Category: Leadership

5 Ways Women Leaders Are Transforming the Post-Pandemic Workplace

A lot has happened since the world went on lockdown in 2020. But we can say that one of the more positive developments that came out of that period is it created more room for women leaders to rise up in the workplace.

Of course, a lot of work still needs to be done for women to experience true gender equity and inclusivity in the workplace. Still, the women who are leaders now are trying to close the existing gaps.

Here are five ways women leaders are transforming the workplace to make it more inclusive in post-pandemic 2022.

1. More women-led companies rising

A recent Gusto survey reported that 5.4 million new businesses opened in 2021. The survey found that women started 49% of those new businesses, compared to just 28% in 2019. The women who responded to the survey shared different reasons for becoming entrepreneurs, including:

  • Getting laid off from work due to the pandemic
  • Finding new opportunities
  • Seeking more flexible hours so they can balance work with childcare
  • Seeking better financial security

Ownership allows women to build their companies according to their ideals. Many women entrepreneurs take the opportunity of owning a business to deliver the kind of employee experience they didn’t enjoy at their former workplaces.

2. Move toward compassionate leadership

Women emerged as excellent leaders during the Covid-19 crisis. We only need to look at the examples set by New Zealand’s Jacinda Ardern, Taiwan’s Tsai Ing-wen, and Germany’s Angela Merkel. A 2020 research also showed that companies led by women have fared better during the pandemic than those led by men.

This is because women are more likely to exercise compassionate, people-centered leadership than men. When handling complex tasks, women tend to weigh the social cost of their decisions before executing them. And they are not afraid to show vulnerability to those they lead. Compassionate leadership is a significant driver of employee engagement. The more engaged employees are, the more invested they become in a company’s growth through good and not-so-good times.

3. Empathetic and family-centered support at work

According to a 2021 joint research by McKinsey and LeanIn.org, women leaders are exerting more effort to promote employee well-being in the first place. This can be as simple as asking staff members how they are doing and as complicated as removing obstacles that keep them from doing their best work.

As mentioned earlier, women started their own businesses in 2021 because they needed to be more flexible in balancing work with childcare. Women business owners are aware that the brunt of childcare and running the household still falls on female shoulders. Thus, they are more likely to provide more flexible work arrangements in the office, including remote work and benefits like paid and extended parental leaves.

Related Content: List of resources for small businesses owned by women, minorities, veterans, and disabled individuals

4. Active DEI work

The same McKinsey and LeanIn.org research found that women leaders are more active in championing diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) in the workplace. Some 54% of women occupying senior-level positions spend time doing DEI work, compared to 46% of men on the same level. Additionally, 38% of women executives mentor at least one woman of color.

CultureAmp reports that more work needs to be done to advance DEI in the workplace. Issues such as mental health and healthcare for trans employees need to be addressed. Also, groups like returning parents, veterans, caregivers, and employees with disabilities remain underrepresented in DEI work. Still, more women work at the DEI frontlines, pushing for diversity and inclusion to become a reality.

5. Wage transparency

The gender wage gap isn’t going to close any time soon. In fact, the Economic Policy Institute reported that there’s been little progress in closing the wage gap in the last 30 years. Payscale also shared that women earned 82 cents for every $1 that men earned in 2021. The numbers didn’t change at the start of 2022.

These numbers may not seem encouraging. But wage transparency is a growing trend. It’s now seen as the number one solution for closing the wage gap, and women’s groups like Elpha are leading conversations on wage transparency.

There’s still a lot of work to be done for women to experience true gender equity and inclusivity in the workplace. But with more women leaders paving the way, we can look forward to more positive changes, not just in 2022 but in the future.

Sacred Fire Creative promotes positive change by incorporating DEI work in its digital marketing strategies. Do you want to be a brand that is a force for positive change? Work with us today.


