Articles Tagged with: women who matter

Breaking Barriers: How US Womxn Entrepreneurs Can Overcome These 4 Common Business Hurdles

Hurdles are nothing new to womxn entrepreneurs in the US. While we’ve come a long way from challenges like needing our husbands’ or fathers’ signatures for loan or credit applications thanks to the Women’s Business Ownership Act of 1988, we still have some ways to go to secure our seats at the table. Still, with passion and determination, womxn business owners can overcome any obstacle on their path to success.

Let’s look at four common hurdles that womxn entrepreneurs typically face in the business arena. More importantly, let’s examine how we can get over them

Hurdle #1: Lack of Access to Capital

One of the biggest obstacles to any womxn entrepreneur’s success is lack of access to capital. Without funding or resources, we can’t build, much less grow, a thriving business.

As of 2019, women-owned businesses have created 10.8 million jobs in the US. They’ve also generated $1.8 trillion in earnings. And yet, in 2022, some 25% of women entrepreneurs have had their business loan applications denied compared to 19% of men. In 2023, only 28.4% of loans backed by the US Small Business Administration went to women-owned companies. As for venture capital funding, women-owned businesses received only 2% of the total capital invested by the end of 2023. 

We’re clearly looking at a considerable gap in capital access for womxn entrepreneurs here. This is why many opt to self-fund their businesses by dipping into personal savings, using their personal credit cards, or with the help of family and friends.

But self-funding isn’t a choice that everyone can make. If that’s your case, here are options you can explore to raise capital for your business:

  1. Check out resources like Access to Capital Directory for Entrepreneurs by Bank of America.
  2. Set up crowdfunding campaigns through sites like Kickstarter and IFundWomen.
  3. Find women-led investment groups like Broadway Angels and TrueWealth Ventures.
  4. See what funding avenues are available at your local SBA Women’s Business Center.

 Nina Vaca: Starting a business with $300

As the CEO of Pinnacle Group, Nina Vaca is one of the rare Latina leaders in the male-dominated IT industry. Her father’s death in the late 1980s compelled her to take over his travel agency at age 17. In 1996, when she was 25 years old, Nina started Pinnacle in her living room with only $300 in her pocket as a way to expand her family’s network. Today, Pinnacle is a billion-dollar company and one of the biggest workforce solutions providers in the world. It’s also one of the fastest-growing woman-owned businesses in the US.

 

Hurdle #2: Gender Bias and Stereotypes

Getting funding is challenging for women business owners because of two huge factors: 1) the prevailing stereotypes our society has formed for females and 2) the gender bias that grew from these stereotypes.

A 2018 study showed that white male-dominated investing companies tend to look at the applicant’s gender when considering business pitches. These investors often see women-owned businesses as riskier. They also judge female applicants based on the quality of their pitches and their confidence in delivering them.

Another 2018 study found that male investors usually perceive that the venture has a higher risk of failure if a woman’s business is in a male-dominated industry.

And then, there’s the age-old debate about women and emotional labor. Women are expected to bear the brunt of the labor at home. According to this article, traditional financiers are likely to deny loans to women business owners who are mothers and homemakers. The common belief is that CEOs who are also moms won’t be able to prioritize growing their companies. 

Lastly, we have the common gender perception that women are emotional and, therefore, lack the assertiveness necessary for leadership. While this characteristic is now seen as empathy, being more in tune with their emotions is still seen as a negative for women entrepreneurs in some circles.

Gender perceptions are learned, so it will take time for society to completely change how women are seen. We need to fight our small and personal battles in this arena. Here are some strategies we can adopt to win these battles:

  1. People don’t know what you know. Explore ways to position yourself as an expert in what you know.
  2. In a room full of colleagues and peers, don’t wait for others to introduce you as the expert in what you know. Introduce yourself.
  3. Surround yourself with a tight circle of diverse advisors and mentors, not just women. Having male advisors will give you an insight into why men in your industry behave the way they do. 
  4. Build your social capital and plug into business networks in your area, such as your city’s chamber of commerce or local NAWBO chapter. 

Mariyah Saifuddin: Setting the stage

Innovative Solution Partners CEO Mariyah Saifuddin often finds herself the only woman in the room whenever she meets with colleagues. The experience made her an expert at setting the tone whenever she enters a room. She does this by introducing herself as the owner of her company and showing what she brings to the table as an IT professional. She doesn’t wait for anyone else to make introductions for her.

