There are many gaps our generation is working to close. Whether it's the pay gap, the education gap, the wealth gap, or a combination of them all, the disparities that people of color face in their careers and education stem from years of inequality in our institutions.
Those institutions are vital to giving the next generation an opportunity to build and thrive in an equal competitive world, leaving many of us to wonder how we can create generational impact. More than ever, women are using their talents and gifts to make an impact through programming. Whether they are leaving their full-time jobs or creating side hustles, women are taking their underutilized talents in Corporate America and turning it into an opportunity to teach, help others gain access, become leaders, find jobs, and build their businesses. We are doing the work, by using our influence, our talents, and our God-given gifts to solve problems and help others.
Here are six women who have created programs and organizations by using their gifts to help create space and opportunities for other women:
Nicole A. Tinson, 27, Los Angeles/Atlanta
Nicole Tinson's organization is HBCU 20x20, which is working to prepare and connect 20,000 HBCU students and graduates to jobs and internships by the year 2020. It was launched on Labor Day of 2017 and is approaching its one-year anniversary. Nicole is a HBCU graduate of Dillard University and she attended Yale University, an Ivy League, for graduate school.
After graduating from Yale, she moved to her hometown of Los Angeles to find a job but experienced a rough job search. "I began applying to jobs only to realize that securing a job was much more difficult than I would have imagined. I struggled in securing employment, despite having the work experience and a great educational background. After one month of applying for jobs, I was finally able to secure a job in my field. I realized that if I did not have my social capital, I would not have had a job," she shared.
Six months later, she quit that job to create her non-profit Jobs R 4 U.
"We began partnering with local and national organizations to host workshops and career fairs for free in LA. In doing this, I realized so many colleagues and friends of friends also struggled in finding opportunities, particularly people who graduated from HBCUs. I would come across people with high GPAs, internship experience, campus and community involvement -- essentially everything we are told we need to secure a job in the 21st century, but for some reason, it still wasn't enough," she explained.
After doing some research and investigating, she wondered what diversity and inclusion looked like in action. From there, HBCU 20x20 was born.
Nicole is using her non-profit grassroot experience and the art of hustling to make Fortune 500 companies aware of the talent that's bred at HBCUs and connecting HBCU students with opportunities. The organization offers a plethora of resources to its members, from social media and text messaging software that keeps you up to date on opportunities, to an HBCU 20x20 GroupMe. "HBCU 20x20 is disrupting the way companies recruit and engage with a diverse talent pool by allowing us to do a lot of the heavy lifting so they can't say 'no.' We review resumes and forward them to hiring managers like a headhunter without the cost. We are disrupting the ways students and graduates prepare and connect to opportunities. We aren't just a job board. We are truly interested and [we are] meeting people where they are, and assisting them in getting to where they need to go," she shared.
Leigh Lovett & Kay White, 30, Nashville, TN
Six weeks prior to their first event, Leigh Lovett and Kay White met at a burger joint in Nashville to discuss how to bring the budding Nashville blogger and create a supportive environment that empowered the area's bloggers. That meeting birthed The Blogger Xchange, which focuses on collaboration over competition. It's a group that provides bloggers, creatives, and entrepreneurs classes, social events, and various art and workout experiences in Nashville, Memphis, and Minneapolis.
They noticed many prominent black bloggers in the city were being excluded from brand events. Those that were occasionally invited to brand events would comment later on being the only person of color in the room. "Kay and I decided we need to show that bloggers of all ethnicities have the same power to be influential as their white counterparts," Leigh explained.
Through their individual skill-sets in marketing and communications, and their social media influence, the Blogger Xchange has secured high quality local and national partnerships including Bud Light Nashville, Google Bulletin, Macy's, Forever 21, Lyft, and Cracker Barrel. This month, they are hosting their first Blogger Xchange Xpo, bringing 11 speakers together to educate bloggers with branding workshops, informative panels, and fun breakouts.