Josie Natori: Filipino Fashion Trailblazer

“I just don’t like to settle. Good enough is never good enough.” – Josie Natori

Josephina Almeda Cruz, also known in fashion circles as Josie Natori, is considered one of the most outstanding women business owners in the Philippines. This Filipino-American entrepreneur runs The Natori Company, an international women’s fashion brand. Her products retail in the U.S.’s most prominent department stores, including Saks Fifth Avenue, Bloomingdales, and Neiman Marcus. Her products are available worldwide today through her brand’s website

All in the family

Josie grew up in a matriarchal society surrounded by her close-knit Filipino kin. “Women are encouraged to be entrepreneurs,” Josie says of her family. This encouragement stayed with her throughout her life. Even when she was a child, her grandmother would remind her that she should never be in a position where she had to depend on anyone. This upbringing gave her the motivation and inspiration to start her own business.

When she was younger, Josie didn’t plan to enter the fashion industry. Artistically talented and naturally inclined to play the piano, Josie performed in a solo concert with the Manila Philharmonic Orchestra. She was only 9 years old. At 17, she left for New York and pursued an economics degree from Manhattanville College. 

From banking to fashion

After graduation, Josie embarked on a career in banking. Eventually, she became the first female vice president of investment banking at Merrill Lynch. There, she met and married Ken Natori, a fellow executive in the banking world. She then gave birth to her son Kenneth Jr. in 1976,

The following year, Josie found herself looking for new challenges and wanting to start her own business. Before entering the fashion industry, Josie opened several different ventures, from a McDonald’s franchise to a carwash.

Josie’s namesake company began when she brought an embroidered garment from the Philippines to a buyer in Bloomingdales. The buyer advised her to turn it into a sleep shirt; the rest was history.

In the early years of The Natori Company, many of Josie’s friends and relatives pitched in to help her make her vision a reality. For example, an uncle pitched in to sew labels onto clothes. Other family members once gathered to help make a small trim cut on a special order of a thousand blouses. In 1985, Josie convinced her husband, who was still working on Wall Street, to help run her growing business. He became chairman of The Natori Company.

An international empire

More than four decades later, The Natori Company has transformed into a lifestyle brand that includes popular lingerie collections, ready-to-wear apparel, home items, eyewear, and fragrance. Aside from being the founder of an internationally successful fashion business, Josie works to give back to society. She sits on the board of several organizations, including the Asian Cultural Council and the Fashion and Design Council of the Philippines. Her factory in the Philippines handles over 60% of her company’s production and employs 500 workers.

Josie Natori is an admirable example of a woman who pursued her dreams and achieved success with the help of family and friends. From a single sleep shirt, she has built an international empire now seen as one of the world’s top lifestyle brands. “Now, as the company grows, we grow our sensibility too, taking our concept and making it a whole world. As we say here, Natori is ‘where life meets art,’” she shared.

Sacred Fire Creative honors visionary women who forged their own path to success in this #WomenWhoMatter series. If you see yourself as a visionary, who wants to create a lasting, positive impact on your community, come work with us.


3 Key Leadership Lessons from Women CEOs

Did you know that, as of 2018, 12.3 million businesses in the U.S. are women-owned? That’s roughly 42% or four out of 10 of all companies in the country. Interestingly, these women-led enterprises generate around $1.8 trillion in earnings every year.

Judging by these figures, the current notion that men are better at leadership and women should emulate them is becoming obsolete. Women generally have a distinct leadership style that their male peers can actually learn from.

What leadership lessons can we learn from female CEOs? Let’s spend some time pondering these three:

Know your strengths and limitations.

Women tend to be more self-aware, and they’re usually not prone to bluster. This tendency for self-awareness gives women a deeper insight into their own strengths and limitations. They build on their capabilities and lean on others to make up for their weaknesses.

What does this mean for you? If you want to be a good leader, you need to learn more about yourself. Know the traits that make you strong and acknowledge your weak points. Use your strengths to grow your business and surround yourself with a competent and inspired team to make up for your limitations.

“It’s OK to admit what you don’t know. It’s OK to ask for help. And it’s more than OK to listen to the people you lead.” – Mary Barra, General Motors CEO

Put your team first.

Women are often stereotyped as too compassionate and relationship-oriented to be competent leaders. But the fact is that these traits are now seen as indicators of high emotional intelligence, which in turn has become a desirable trait among leaders.

