#SelfCare17: Volunteer

Most writers will tell you they’ve suffered blocks where they focus on assignments and just can’t break through. Then one day they’re walking, showering, or shopping and BOOM! It all starts flowing. Well self-care can be a lot like writing. It requires focus, reflection, and self-expression. It’s a lot, and sometimes doesn’t flow as easily as we’d like. Volunteering is a great way to get your mind off of you. While doing good for others you can break through your self-care rut and feed the part of you that naturally nurtures. 

Share!

#SelfCare17: Connect with a Higher Power / Greater Good

Sometimes self-care can feel like self-indulgence. But it doesn’t have to be! Anytime I’m struggling in my practice or questioning why it’s important, I remind myself that I am connected to a higher power and a greater good. When I remember that the causes I’m fighting for are far bigger than me but that I am still an integral part of the fight, I am strengthened. It’s a great reminder that you must take care of yourself so you can be at your best for the collective.

Share!

#YesWeCan Change The Way Media Portrays Women and Girls

My entire career as a social entrepreneur and advocate has been dedicated to widening the images we see of women and girls in the media. I’ve seen first hand how a young woman’s life can change when she feels reflected in the media or entertainment she consumes. It’s not trivial. In fact, it’s vital that we, the world’s largest exporter of media images, lead that business with full inclusivity and recognition of what the world truly looks like.

 

When President Obama took office he talked about opening up the White House to everyone.

I have always been inspired by the Obamas’ commitment to using their platform as a power for good. I am still in awe of the variety of artists, academics, humanitarians, engineers, and change makers they have invited in. I mean even the musical Hamilton was workshopped there! I feel incredibly grateful and proud to have been one of the voices they included. I worked with the White House Council on Women and Girls over the last eight years convening on and exploring the state of affairs for girls in tech, education, and media. Last April, we were able to bring together the forces I work with in my world to host one of the most comprehensive gatherings of industry, parent advocacy groups, and academic researchers focusing on gender stereotypes in toys and media.

 

The White House Council on Women and Girls, The Department of Education and USC’s “Media, Diversity, and Social Change Initiative” held a summit on how gender stereotypes impact our children’s ability to dream. The day’s agenda covered the influencing forces in boys’ and girls’ lives, the effects that gender stereotypes can have on their perceptions, and the steps people and businesses are taking to eradicate stereotypes. Our goal was to ensure that children can grow to reach their full potential in life, not stifled by norms or stereotypes that could inhibit their self-actualization. As someone who has spent 22 years studying and working in this field, that summit felt like a cumulating moment. I was so proud and humbled to see the key stakeholders, decision makers, and leaders in that space come together and engage in honest dialogue.

 

Before this administration, we were all having conversations in private or separate spheres, but in April we were all together sharing our research, thoughts, and brave steps forward. Major businesses, including Disney, Mattel, LEGO, and Warner Brothers, shared their compassion and understanding toward parents’ demands for better representation, and demonstrated how they are stepping up to the plate. Other up-and-coming companies, such as littleBits, showed us that there are still countless avenues for ingenuity in toys and media to help kids grow. Researchers and academics presented their latest findings on the challenges and opportunities in boys’ and girls’ lives as well as the importance of media so we could make informed decisions. Activists and parents brought their irreplaceable voices to the forefront sharing their experiences and the demand for more. All of these different perspectives are essential to spur future action. Most importantly, every group, regardless of differences, came to the table to have an open and authentic discussion in order to drive change.

 

Now, more than ever, we need camaraderie and openness to build a future path that will advance gender equality. No person or group can achieve such a lofty goal alone. Divisiveness will only hinder progress. This important meeting of both private and public sector stakeholders fueled a lot of change that we will be seeing in our retail spaces for years to come. Sharing information, finding allies, and building networks will help manifest positive change.

 

We all need to feel inspired by #YesWeCan moments that create positive momentum in our lives, instead of focusing on when we feel defeated. The summit has been a motivating force in my life because it was an agent of significant positive change.