Tola Lawal, New York, NY
Ursula Stephens' former position as CEO of Xerox was a great stepping stone for black women in C-Suite positions, but since her departure, there's been little to no improvement on the presence of black women and women of color in leadership positions. Gyrl Wonder was created by Tola Lawal to change what the vision of success in our country looks like. "Our call to action from the beginning was to create lasting, proven, inspired and sorely needed pathways to success for our young girls of color. Statistics show alarmingly low numbers of women of color in leadership positions in our country. And in order for our younger generations to challenge that trend, they need the opportunities, programming, mentorship, and guidance to launch themselves as leaders in a world that desperately needs their presence," Tola shared.
Through intimate conversations with professionals, programming, and constant reminders of the power of self-love, Gyrl Wonder equips their participants with the tools they'll need to shine in a world that may want to dim their light. This summer, Gyrl Wonder hosted its first Summer Leadership Academy where students were able to visit some of the top media and entertainment companies to hear from women in leadership within an intimate setting, and they plan to host another one during the winter season. "On all fronts, the images that our young girls receive from popular media and our national representation has grown more diverse, but the underlying messages are still clear: women who look like them are still too scarcely seen as leading figures in our culture and our national history. This is the narrative that has fueled our work and urgency to ensure that our young girls see and remember that they are in fact, Gyrl Wonders."
When it comes to getting the resources she needs for programs or finding mentors to spend time with her participants, Tola has been able to manage and grow Gyrl Wonder with her attribute as a connector. "I'm a connector, marketer, and entrepreneur by nature. I love connecting with like minds and have no problem sliding into someone's DM or sending a blind email. It's ALWAYS worked for me. LinkedIn is my best friend," she revealed.
Milan Rouge, 29, Philadelphia, PA
This founder took her apparel brand, Milano di Rouge, and turned it into an empowerment movement to remind women they can make their dreams a reality by creating the Womanaire Club. "After building Milano di Rouge to the level of success it has reached today, I would get so many inquiries from women, notably women of color, on how to launch a business or get to the next of level of success that I decided I wanted to launch the Womanaire Club as a way to help other women entrepreneurs. A space where fellow women building brands and businesses can connect and gain knowledge from each other," Milan Rouge explained.
The Womanaire Club hosts a variety of programming, including meetups, sleepovers, workshops, and retreats. She used her journey to success to help educate other women on how to manage and grow their businesses. "It's not just that t-shirt anymore, I have an entire brand," she said.
Michelene Wilkerson, 24, Staten Island, NY
Michelene Wilkerson used her experience working in book publishing to find talent and her love for culture and art to create a community for young, emerging black creators. That community is called Soul Elevated, an arts and culture hub created in 2017. "When I started it, Soul Elevated was a retro-minimal moodboard. Fast forward a year later, the page is evolving into a creative community, multidisciplinary forum, and discovery platform," she explained.
The moodboard that started Soul Elevated featured thousands of inspiring visual works Michelene had screenshotted and hoarded on her phone. "When I finished the first moodboard, I had this exhilarating aha moment. I saw a space, a fresh world. I saw what I believe is a new lane, and I knew exactly what I wanted to do with it."
What she envisioned was a community that highlights emerging artists and other cool creators, solely focusing on emerging talent instead of established names and trending artists to showcase fresh faces and content. "More people deserve to eat--- but are we willing to give them a seat at the table? Or are we going to leave the reserved signs up and keep the feast exclusive? There's space for bloggers, but what about the experimental photographers, designers, stylists, musicians, and video creators? What about the fresh entrepreneurs and publishers who are working towards their big break?"
She began curating Soul Elevated's Instagram page and worked her way from there. "I'm familiar with the Black creative ecosystem on Instagram, so it just made sense to stay in my lane and use Instagram to create the world I wanted to see," she explained.
From there, pure, genuine relationships started to form and her followers wanted more so she started to brainstorm offline opportunities to bring Soul Elevated. As a result, Michelene created the first quarterly event series Young, Black and Rising. She never put together event before, but since the first YBR, she's had over 100 attend each event and has partnered with brands like Urban Outfitters and Penguin Random House. "I think it shows how necessary this work is. It's bound to go far."