 

Hurdle #3: Work-Life Imbalance

Prevalent gender stereotypes also contribute to another hurdle that women business owners typically experience: the lack of work-life balance. As mentioned earlier, women are expected to shoulder the brunt of emotional labor. They’re traditionally seen as the primary caregivers for their families and households.

A San Diego, CA-based study in 2023 found that the participating women struggled to balance the demands of caring for their children and running their businesses. This was especially true during their early years of operations. Ironically, the participants shared that they started their own business to have more time for family.

Why do women business owners need to balance their personal and professional lives? For one, it helps us stay healthy physically and mentally. It’s all too easy to get caught up with the demands of running a business. If we don’t keep this balance, we’ll soon be headed for burnout.

Another is it gives us a sense of fulfillment, especially regarding relationships. Maintaining balance allows us to strengthen and enjoy our relationships with family and friends. It also makes space for us to relish the fruits of our labor.

Yet another reason is it keeps us productive and creative. Time away from work helps us relax and recharge. We can do more when rested and process information more effectively when our minds have had time to unwind.

How can we create a balance between our professional and personal lives?

  1. Build a team to support you. Having a team to whom you can delegate tasks can free up much of your time and energy. This lets you focus on what matters instead of getting tied up with the day-to-day. Even hiring a part-time virtual assistant to, say, manage your emails and phone calls can make a difference.
  2. Explore childcare options. If you need to attend to tasks without getting distracted by your kids, check out available childcare options. Your spouse or a family member can look after your kids while you work. You can also sign up for daycare or get a babysitter.
  3. Set boundaries. Setting boundaries will prevent you from getting too caught up with the demands of your business. This can be as simple as limiting your work time to certain hours. On the flip side, you may need to impress upon your family that you can’t be distracted during your work time unless necessary.
  4. Schedule some me-time. You can’t pour from an empty cup. Keep your cup refilled by setting aside time for yourself – for meditating, exercising, working on a hobby, reading a book, or even lolling in bed and doing nothing.

Queirra Fenderson: Building your business around your life

Business coach and The Ambition Studio founder Queirra Fenderson talked about building your business around what’s going on in your life. She shared that when she and her husband were trying to get pregnant through IVF, she reorganized her work around her doctors’ appointments and prioritized self-care. She stressed the importance of identifying the life you want to lead and structuring your business around it.

 

Hurdle #4: Limiting Beliefs

Perhaps the biggest hurdle that womxn business owners face is their own limiting beliefs. If you see yourself in a negative light, you’re restricting your potential.

It can’t be stressed enough how important it is to have faith in our abilities. When we have a strong self-belief, we empower ourselves to overcome the obstacles to our success. We become resilient enough to push against the challenges ahead. We can trust our judgment and decisions and take the risks we need to grow.

Plus, a strong self-belief negates the impostor syndrome that can keep you from celebrating even your smallest wins. When you believe in yourself and act on your beliefs, you win your team’s and peers’ respect, and you can inspire others with your story.

How can you overcome your limiting beliefs?

  1. Journaling. Writing your thoughts and feelings in a journal can help you identify and question your limiting beliefs. Ask yourself why you believe or feel the way you do. Analyze your behavior and what triggers them.
  2. Reframe your beliefs. Once you’ve identified your limiting beliefs, find a way to reframe them into empowering statements about yourself. Instead of saying, “I can’t do this,” tell yourself, “I am capable of learning how to do this.” Also, list the values you want to believe you have, visualize yourself achieving success through them, and affirm yourself daily with them.
  3. Set smaller and achievable goals. While setting big and lofty goals is exciting, you may reinforce your limiting beliefs if you don’t achieve the expected results. Set the bar within your reach. Celebrate once you’ve reached the goalpost, and then take one step out of your comfort zone and set another goal.
  4. Get support. Having someone to talk to and be accountable for your limiting beliefs helps a lot in overcoming them. That someone could be your spouse or partner, a trusted family member, a close friend, or maybe your therapist or life coach. Hearing yourself talk to someone about how you see yourself can be enlightening. You can also gain perspective when you hear someone else’s thoughts about you and how you’re doing. 