 

#YesWeCan create media that is an inclusive representation of our multifaceted society.
This post was written by Jess Weiner and Elizabeth Hedge, who shared the badass experience of planning and executing the Summit on Gender Stereotypes in Toys and Media together in partnership with the White House Council of Women & Girls in Washington D.C.

Share!

10 Free Ways To Pay-It-Forward

Kindness is a universal language and November 13th is World Kindness Day. Take the time to celebrate an entire day dedicated to inspiring individuals to be kind to each other. It costs little-to-nothing for us to pay it forward and small free acts of kindness can lead us to even bigger ones. Here are 10 ways to start

 

  1.  Share a smile – The simplest, least-expensive way to give kindness to a stranger. Also, check out one of my favorite Instagram blogs, @SmileADay. Smile a Day is filled with beautiful smiles and stories about happiness.

image06-1

  1. Give a compliment – this can be given as an addition to the shared smile. Compliments truly can brighten a person’s day. And I don’t know one person who doesn’t get a boost of energy from giving or receiving an exchange of compliments.  giphy
  2. Go volunteer at your local shelter – There’s never a shortage of volunteer work! And there are many options for volunteering: homeless shelter, animal shelter, children’s hospital, and more. If you’re already volunteering somewhere, invite a friend to join you.tumblr_myphfi5ufk1s4a7cao1_500
  3. Instead of forgetting about them and eventually tossing in the trash, take leftover food from your fridge and offer it to your neighbors or community.image08
  4. Help someone carry bags to their car – We all struggle with this when grocery shopping alone. Spend 2 minutes to lend a helping hand.man-groceries
  5. Let someone cut you in line – Especially if you’re not in a rush. That’s a sure way to make someone feel like a VIP (just remember to show courtesy to anyone waiting behind you).  e9db06cfa0af849839fdccda97761f79018cc2b9
  6. Share your extra coupons with the person behind you in the checkout line.image00
  7. If you’re running errands, offer to pick up a few things for your neighbor.image02
  8. Offer to write a letter of recommendation for someone – Tap into your network and see if anyone is in need of a recommendation. It can even be as simple as writing one on their LinkedIn profile. image07
  9. On crowded public transit, give up your seat to someone in need. This should be a regular act, but if it’s not make it a point to be considerate today.image03

BONUS: Pray for someone or send them good intentions. This is one of my favorites. I believe there is power in prayer and good intentions and even more power when intent is sent in numbers. Join someone in manifesting their wishes.image10

Share!

Meijer Eliminates Plus-Size Section

The fashion industry has a history of making Plus-Size women feel more like the “other.” Go shop in the “other” section. Select from these “other” styles and designs, and pay these “other” prices.

From my own experience (and the 200+ comments on my Facebook post), treating plus-sized women like the “other” can make something as ordinary as shopping a real self-esteem downer. It comes with many inconveniences and, if you LOVE fashion like I do, it can make you feel unworthy of being stylish in your own skin.

When one of my favorite actresses, Leslie Jones, couldn’t find a designer to make something for her to wear to her “Ghostbusters” premiere, she took to social media to express her frustration.

screen-shot-2016-11-02-at-2-05-38-pm

You are not alone @lesdoggg!

173572251_target-plus-size-collection2

 

Anyone who has ever had to separate from friends at the mall while on a shopping trip knows how frustrating it is. You just want to shop for the same cute styles as the next girl—in YOUR size. Yet, we have to part ways and enter the section of over-priced and under-fashioned clothing (and why on earth is the Plus-Size section always by the appliances anyway?).

 

image03

 

Did you know that the average American woman now wears between a size 16 and a size 18? The industry calls us “plus-size women,” a term that fashion consultant and television personality Tim Gunn would like to erase. He says the fashion industry needs a makeover “because plus-size women deserve fashion – and we deserve the same amount choices offered to straight sizes.”

I couldn’t agree more, and Meijer agrees too.