As mentioned earlier, a woman business leader tends to surround herself with a team to augment what she lacks. But this relationship is rarely one-sided. Female leaders often serve as mentors and cheerleaders to their team. They encourage and empower their team to grow professionally and personally through validation and empathy.

“I think about: ‘Have I been bringing enough people along?’ You can help a peer become a CEO… This is not a competition or a race.” – Rosalind Brewer, former CEO of Walgreens

Be a transformational leader.

Perhaps one of the best leadership lessons we can learn from a woman CEO is the art of transformational leadership. A transformational leader is someone who leads by example. Their sense of purpose and values inspire their followers to change their own beliefs, bring out their best selves, and positively impact their world. Women CEOs tend to be gifted transformational leaders.

How can you become a transformative leader? It starts with yourself. You need to be a model of integrity and principle. You have to have a clear vision and measurable goals. And you have to win your team’s trust, be ever-reliable, and inspire them to serve the higher good rather than their self-interest.

“Leadership is service to others.” – Denise Morrison, Campbell Soup Co. President and CEO

These are only a few leadership lessons we can learn from women CEOs. Spend some time meditating on these lessons and see how you can apply them to your own business.

Sacred Fire Creative is a digital marketing agency that positions itself as a force for good. Reach out to us today and let us help you build a solid, authentic brand that matters to your audience.


Material Change Institute: Diversifying Capital Investment One Cohort at a Time

The investment industry has one glaring issue – it’s predominantly white and male. Given the role that investments play in driving economic growth, the fact that the industry lacks racial and gender diversity can be detrimental for women and people of color. Most of the time, they simply can’t get in the door.

Material Change Institute is set to change that. Helmed by woman investor and entrepreneur Eve Blossom, this new non-profit provides women and BIPOC professionals the skills and connections they need to succeed as investors.

Material Change Institute offers training for would-be investors.

Material Change Institute equips would-be investors from minority and underrepresented groups with the essential knowledge and tools for getting started in investment. It offers a 12-month executive program called the Material Change Fellowship.

Through the Material Change Fellowship, professionals receive training in leadership and strategic skills for different forms of investing. They also get access to mentors, peers, and partner funds that can help them apply their learnings practically. Hybrid training modes – internships, cohort-based learning, and online modules – are available. As of this writing, Material Change Institute only accepts fellows with at least five years of professional experience.

Eve Blossom aims to change the landscape of investing.

Material Change Institute founder Eve Blossom is set on transforming what the investment industry looks like. As she said in this article, “[D]isruption is needed when a system is not inclusive, does not apply different perspectives that would increase the opportunity and wealth for all of us.”

She has a point. A 2019 study revealed that women- and minority-led investment firms manage only 1.3% of the world’s assets. The worldwide asset management industry is worth US$89 trillion as of 2019. Additionally, a 2022 report found that the venture capital workforce is only 4% Black and 5% Hispanic/Latinx, though 45% is female.

Through its training program, Material Change Institute is opening the doors to investment for more women and people of color to come through. We can look forward to when the industry is not so white or male anymore.

 

Sacred Fire Creative is a Portland, OR-based digital marketing agency that aims to promote good in the world. Work with us to strengthen your brand’s connection with your audience and become a force for good.


Ukraine’s Volodymyr Zelenskyy: A Leader of Strong Character

When Volodymyr Zelenskyy ran for the Ukrainian presidency in 2019, no one from Ukraine’s political establishment took him seriously. He had a law degree and was a household name, but he had no political experience.

In fact, the closest that Zelenskyy got to politics before his presidential campaign was playing the head of state in a satirical sitcom. That’s because he’s a comedic actor—a staple of Ukrainian and Russian-language rom-coms. He even won Ukraine’s version of Dancing with the Stars in 2006.

What does a comedian know about running a country, after all?

Apparently, Zelenskyy knew enough to convince 73% of Ukraine’s voters to elect him president. He struggled early in his term, however, with his controversial decisions disillusioning many Ukrainians.