Nicole Chamblin: Knowing your worth

Leadership and productivity coach Nicole Chamblin shared that doubt is the biggest challenge she must continually go through. She said it’s easy to compare ourselves with others and allow the negative voices to creep into your head because of these comparisons. Knowing your worth and reminding yourself frequently of your worth are powerful weapons against self-doubt.

Hurdles are nothing new to womxn entrepreneurs in the US. We’ve come so far, and we still have a lot of challenges along the way. But as long as we are determined to overcome these hurdles, we can achieve our success stories.

 


Coretta Scott King: Civil Rights Warrior

 

“The greatness of a community is most accurately measured by the compassionate actions of its members, a heart of grace, and a soul generated by love,”

– Coretta Scott King

Coretta Scott King was an activist and leader during the 1960’s Civil Rights Movement. She was also the wife of Dr. Martin Luther King. Although her name is forever linked to Dr. King, Mrs. King was also an activist and pioneer in her own right. After his death, she continued his work for African-American rights. She also became a leader in women’s rights, LGBTQ rights, and the anti-apartheid movement.

King was born in 1927 in Marion, Alabama. Her parents were entrepreneurs, and she inherited her mother’s musical talent. She quickly excelled in this area and became the lead in the school choir in grade school. Mrs. King graduated as valedictorian in high school before heading to Antioch College in Ohio. Here, she received her BA in Music.

Soon after, she received a scholarship to the New England Conservatory in Boston. There, she met doctoral student Martin Luther King Jr. They married in 1953. A year later, she graduated from the Conservatory and moved to Montgomery, Alabama. There, Martin became the pastor at Dexter Avenue Baptist Church, which later became a center for the Civil Rights Movement.

Due to Dr. King’s active participation in the Civil Rights Movement, the couple was a frequent target of white supremacist groups. Throughout this time, King stayed by her husband’s side and raised their four children together. When he was traveling, she often stayed behind to manage their home.

When Dr. King was tragically assassinated on April 4, 1968, Mrs. King continued to support the causes he passionately fought for and advocated. She showed strength and resilience when she marched on a labor strike days after her husband’s funeral. Mrs. King also supported women’s rights and openly spoke against the Vietnam War.

That same year, King established the Martin Luther King Jr. Center for Nonviolent Social Change, also known as The King Center. It is both a memorial and a nonprofit focused on protecting and advancing her husband’s legacy. She envisioned it as “no dead monument, but a living memorial filled with all the vitality that was his, a center of human endeavor, committed to the causes for which he lived and died.” The center was active in carrying out educational and community programs until King retired in the 1990s. Today, the King Center is being revitalized to become a more engaged educational and social change institution.

King became well-known worldwide, and she spent time traveling, speaking about racism and economic issues. She also became an author and wrote her memoir, “My Life with Martin Luther King, Jr.” King received over 60 honorary doctorates from various colleges and universities. She also helped found numerous organizations, including the Black Leadership Forum and the Black Leadership Roundtable.

Mrs. King was an exceptional leader and one of the most influential African-American figures of her time. In 2006, she passed away from complications from ovarian cancer. She was the first woman and first African-American woman to lie in state at the Georgia Capitol. Her funeral drew several presidents and other heads of state. King lived her life as an example of a woman who stood by her husband, then stood on her own, and continued with his work after he died.

Coretta Scott King was at the forefront of peace, love, and social change. Her legacy lives on and will be continued well into the future.

 

Sacred Fire Creative honors women who positively impacted their communities through our #WomenWhoMatter series. Do you want to be a woman business owner who wants to make a difference in your space? Work with us today.


Carina Dayondon: First Filipina Mountaineer to Reach the Seven Summits

“What’s more important for me is we showed the Filipinas, the young ones, there’s nothing impossible if you’re determined, focused, and if you believe in your dreams. It’s okay to get a record, but does it have a point? Did you inspire anyone? Did you touch anyone’s heart, inspire them to do something like that? That’s what’s important to us. The message is there, to inspire the kids and the Filipinos,” – Carina Dayondon

Carina Dayondon is a Filipina mountaineer, Philippine Coast Guard officer, and adventurer. She is also the first Filipina to climb and reach the Seven Summits, the seven tallest mountains of each continent. She accomplished this feat in December 2018, when she successfully ascended Vinson Massif in Antarctica.