Her future goal is to turn Soul Elevated into a digital media production company and editorial website. "Right now I'm building my community and building my external network. If Donald Trump can be elected president, you cannot stop me from living and fulfilling my best Black life. Never."
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Brittney Oliver is a marketing communications professional from Greater Nashville. Over the past three years, Brittney has built her platform Lemons 2 Lemonade to help Millennials turn life's obstacles around. Her platform is known for its networking mixers, which has brought over 300 NYC young professionals, entrepreneurs, and creatives together to turn life's lemons into lemonade. Brittney is a contributing writer for Fast Company and ESSENCE, among other media outlets.
Exclusive: Gabrielle Union On Radical Transparency, Being Diagnosed With Perimenopause And Embracing What’s Next
Whenever Gabrielle Union graces the movie screen, she immediately commands attention. From her unforgettable scenes in films like Bring It On and Two Can Play That Game to her most recent film, in which she stars and produces Netflix’s The Perfect Find, there’s no denying that she is that girl.
Off-screen, she uses that power for good by sharing her trials and tribulations with other women in hopes of helping those who may be going through the same things or preventing them from experiencing them altogether. Recently, the Flawless by Gabrielle Union founder partnered with Clearblue to speak at the launch of their Menopause Stage Indicator, where she also shared her experience with being perimenopausal.
In a xoNecoleexclusive, the iconic actress opens up about embracing this season of her life, new projects, and overall being a “bad motherfucker.” Gabrielle reveals that she was 37 years old when she was diagnosed with perimenopause and is still going through it at 51 years old. Mayo Clinic says perimenopause “refers to the time during which your body makes the natural transition to menopause, marking the end of the reproductive years.”
“I haven't crossed over the next phase just yet, but I think part of it is when you hear any form of menopause, you automatically think of your mother or grandmother. It feels like an old-person thing, but for me, I was 37 and like not understanding what that really meant for me. And I don't think we focus so much on the word menopause without understanding that perimenopause is just the time before menopause,” she tells us.
Photo by Brian Thomas
"But you can experience a lot of the same things during that period that people talk about, that they experienced during menopause. So you could get a hot flash, you could get the weight gain, the hair loss, depression, anxiety, like all of it, mental health challenges, all of that can come, you know, at any stage of the menopausal journey and like for me, I've been in perimenopause like 13, 14 years. When you know, most doctors are like, ‘Oh, but it's usually about ten years, and I'm like, ‘Uhh, I’m still going (laughs).’”
Conversations about perimenopause, fibroids, and all the things that are associated with women’s bodies have often been considered taboo and thus not discussed publicly. However, times are changing, and thanks to the Gabrielle’s and the Tia Mowry’s, more women are having an authentic discourse about women’s health. These open discussions lead to the creation of more safe spaces and support for one another.
“I want to be in community with folks. I don't ever want to feel like I'm on an island about anything. So, if I can help create community where we are lacking, I want to be a part of that,” she says. “So, it's like there's no harm in talking about it. You know what I mean? Like, I was a bad motherfucker before perimenopause. I’m a bad motherfucker now, and I'll be a bad motherfucker after menopause. Know what I’m saying? None of that has to change. How I’m a bad motherfucker, I welcome that part of the change. I'm just getting better and stronger and more intelligent, more wise, more patient, more compassionate, more empathetic. All of that is very, very welcomed, and none of it should be scary.”
The Being Mary Jane star hasn’t been shy about her stance on therapy. If you don’t know, here’s a hint: she’s all for it, and she encourages others to try it as well. She likens therapy to dating by suggesting that you keep looking for the right therapist to match your needs. Two other essential keys to her growth are radical transparency and radical acceptance (though she admits she is still working on the latter).
"I was a bad motherfucker before perimenopause. I’m a bad motherfucker now, and I'll be a bad motherfucker after menopause. Know what I’m saying? None of that has to change. How I’m a bad motherfucker, I welcome that part of the change."