But when Russia invaded the country on February 24, 2022, Zelenskyy showed a side of himself that his compatriots hadn’t seen before—that their president is a leader of strong character.

How did Volodymyr Zelenskyy display character-based leadership in the face of this enormous crisis? Here are five examples.

1. He showed courage.

A leader of strong character shows courage when it matters the most.

As Russian troops made their way to Kyiv, Ukraine’s capital city, the US offered to evacuate Zelenskyy for his safety. His response: “I need ammunition, not a ride.”

He’s aware that his life is in danger, yet he refused to be president in exile. He knows that staying in Kyiv puts him in a better position to serve his country.

2. He is authentic.

A leader of strong character is willing to show that they, too, are human.

Zelenskyy may have shown courage as expected of a wartime president. But this doesn’t mean he’s unbothered by what’s going on. His Instagram videos clearly show him as worried and exhausted. He has dark circles under his eyes, and his stubble is days old. He also switched from his usual presidential suits to military fatigues.

He shows that, just like his compatriots, he feels the physical and mental toll of the conflict with Russia. He also expresses that he doesn’t see glory in war.

3. He knows how to reach people.

A leader of strong character is an effective communicator.

Observers have seen Zelenskyy use social media to great effect. He frequently posts on Instagram and Twitter to show the world what’s going on in Ukraine amid the invasion. Aside from posting regularly, he uses language that will resonate with his audience.

In his videos, his speeches are full of gravity and passion, but he speaks calmly, plainly, and doesn’t use rhetorical language. His soundbites are quotable and tweetable, but they aren’t empty of meaning.

4. He is on the ground.

A leader of strong character works at the frontlines and isn’t afraid to get their hands dirty.

During the first few days of the invasion, Zelenskyy posted videos of himself running around the streets of Kyiv. He shot the videos as selfies from his phone.

Through his videos, Zelenskyy meant to show the actual situation in Kyiv from the ground. He also wanted people to see that he’s not always hunkered down in his bunker and he knows firsthand what’s really going on.

5. He inspires.

A leader of strong character inspires others to action.

Zelenskyy has shown Ukrainians and the whole world that he has the grit to help his country survive the Russian aggression. He may have stumbled early in his term, but he’s making up for it now. His show of courage, his calm demeanor, and his presence in Kyiv despite the risks have inspired Ukrainians to resist.

The Ukrainians aren’t the only ones inspired by Zelenskyy. Governments around the world have imposed various sanctions on Russia. Multinational corporations in different sectors, from technology to energy to fashion, have either pulled out of or suspended their Russian operations. Elon Musk activated SpaceX’s satellite internet service in Ukraine. The hacktivist collective Anonymous launched cyberwarfare in Russia as well.

 

Motivational speaker and former politician Les Brown once said, “Our ability to handle life’s challenges is a measure of our strength of character.” The Russian invasion of Ukraine is only a few days old, and no one knows for sure how it will turn out. But through Volodymyr Zelenskyy, the conflict has given the world a true example of a leader of strong character.


Maria Ressa: Journalist and Activist

Journalism wasn’t always a life-threatening field of study. Times have changed, however, and some journalists have become activists who risk life and limb—even their freedom—to publish the truth. According to a New York Times article, 2018 was the most dangerous year on record for journalists; this trend has not shown any sign of waning.

No one knows this better than Filipino-American journalist Maria Ressa. She was Time Magazine’s Person of the Year 2018, part of this year’s Bloomberg 50 List, former bureau chief of CNN Philippines and Indonesia, and founder of Manila-based news outlet Rappler. In June of this year, in the middle of a global pandemic, she was convicted of cyber-libel.

Who is Maria Ressa?

Maria Ressa was born in the Philippines and moved to the United States with her family as a young child. She spent her early years living in New Jersey and studied English and Theater at Princeton University. In the 1980s, after the regime of dictator Ferdinand Marcos came to an end, Ressa decided to return to the Philippines. Back to her roots, she discovered journalism and spent the next 30 years as a television and broadcast journalist working around Southeast Asia. While working as a journalist, she had her first interview with Davao City Mayor Rodrigo Duterte, who would later become president of the Philippines in 2016.