Her journey towards this amazing accomplishment began in 2006 when she reached the top of Mount Denali in Alaska. The following year, she climbed Mount Everest, the world’s tallest mountain, with fellow female mountaineers Noelle Wenceslao and Janet Belarmino. She is officially the second Filipina to get to the summit, ten minutes after Wenceslao. They ascended Mt. Everest via the northern route in Tibet and descended through the southern route in Nepal.

Between 2006 and 2018, she climbed the other five highest mountains worldwide. It goes without saying that planning and preparing for these climbs was not easy. Dayondon spent most of her time training for these climbs and overcoming the challenges.

For example, when preparing for her final peak in 2017, she experienced problems with her eye. A doctor told her that she would go blind, but Dayondon continued to pursue her dreams. She trained and tested her body, including her eye, and decided that she could continue her climb. Fortunately, she achieved her goal without losing her eyesight and became the first Filipina to summit the world’s tallest peaks.

Dayondon was raised in the Philippine province of Bukidnon, the fourth of 15 children. She came from humble beginnings and enjoyed the outdoors even as a child. She was a member of the Girl Scouts in her elementary school years. When she entered college, she became a member of her university’s mountaineering society. It took her nine years to complete college because she participated in various adventure racing sports to earn money and help support her siblings. Dayondon also supported herself by working part-time jobs such as climbing instructor, salesperson, and babysitter.

Her challenging upbringing gave her the strength and resilience she needed to get to where she is now. Today, she works as a Coast Guard officer and is taking time off from climbing, although she keeps the door open to future endeavors. Of course, even while she is not actively climbing, she serves as an inspiration to Filipinos everywhere.

Despite coming from a family with limited financial means and needing to take loans out for her climbs, she remained steadfast in working towards her goals. Her story is one of grace, teamwork, and support. Dayondon shows us the importance of lifting each other up and supporting women in our society so they can go beyond what is expected and, in turn, inspire others as well.


Maya Angelou: The Power of Words

“If you don’t like something, change it. If you can’t change it, change your attitude.” – Maya Angelou

Maya Angelou hardly needs an introduction. She is a beloved American author, civil rights activist, screenwriter, dancer, and poet. She is best known for her acclaimed 1969 memoir, I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings, the first installment of her seven-volume autobiography. For this work, she made history when it became the first non-fiction bestseller by an African-American woman.

Angelou was born as Marguerite Johnson in 1928 in St. Louis, Missouri. She and her brother moved to Arkansas to live with her grandmother when she was three. When she was eight years old, she was raped by her mother’s boyfriend. When Angelou told her uncles about what happened, they attacked and kicked the perpetrator until he died.

This incident made Angelou realize the power of words and how her speaking out about the crime brought about death. For the next five years, she stopped speaking. Her autobiography recounted, “I thought, my voice killed him; I killed that man, because I told his name. And then I thought I would never speak again, because my voice would kill anyone.”

Civil Rights Activist

After a few years, Angelou moved to San Francisco with her brother and mother. At 16, she gave birth to a son and did odd jobs to support him. Among these jobs was dancing at a nightclub. A theater group discovered her through her dancing and cast her in her first play, Porgy and Bess. This casting changed her life. She toured Europe as part of the cast, recorded her first album, and sang in an off-Broadway review.

In the late 1950s, Angelou became active in the civil rights movement. She worked with Dr. Martin Luther King as a fundraiser and organizer. In the early 60s, she moved with her son and then-partner to Africa to focus on family. There, she met and became close friends with Malcolm X.

Malcolm X convinced her to return to the US and help him with his own civil rights organization. After his and Dr. King’s later assassination, she decided to devote her energy to writing. This led to the publication of I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings, which brought her international fame.

Literary Powerhouse

Angelou also went on to become a renowned poet, screenwriter, and composer. One of her most famous poems is “Still I Rise,” which is about the resilience of Black people. Her screenplay for the movie Georgia, Georgia became the first produced screenplay by a Black woman. She acted on film and TV, directed theater, and wrote prolifically.