Gabrielle Union and Kaavia Union-Wade
Photo by Monica Schipper/Getty Images
“I hope that a.) you recognize that you're not alone. Seek out help and know that it's okay to be honest about what the hell is happening in your life. That's the only way that you know you can get help, and that's also the only other way that people know that you are in need if there's something going on,” she says, “because we have all these big, very wild, high expectations of people, but if they don't know what they're actually dealing with, they're always going to be failing, and you will always be disappointed. So how about just tell the truth, be transparent, and let people know where you are. So they can be of service, they can be compassionate.”
Gabrielle’s transparency is what makes her so relatable, and has so many people root for her. Whether through her TV and film projects, her memoirs, or her social media, the actress has a knack for making you feel like she’s your homegirl. Scrolling through her Instagram, you see the special moments with her family, exciting new business ventures, and jaw-dropping fashion moments. Throughout her life and career, we’ve seen her evolve in a multitude of ways. From producing films to starting a haircare line to marriage and motherhood, her journey is a story of courage and triumph. And right now, in this season, she’s asking, “What’s next?”
“This is a season of discovery and change. In a billion ways,” says the NAACP Image Award winner. “The notion of like, ‘Oh, so and so changed. They got brand new.’ I want you to be brand new. I want me to be brand new. I want us to be always constantly growing, evolving. Having more clarity, moving with different purpose, like, and all of that is for me very, very welcomed."
"I want you to be brand new. I want me to be brand new. I want us to be always constantly growing, evolving. Having more clarity, moving with different purpose, like, and all of that is for me very, very welcomed."
She continues, “So I'm just trying to figure out what's next. You know what I mean? I'm jumping into what's next. I'm excited going into what's next and new. I'm just sort of embracing all of what life has to offer.”
Look out for Gabrielle in the upcoming indie film Riff Raff, which is a crime comedy starring her and Jennifer Coolidge, and she will also produce The Idea of You, which stars Anne Hathaway.
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A dead bedroom can kill any relationship. In all long-term, committed relationships, couples experience various phases, from the initial passion to a more complex and enduring connection. Yet, as time passes, sex may decrease, which introduces an issue often referred to as "bed death."
According to Advance Psychology Partners, 'bed death' occurs when individuals in a committed relationship experience a decline in the frequency of sexual activity and fall short of the desires of both or either partner. It is sometimes labeled a "sexless relationship" due to the infrequency of sex. In the U.S., an estimated 20 million people find themselves in such relationships.
This shift is a significant change for couples. Let’s face it: no one wants to be in a sexless marriage or relationship. But how can couples effectively confront the impact of fading physical intimacy on the overall health of their enduring partnership?
"I have found that many factors influence one's desire to dive, and it is often not a majority of just one thing. Most people assume that if they don't desire [sex], they are no longer physically attracted, but in my experience, that has little to do with it most of the time," explained Brittanni Young, LMFT, CST.
"Some of the heavy contributors that I see most often include excessive goal orientation towards orgasm, people not prioritizing their own sexuality, and the landfill of ‘should’s’ that develop from toxic sexual scripts created long ago in upbringing," she added.
Furthermore, these issues are not exclusive to any particular orientation, but it does manifest differently.
Young is a licensed marriage and family therapist, sexologist, and board-certified sex therapist who practices in Georgia and Florida. She has worked in the sexology field for over a decade. Young helps couples and individuals looking to get through challenges of all facets facing sexuality and intimacy, such as desire mismatch, over-compulsion, and dysfunctions. She recently launched a deck of intimacy connection cards called "Show Me Your Cards." Young is working on another product that helps teach children to consent and negotiate appropriate touch. She sat down with xoNecole to discuss what causes the decline in the bedroom, the myth of 'lesbian bed death,' and recommendations on overcoming "bed death."
The Decline In Intimacy
Intimacy often dwindles within relationships, a phenomenon triggered by various factors such as stress, the insidious monotony of routine, and the toxicity of unresolved conflicts, to name a few. While couples manage daily life, exchanging intimate desires and concerns may take a backseat. Sadly, this gradually erodes the closeness once shared in the relationship.
"Typically, the first thing I do when working with a couple on desire challenges is rule out medical causes by referring them to their primary care physician or other provider they are working with," Young shared. "There are times when unmanaged or mismanaged conditions factor into low desire levels. Also, many medications can wreak havoc on keeping desire levels up, such as antidepressants, SSRIs, anti-anxiety, and blood pressure medications, to name a few."