She is the Chief Executive Officer of Rappler, which she founded in January 2012 along with three other female founders and 12 journalists. With the ultimate goal of building communities while using social media to do good, Rappler has grown into a well-respected independent news outlet known for its investigative journalism.

Before founding Rappler, Maria Ressa spent six years as the news division leader of ABS-CBN, formerly the Philippines’ largest TV network. Earlier this year, ABS-CBN was shut down due to legal issues, although many believe President Duterte had a direct hand in closing the networking giant down. This closure is just another example of the kind of political climate Ressa and other Filipino journalists face.

Covering Duterte’s “War on Drugs”

In 2016, under Ressa’s guidance, Rappler first started to cover President Duterte’s “army of trolls” who were seeding and spreading fake news to millions of his followers online during the Philippine presidential campaign. When he eventually won the election and became President, Rappler began to write stories on the administration’s “War on Drugs,” which killed over 7,000 people between July 2016 and July 2017.

During this dark time, President Duterte ordered the Philippine police to kill anyone they suspected of drug connections. Unsurprisingly, only small-time and usually lower-class drug users and street-side pushers were caught and killed in this brutal war. It left international syndicates and influential drug dealers who control the drug trade unscathed. Reporting on this is what put Rappler and Ressa in the spotlight and right in front of President Duterte’s line of fire. That would be the beginning of Ressa’s legal battles.

Her Legal Battles

Maria Ressa’s current legal battles stem from an 8-year old story that Rappler published alleging a Filipino business person had links to illegal drugs and human trafficking. The story was published in 2012, four months after the “cyber-libel law” was passed. In 2014, the story was re-published due to a typo, and the courts declared that it fell under the jurisdiction of the said law.

During the proceedings, the judge stated that Rappler did not offer proof of their allegations and convicted Maria Ressa with cyber-libel. She now faces the possibility of serving six years in jail. According to Ressa and Rappler, the case was politically motivated. Since 2018, there have been 11 cases filed against Rappler, including tax evasion and foreign ownership violations.

As her legal battles grew, so did her profile, both locally and internationally. She has become known worldwide as a symbol of standing up for the truth and battling an authoritarian president and would-be dictator. As Maria Ressa has said in an interview, “In a battle for facts, in a battle for truth, journalism is activism.”

An Inspiring Voice

The 2020 documentary “A Thousand Cuts,” produced by fellow Filipino-American Ramona S. Diaz, features Ressa. The film covers Maria Ressa and Rappler as they put up a fight against President Duterte’s attack on them and, inevitably, on freedom of the press. Throughout the film, Maria Ressa is a beacon of hope and strength-showing her humanity by voicing out her fears, yet never giving up on what she believes is right.

She has become an inspiring voice around the world. When Ressa talks about the attacks on freedom of speech, the truth, and facts, she is not just talking about the state of the Philippine press and politics but the state of the world. In this day and age, where people can get the news with a click of the button, they can also get fake news and lies at just the same speed. It has become Maria’s advocacy to stand up for facts and not give in to political pressure.

Currently, Maria Ressa is out on bail and still publishing. Rappler continues to cover the Philippines’ daily news, together with fearless views on the current Philippine administration. Ressa continues to stand for what she believes in and to fight the legal cases piling up against her and Rappler. It is interesting to note that in “A Thousand Cuts,” she asks the lawyer what the worst case can be filed against her. Her lawyer answered that it didn’t matter because the government would find the opportunity to file any claim against her, even child abuse, in their attempt to silence her.

From journalist to activist, Maria Ressa inspires journalists and women around the world with her strength and poise. She is an excellent example of the power of an individual who refuses to give up on facts and continues to fight for the truth.


Kamala Harris – A Woman of Many Firsts

The year 2020 has been historic in more ways than one. Despite being a year that many people would like to forget, it was also filled with remarkable firsts. It was the first time the US elected a woman to the second-highest position in government. Vice president-elect Kamala Harris made history and has become a bright light in these dark times. Not only is she the first woman vice president, but she is also the first African-American and first Asian-American to occupy this esteemed position. 