In the 1980s, She became a professor of American Studies at Wake Forest University in North Carolina and continued being an influential literary powerhouse. At President Bill Clinton’s first inauguration in 1993, Angelou recited her poem, “On the Pulse of Morning.”

Throughout her life, she received several honors. In 2005 and 2008, she received NAACP Image Awards in the outstanding literary work category. She also won three Grammy Awards in the Spoken Word Album category in the 90s. Until her death, Angelou was closely associated with celebrity talk show host and publisher Oprah Winfrey. Through Oprah’s shows, they brought Angelou’s work to millions of people. Oprah considered her “my mentor, mother/sister, and friend since my 20s.”

In 2014, Maya Angelou passed away at 86 years old. She remains a beautiful inspiration and role model to women worldwide for her resilience, grace, and calm confidence. While she was not a loud or showy character, her mere presence brought unspoken strength that we can all emulate. As Oprah said, the greatest lesson that Angelou taught her was, “You are enough!” These are wise words that all women from all walks of life can live by and put into action in our lives.

Sacred Fire Creative honors women who worked to influence significant change in their world in this #WomenWhoMatter series. Do you want to be a woman who affects positive change in your community? Let’s help you make this change.


Lizzo: Award-Winning Pop Star, Body Positivity Champion

“My movement is for everybody. My movement celebrates diversity. It’s all about inclusion. It’s all about getting our flowers and giving each person their own space to be an individual and speak up for that individuality.” – Lizzo

You have to be living under a rock if you haven’t heard of Lizzo. She shot to fame in 2019 with the release of her third studio album, Cuz I Love You. While “Juice” from this album instantly became a hit, her previous songs “Truth Hurts” and “Good as Hell” quickly followed suit and counted among her most popular songs.

That same year, Time Magazine named the singer, dancer, and classically trained flutist “Entertainer of the Year.” And in 2020, Lizzo received eight nominations at the 62nd Grammy Awards and officially added three-time Grammy winner to her list of titles.

Hard work paid off for Lizzo.

It may seem like Lizzo skyrocketed to fame. But before her 2019 breakthrough, she spent years working her way to the top. She began rapping and performing in shows while studying flute on a music performance scholarship at the University of Houston. In her junior year, she left university to focus on her music career.

It took her ten years. She went on tours as part of a rock band and performed with girl groups. She released her debut album Lizzobangers in 2013, though it didn’t gain traction. Eventually, she got noticed by rock icon Prince. The late legend encouraged Lizzo, featured her on his Plectrumelectrum album in 2014, and helped her get exposure by asking her to perform at his parties. The rest is history.

Lizzo has become a role model for hard work and not giving up on your dreams. Her long journey showed that there’s no recipe for instant success. In 2019, she shared, “I’ve done so many tours, but nobody knows who I am until this year. But would I have been able to maintain this type of mainstream success ten years ago? Hell to the nah! I needed these ten years. I feel like a master.”

A vocal champion and critic of body positivity

Beyond her music, Lizzo is a well-known champion for body positivity. As a plus-sized woman, she continues to endure criticism for how she looks. But it doesn’t stop her from pushing the message that the body is to be celebrated regardless of its size.

For example, after facing criticism for wearing a thong dress to a Lakers game in December 2019, she took to Instagram to spread this message of self-acceptance: “Who I am, and the essence of me, and the things that I choose to do as a grown-ass woman, and the things I choose to do as a grown-ass woman, can inspire you to do the same. They don’t have to be like me – you need to be like you, and never ever let somebody stop or shame you from being yourself.”

At the same time, Lizzo doesn’t hesitate to call out the body positivity movement when she feels the need. In 2020, she made headlines for saying that body positivity has become too mainstream and co-opted by smaller-sized influencers and businesses. She claimed that this development is leaving behind the fat, Black, and queer people who began the movement in the first place but are still facing ridicule. Lizzo called for people to return to the roots of body positivity, support the people who started it, and stop discriminating against them.

Lizzo is an excellent example of what hard work, dedication, and focus can achieve. She could have given up on music in the decade it took her to get to the top. But she took her time and didn’t stop. And thanks to her message of body positivity, more young women worldwide are encouraged to become more confident in their own bodies and showcase what makes them unique.

