empowering culture in which they can thrive."
Business is a bottom-line proposition and we need to understand and articulate the role we play in executing on the company’s strategy.
On Career Building
The experience that Tina V. Murphy has amassed has given her powerful insights into how to achieve success, affluence, and larger monetary gains in the workplace. She advises to remain result driven by focusing on your own personal goals as well as those of the company, and view every setback as a new and valuable tool for growth. True to her personal mantra, Tina V. Murphy says that it is important to constantly try to outperform your own weaknesses.
"Know your strengths and understand your weaknesses. Don’t apologize for who you are. Your unique personality, experience and perspectives are precisely what can make you a powerful, effective and successful leader. Believe in yourself and stand up for what you believe in. When you do, others will as well."
Tina V. Murphy stresses that knowing your strengths and understanding your weaknesses goes far in terms of salary and promotion negotiations. This includes going into the negotiation with determination backed by research, analysis of your own work, and knowledge of the value that you bring to the company.
"Know your worth. Recognize your strengths and the value you bring to the organization. Business is a bottom-line proposition and we need to understand and articulate the role we play in executing on the company’s strategy. Then, when making your case, be concise and to the point. The confidence you bring to the conversation will speak volumes."
On Overcoming Adversity in the Workplace
The outlook of constantly working harder, smarter, and tougher has given Tina V. Murphy a enlightened perspective on combating specific problems unique to women in the workplace. "Women do face challenges or obstacles, but I believe focusing solely on those challenges could be a distraction. Life will always present us with them. What we control is how we handle those situations," she answered when asked about how she approaches adversity while working.
"Women should recognize that they naturally bring a combination of knowledge and intuition to help navigate complex situations; they recognize nuances and motivations and can help ensure multiple perspectives are considered to develop the best strategy. Too often, women try to model the behaviors of their male counterparts, while suppressing their natural strengths. Cultivate those qualities that come naturally to you. It is precisely those attributes that make you a powerful, effective and successful leader."
On Rising Above
GHX has recognized that Tina V. Murphy's skill set - as well as outlook - make her exactly the type of strong, effective leader that is needed to push the company to greater heights. Before serving as chief revenue officer and senior vice president of Global Product and Corporate Development, Tina V. Murphy was president of GHX's European business for two years. She headed to the assignment not only as a woman, but as an American woman.
It is this distinction that initially caused some unrest in her team. Using the same skills and philosophy that helped shape her career, she was able to build and nurture a workplace that communicated, contributed, and ultimately delivered and accomplished much more than they did previously.
The experience is one of her best memories. "During my final week in that position, I received an email from one of the team leaders. He wrote, “Before you came, I couldn’t imagine a female president and now I can’t imagine success without a female president.” To this day that is my proudest moment - my presence and my actions opened the organization’s eyes to the power of female leadership," Tina V. Murphy shared.
The power of female leadership, and the lessons and tenacity that it took to earn it are lessons that any inspiring business woman would benefit from. "I am sure there are plenty of other people who have more natural ability than I do, but there are few who rival my drive, passion and desire to keep learning and growing. I focus on what matters – the company, its employees, and our customers – above all else. And I take full accountability for the results of my work, good and bad." Tina V. Murphy's abilities lie far outside raw skill, and have been grown and honed over 25 years, making her the successful individual she is today. The result? A woman with a success story that some only dream of.
Written by Susan Golicic, PhD, CPIC
Many people entered 2017 with hesitation, fear and anxiety about how things would change due to the new administration. How would we as individuals be treated? Would there be discriminatory practices and regulations due to the beliefs of those in the new leadership? Several have spoken out, and many have protested.
As we fight for what we believe in, are we really getting the message we want delivered across?
Current generations have grown up with/after the civil rights movement with the goal to end racial segregation and obtain civil rights for black Americans. We have also experienced the feminist movement – the advocacy of women’s rights on the basis of equality of the sexes. These are only two areas of possible discrimination. We have many differences besides race and gender – there is also age, sexual orientation, religious affiliation. And even if we are the same race, gender, sexual orientation, age, religion, we are still different.
Equality – what most say they are fighting for – is the state of being equal or being the same. But we are not the same. I don’t believe we want to be the same. As a woman, I don’t want to be the same as a man. We do want the same rights and opportunities as others. We want to be treated fairly and impartially, regardless of what we look like, where we came from, and what we believe in and practice. Being treated fairly and impartially is actually the definition of equity.
I recently read a book called Small Great Things by Jodi Picoult. This novel brilliantly tackles the still-present concerns around prejudice, race and justice. In the book, the author (through her characters) explains that equality is treating everyone the same. It is equal to give the same printed test to two students, but if one is blind, that doesn’t work! Equity, on the other hand, is taking differences into account so everyone has a chance to succeed – giving the students the same test but in different forms. While the book presents just one area of prejudice, it provides a beautiful example of learning to accept each other and appreciate our differences. The differences are what makes us individual and makes us each beautiful!
Words are really the meaning we give them. So whether you choose to use the word equality or equity or even something else in your fight for fairness, just be sure those you are communicating with understand what you are actually striving for as understanding is often important for acceptance.
SUSAN GOLICIC, PhD, CPIC
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Allison Johanson is a licensed clinical social worker with a passion for giving women the skills to manage difficult transitions in their lives which may leave their careers stagnant.
Allison works in both a psychotherapy private practice and through speaking engagements in order to fit the needs of a wide variety of people.
Allison's mission is to help as many women as possible become as successful as they possibly can be.
Phone: (720) 515-3078
Mailing address: 757 E 20th Ave STE 370 #232 Denver, CO 80205
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