She shattered the infamous glass ceiling for women by being elected vice-president. More than that, she also broke through the “concrete ceiling” – a term used to describe the obstacles women of color particularly face. She went through it all with positive energy and a smile on her face. Kamala is a beacon of hope for women around the world, as she herself said during her victory speech, “While I may be the first woman in this office, I will not be the last, because every little girl watching tonight sees that this is a country of possibilities.” 

Her early years

Kamala Devi Harris was born in 1964 to immigrant parents, her mother Shyamala Gopalan Harris from India, and her father Donald Harris from Jamaica. Both her parents migrated to the United States to study for doctorate degrees at the University of California, Berkeley. This is where they met, got married, started a family, and continued pursuing their own careers. It would be natural to assume, and rightly so, that the environment that Kamala and her sister Maya were exposed to at a young age helped shape who they are today. With both parents being accomplished in their own fields and active in the civil rights movement, it was inevitable that these factors would influence Kamala and Maya in their own career choices. 

Kamala has said, “My parents marched and shouted in the Civil Rights Movement of the 1960s. It’s because of them and the folks who also took to the streets to fight for justice that I am where I am.” 

Her parents divorced in 1971, and Kamala and her sister were mostly raised by their single mother. They moved to Montreal, where Kamala finished high school before going back to the US to study political science and economics at Howard University. She, later on, obtained her law degree from Hastings College. 

Her mother Shayamala had a huge impact on Kamala’s life, and she often mentions her even today. In her own words, “There is no title or honor on earth I’ll treasure more than to say I am Shyamala Gopalan Harris’s daughter.” Sadly, her mother passed away from cancer in 2009 and is not here today to see how far her daughter has come. Despite this, Kamala never fails to mention just how much influence her mother had on her life and accomplishments.

A woman of many firsts

Throughout her life and her career, Kamala has been breaking barriers. We all know that she’s about to become the first woman Vice President, but she had many firsts even before she made her presence known on the national stage. She was also the first woman, the first African-American, and the first Asian-American woman to become the attorney general of California. In the Senate, she is the first Indian-American to serve as Senator while also being only the second African-American woman to hold this position. She is also the first Vice President to graduate from a historically black college, Howard University. 

Her husband Doug Emhoff also contributes to her string of firsts – he will be the first second gentleman and the first Jewish spouse of a US Vice President. Kamala didn’t set out to become the first in all these things – she accomplished them by following her own path and working hard towards her goals. Something we can all learn from. Kamala serves as an inspiration to women all over the world. She also shows that women can truly be trailblazers in any field.

Her love of cooking

For all her professional accomplishments, Kamala has also become famous for one more thing – her love of cooking. She is a self-professed passionate home cook and has shared a few of her personal recipes on her social media accounts. Recently, she shared a step-by-step recipe of her family’s favorite cornbread dressing for Thanksgiving. “During difficult times, I have always turned to cooking,” Kamala has said. Cooking is a source of comfort for her, and this passion started when she was a young child watching her own mother in the kitchen. 

“One of the things that I do to relax at the end of the day is I read recipes,” she shared in 2018, something many people can relate to. Now, we can all imagine her flipping through her favorite cookbooks after a long day at work. This open love of cooking is another thing that makes Kamala stand out from other career politicians. Her willingness to share snippets of her personal life with others is a wonderful way she connects to people. 

Kamala Harris and the future

The past few years in the US have not been easy, with racial and political divisions growing and becoming more evident in everyday life. Kamala Harris winning as vice president is a much-welcome change and a refreshing breath of fresh air. She serves as an inspiration to both women and people of color everywhere. 

We can all learn a lesson or two from Kamala and her journey — the importance of family, the influence of a mother’s love and example, and the greatness you can accomplish when you combine hard work and heart, no matter your circumstances. It will take many years to overcome the negativity and discord that have been sown in the US landscape. However, when there is someone like Kamala Harris helping lead the way to heal these wounds and to create a more equitable and just society, we can allow ourselves to envision and believe in a better future.


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