 Sacred Fire Creative honors women who are making a difference in our world. Are you an entrepreneur who wants to make a difference in your own community? Work with us, and we can help you achieve it.


Miriam Defensor-Santiago: The Iron Lady of Asia

“What is the meaning of life? This meaning is not for you to find, but for you to define. The meaning of life is found in the purposes that we pursue as we grow older.” — Miriam Defensor-Santiago

Miriam Defensor-Santiago is well-known in Philippine politics for her intelligence, courage, and memorable quotes. While she ran twice for president and never won, she remained a consistent and active figure in politics who made a lasting mark on the Filipino people’s hearts and minds. She passed away in September 2016 from lung cancer, months after a second bid for the Philippine presidency. 

Defensor-Santiago was born in 1945, the eldest of seven children of a local judge and college dean in Iloilo City, Philippines. Her parents’ occupations were a precursor to what Santiago would become later on in her accomplished life. From an early age, her parents instilled the value of education. She later said that she and her siblings were raised to be “very bright people and it’s a great disappointment to all our ancestors if we did not live up to the family standards.”

After finishing high school and college as valedictorian in Iloilo City, she continued her stellar educational performance at the University of the Philippines College of Law in Manila. She continued showcasing her intelligence and wit by winning debates and oratorical contests. Defensor-Santiago was also the first female editor of the college newspaper.

Upon completing her law degree, she pursued her Masters of Laws and Doctor of Juridical Science from the University of Michigan, which is considered one of the best law schools in the United States. Defensor-Santiago also finished a Master of Arts in Religious Studies at the Maryhill School of Theology. Aside from this, she also studied at Oxford and Harvard law schools. Her impressive educational background served as further evidence of her brilliant mind. She made the most of her education when she entered the world of Philippine politics.

From lawyer to judge to Senator, Defensor-Santiago worked in all three branches of the Philippine government – judicial, executive, and legislative. She served as a judge at the Quezon City Regional Trial Court, an immigration commissioner and cabinet member, and a three-term senator. She was a popular mainstay in Philippine politics, especially when she spoke openly about corruption, injustice, and inefficiencies she saw around her.

More than just a powerhouse politician, Defensor-Santiago was also a wife, mother, and grandmother. Her biggest personal heartbreak came when one of her two sons took his own life in 2003. While she never got over his death, she continued her work in politics and law. In 2012, she became the first Filipino and Asian judge of the International Criminal Court. She also continued her work as a senator and in 2016, ran again for the presidency. 

Defensor-Santiago was indeed a female icon for the 21st century, earning the nickname the “Iron Lady of Asia,” even when most Asian women were happy to be behind the scenes. Her intellect, accomplishments, and outspokenness make her an extraordinary role model to the youth, who continue to look up to her today. Defensor-Santiago’s incredible ability to rise above personal tragedy and continue working as a public servant to serve others is also vital to this great woman’s legacy.

Sacred Fire Creative honors women who left a lasting legacy in this #WomenWhoMatter series. Do you want to be a woman who matters? Let’s collaborate to create a meaningful digital marketing strategy for your business.


Dolores Huerta: Labor Leader and Feminist Icon

“My mother was a dominant force in our family. And I always see her as the leader. And that was great for me as a young woman because I never saw that women had to be dominated by men.” – Dolores Huerta

Dolores Huerta is a labor leader, civil rights activist, and feminist. Though many know her as the co-founder of the labor union United Farm Workers, Dolores has dedicated her life to pushing forward the rights of workers, women, and immigrants, first in California and later throughout the US. She is credited for popularizing the phrase “Si, se puede” or “Yes, we can,” a motto that former US President Barack Obama later adopted. At 92, she still actively fights for her causes through the Dolores Huerta Foundation.

Dolores was born in New Mexico on April 10, 1930, to Juan Fernandez and Alicia Chavez. Her parents divorced when she was three years old. Her mother then took her and her two brothers to live in a farming community in Stockton, California.

A Strong Woman’s Influence

Dolores’ father was a farm worker and coal miner who later became a union leader and state legislator in New Mexico. But it was her mother that influenced and inspired her to become an advocate for workers’ rights. Alicia Chavez supported her young family by working as a waitress and a cannery worker. Through hard work, she was able to buy a 70-room hotel and restaurant.