Jeff Bergen/ Getty Images
"Next, I look at the state of the relationship. If there is dissatisfaction in the relationship, then it definitely affects how close and intimate one wants to be to another. There are also plenty of individual factors one can bring into the equation, such as low self-esteem, anxiety, depression, feelings of shame or guilt around one's own sexuality, and external life stressors that can get in the way. I find that life stressors can be a big one for folks, as once you get in the habit of not prioritizing sex, it tends to stick," she added.
Fortunately, there are ways to prevent "bed death." It can involve prioritizing your wants and open communication about sexual needs.
"What tends to be effective for all couples is taking an inventory of how satisfied they are with their sexual behaviors and engagement. Being truthful in this vein can be the start of unlocking inhibitions that can keep you from seeking out and being genuinely vulnerable in intimate spaces," Young explained. "Next, I suggest opening up lines of communication around these truths. When people assume that nothing can be done, hope is lost."
The Myth Of 'Lesbian Bed Death'
The notion of "lesbian bed death" perpetuates a simplistic and inaccurate stereotype about the sexual dynamics within lesbian relationships. Contrary to the myth, the experience of a decline in intimacy is not universal among lesbian couples. The diverse spectrum of relationships among women challenges this oversimplified narrative, emphasizing that the complexities of sexual dynamics extend beyond stereotypical assumptions.
"The notion of 'lesbian bed death' is based on a research study done by Pepper Schwartz in 1983 that found that lesbian couplings fell behind in sexual frequency compared to heterosexual and gay male couplings," Young revealed.
"Several other studies [after] have replicated these findings but give very little information about sexual satisfaction. Despite there being more research needed overall in the sexuality field, more recent research did find that when it comes to the length of sexual encounters, lesbian couples had the longest duration of encounters. To that end, sexual quality over quantity is a better marker of satisfaction, and that is what I pay most attention to in my work. With that said, dissatisfaction can happen in all couplings over time," the sexologist continued.
Factors influencing reduced intimacy among lesbian couples may include communication challenges, societal pressures, and individual variations in libido. Menstruation can also play a role, with some couples navigating discomfort or hormonal changes during this period.
"There are certainly some nuances that come into play with lesbian couples that differ from heterosexual or other-oriented couples. As I stated earlier, physiological factors can factor into the rise and fall of libido. The hormone fluctuations that come from menstruation and menopause can impact desire levels, and it is double present in lesbian couples. Another nuance is the lack of a sexual script from society on lesbian sexual behavior. There are patriarchal roots to sexual research, which have created our societal norms that tend to leave out anyone who isn't heterosexual," Young stated.
Overcoming The Challenges
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While 'bed death' challenges couples, solutions are within reach. By identifying and addressing the underlying causes, couples can rekindle the flame of intimacy and ensure a healthier, more fulfilling relationship.
"In the words of Esther Perel, another sexual professional in the field, 'love enjoys knowing everything about you; desire needs mystery.' I recommend keeping it in the front of your mind, prioritizing, and keeping it interesting. Be open to learning more about your own sexuality every day, as well as your partner. You are always growing; what worked for you 20 years ago may not be the same today. Stay curious with one another and be open to exploring new ways to pleasure. You deserve it," Young said.
For instance, Young advised that couples should "keep sexual encounters light and playful." And not be afraid to introduce new elements, such as toys.
"Touch often in ways that are consensual and feel safe! I made 'Show Me Your Cards' to serve this purpose specifically. Just because you do not feel in the mood to go all the way does not mean you aren't in the mood to hold hands, exchange body massages, or dance together. Connecting often in any physical form, as long as it feels pleasurable, still counts as 'being in the mood,'" she said.
Overcoming the hurdles of "bed death" and debunking myths surrounding 'lesbian bed death' offers a unique perspective for couples grappling with the difficulties of sustaining a connection. Learning the proper ways to work through a sexless relationship can help foster a healthier, more fulfilling relationship.
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