Dolores saw her mother as a community leader known for her compassion and generosity. Her mother often let immigrant farm workers and their families stay in her hotel for free. Through Alicia, Dolores learned that working toward equality and social justice without resorting to violence is possible. Her views were also shaped by the marginalization and gender bias she experienced as a young Hispanic woman.

In the 1950s, Dolores earned her teaching credentials from the University of the Pacific’s Stockton College and began work as an elementary school teacher. But when she saw so many farm children arriving hungry at school, she realized she could do more to help by organizing farm workers and farmers. She then left her teaching job and embarked on her lifelong crusade for workers’ rights.

A Life of Activism

In 1962, Dolores co-founded the National Farm Workers Association (NFWA) with Cesar Chavez. The organization was the predecessor of United Farm Workers (UFW). UFW became prominent in the 1960s because of its involvement in the Delano grape strike. This five-year strike led to significant positive changes to California farm workers’ rights and welfare. Dolores later helped organize similar boycotts throughout the US in the 1970s. Through these boycotts, she helped create a national awareness and climate that led to the passage of the California Agricultural Labor Relations Act of 1975. This was the first law that recognized the rights of California farmworkers to begin bargaining collectively for better wages and working conditions.

Dolores faced ethnic and gender bias throughout her life. Until 2018, she was the only woman to sit on the UFW board. In the 1960s, while traveling to New York City to promote the boycott against California table grapes, Dolores met noted feminist Gloria Steinem. She began to take a feminist approach to her activism after the meeting and shone a spotlight on the rights of women workers. In turn, Dolores influenced Steinem to expand the feminist movement to include issues faced by women of color.

In the 1990s and 2000s, Dolores championed women’s issues and worked to have more Latinos and women elected to political office. She notably endorsed Hillary Clinton’s presidential nomination in 2007 and served as honorary co-chair of the 2017 Women’s March on Washington in protest of the then-newly inaugurated president Donald Trump.

While her work kept her busy, Dolores raised a brood of 11 children. One son, Emilio Huerta, became a lawyer and politician. Her youngest daughter, Camilla Chavez, works as executive director for the Dolores Huerta Foundation.

No Signs of Slowing Down

Dolores received many honors and accolades for her advocacies. In 1998, President Bill Clinton awarded her the inaugural Eleanor Roosevelt Human Rights Award. In 2012, President Barack Obama gave her the Presidential Medal of Freedom. She has numerous schools and an asteroid named after her. She was also a board member of the Feminist Majority Foundation and the Secretary-Treasurer Emeritus of the United Farm Workers Association of America.

Despite her age, Dolores shows no signs of slowing down. She now works primarily through the Dolores Huerta Foundation. The foundation’s mission is to “inspire and organize communities to build volunteer organizations empowered to pursue social justice.” It has done this and much more. In 2015 at 85 years old, Huerta said, “As long as I have the energy and health, I am going to do as much as I can.”

Sacred Fire Creative honors exemplary women who worked to change the world in our series #WomenWhoMatter. Work with us to create exemplary changes in your own sphere of influence.


Sofia Ionescu-Ogrezeanu: First Female Neurosurgeon

“This operation changed my life for the next 47 years, as I became a neurosurgeon, turning 180 degrees away from what I had chosen for myself before, the quiet life of an internist in my hometown.” – Sofia Ionescu-Ogrezeanu

 Few people are familiar with the name Sofia Ionescu-Ogrezeanu. Despite this, she holds a unique position in history. In 1944, when female doctors were relatively rare, she became the first female neurosurgeon in the world. She was only 24 years old.

Dr. Ionescu-Ogrezeanu was born in România on April 25, 1920. She decided to pursue becoming a doctor after one of her best friends died from an infection after brain surgery. Although female physicians were not the norm then, her mother supported her decision. She studied medicine in Bucharest between 1939 and 1945. At first, she planned to specialize in ophthalmology. However, the beginning of World War II would change this and the rest of her life.

During the war and between semesters, she volunteered to care for injured Soviet soldiers in Stamate Hospital in Fălticeni, Romania. There, she gained experience doing surgical operations, usually limb amputations that were common at the time. In 1943, she began work as an intern at Bucharest’s Hospital Nr. 9.

The following year, an 8-year-old comatose boy came in with severe injuries sustained in a bombing. Because of the war, the hospital was short-staffed, and Dr. Ionescu-Ogrezeanu had to perform emergency brain surgery on the boy herself. This operation transformed her life and officially made her the world’s first female neurosurgeon.

She spent the next 47 years of her life at Hospital Nr. 9, working as a surgeon. She was also part of the first neurological team in Romania that would later be known as “The Golden Neurosurgical Team.” Dr. Ionescu-Ogrezeanu performed all neurosurgical procedures available at the time. This exceptional team helped develop neurosurgery in Romania and had a lasting impact on the country’s healthcare system.

Dr. Ionescu-Ogrezeanu received many accolades and distinctions during her life as a doctor. She received the Red Cross Distinction Mark for her work and dedication early in her career. The World Health Organization also declared Dr. Sofia Ionescu-Ogrezeanu a hero, together with 65 other doctors who achieved exceptional marks in the medical profession. Dr. Ionescu-Ogrezeanu was also recognized and appreciated by her country and received the highest honor bestowed on a Romanian citizen, the Star of the Republic.

She died at 88 in Bucharest after many years of serving and caring for patients. Her influence opened many doors to medicine and neurosurgery for female doctors. While she may not be well-known outside the field of medicine, her global impact is undeniable.

Dr. Sofia Ionescu-Ogrezeanu’s passion for medicine and courage to do what no woman had done before her paved the way for other female doctors to pursue careers in neurosurgery. Her recognition as the world’s first female neurosurgeon inspires all women, not just doctors, worldwide.

Sacred Fire Creative honors women who have achieved the exceptional in their line of work in the series #WomenWhoMatter. Aspiring to achieve the exceptional in your business? Let’s work together to make your aspiration a reality.


Alicia Garza: Co-Founder of Black Lives Matter

“Change does not occur without backlash–at least any change worth having–and that backlash is an indicator that the change is so powerful that the opposing forces resist that change with everything they have.” – Alicia Garza

In 2013, a Black-centered political movement was born called Black Lives Matter. The movement started after George Zimmerman was acquitted for the death of Trayvon Martin the year before. Alicia Garza, along with Patrisse Cullors and Opal Tometi, was one of its founders. Since then, Black Lives Matter has transformed into a national movement dedicated to fighting racism and anti-Black violence.

While she is most well-known for helping transform Black Lives Matter from a hashtag into an international network, Alicia Garza was already an activist, strategist, and organizer. She has spent more than half her life bringing change to society through different venues. Alicia is also the host of the political commentary podcast “Lady Don’t Take No” and a co-founder of Supermajority. This voting advocacy hub brings women together as a political force transcending race, age, and background.

With over twenty years of experience as a strategist and organizer, Alicia decided to share her personal story through the book “The Purpose of Power: How We Come Together When We Fall Apart.” Here, she shares her experiences as an activist and beacon for change. The book focuses on sharing her story as an organizer and offers new perspectives to guide a new generation of young adults who want to change the world. Alicia describes the book as the book she would have liked to read when she started as a young organizer.

Alicia wears many hats – organizer, activist, author, podcast host, and more. However, her goal in all her endeavors remains the same – to bring change to the world around her. While she continues to advocate for change, she understands that there is still much to be done. She also understands that she is one person, and more than bringing change on her own, her role is to inspire others around her to work on transforming the world.

She shares, “For a long time, I did this work but wasn’t really hopeful about change. It sounds counterintuitive in some ways, but it happens to a lot of people, actually. You have to believe that change can happen if you are going to be a part of making change. That doesn’t mean we don’t hurt, that we don’t despair, that there isn’t grief—there is all of that. But there also must be a belief that we, too, can make the change we long for. It must be the thing that wakes us up in the morning, the thing we fall asleep thinking about.”

Alicia Garza is a true inspiration, not just for Black women, women, or Black people exclusively. She inspires people worldwide, regardless of race, gender, or nationality. Her dedication to bringing much-needed change and leaving the world a better place encourages others to do the same. How Alicia inspires others around her is her legacy, and this is the welcome impact she makes on society.

Sacred Fire Creative honors women who work to change the world in this #WomenWhoMatter series. If you want to create a lasting, positive impact on your tribe through your business, work with us.


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