 

Meijer recently announced that by 2017, they’ll have eliminated the “plus-size department” — combining all sizes on the same rack across 230 stores in the Midwest. Finally, an open-door invitation for all people who love fashion to enjoy a positive shopping experience — and that’s good for business!

 

image04

 

This will completely change the shopping experience at Meijer, creating a space that allows all women shop together based on fashion trend, not size. They are also selling all clothing in all sizes at same price — THANK YOU!!! 🙏🏼


Check out this video from Meijer’s “Plus-Size” elimination and inclusion announcement.
You can really feel the happiness and joy in JoElla’s heart in this video – I feel it too! This is a great example of what brands can do to make consumers feel connected, included and SEEN.  Love it! More please!

Share!

5 Ways To Survive This Election Season

This election season has shown us sexism on a national scale and at its absolute worst. The vitriolic and toxic words of Trump are not only jarring but terrifying. Especially for women. This candidate holds no respect for women or anyone else who is different from him.

 

During this entire campaign, we’ve yet to hear a single statement from Donald regarding his actual plans for policies, but we’ve heard more than enough.

 

More than enough to know that in this election, there’s no such thing as NOT voting for Hillary Clinton.

 

With today being the last day to register in California (make sure you’re registered) and voting day only a few weeks away on Nov. 8th, one of the most important things we can do (besides voting) is maximize our self-care until we’ve awakened from this nightmare. Let’s protect our well-being so we continue to be inspired and create solutions that progress our society forward.

 

As someone who has spent 22 years fighting to give women’s voices more of a platform on a national and global stage – it is important for me that when we usher in our first Female president (and definitely most qualified candidate running!) that we are also in a good head space to continue the fight. Because fight on we will have to.

 

But first, let’s reset our energy!

 

Here are 5 tactics to help you survive the stress-inducing 2016 Presidential Election:

  1.  Turn off the news and go outside. Yes, this does include closing out of our social media feeds and timelines. Unplug from the digital world cluttered with things beyond our immediate control. Put your feet in the grass and remember that the world (and America) are already wonderful.
  2.  Turn on satire. Watch shows like “The Daily Show” and “Full Frontal with Samantha Bee” to stay informed of news stories, but also soften the punch with a little humor. Honestly, laughing has been a tremendous help to balance the “WTF” moments I’ve been having.
  3.  Pet your puppies & kittens. Seriously. Pets rule. Give them some extra love. They have a peaceful, calming effect.
  4.  Change your media focus. Be sure to balance the inevitable, negative news stories with more positive and inspiring content. Cue more puppy/kitty videos.
  5.  Have meaningful conversations with loved ones. Leave the politics out of the convo and just make sure you are telling the people you really love how you feel about them. By giving and having love and connection with your true community you can counter any negativity with positive real-life one on one.
Share!

10 Creative Women In Hollywood You Should Be Following

hollywood_sign_zuschnitt

 

Diversity.

Inclusion.

Equality.

 

These words are hot topics of discussion in the entertainment industry lately. Unless you’ve been living under a rock, you’re aware that Hollywood has a huge diversity & inclusion problem. Our media is supposed to represent the extremely diverse society we live in, yet far less than half of American TV and film is created by people who don’t identify as white or male.

 

chart

The Media, Diversity & Social Change (MDSC) Initiative at USC’s Annenberg School for Communication and Journalism calls this an #InclusionCrisis. Their newest study shows that,

 

“Behind the camera, female directors were just 4.1% of those hired on the 800 films evaluated between 2007 and 2015 (excluding 2011). Women of color were almost absent from these ranks, with just 3 Black or African-American females and 1 Asian female in the director’s chair. Overall, directors from underrepresented racial groups fared poorly. Only 5.5% of the 886 directors examined were Black or African American and 2.8% were Asian or Asian American.”

 

A common excuse I hear for this #InclusionCrisis is that executives “can’t find” women creatives (up-and-coming and seasoned veterans) to hire for work.

 

Well, I’m here to give them a shout; loud and proud! Here are 10 stand-out, creative women in Hollywood we should ALL be paying attention to.

P.S. It was actually extremely hard to narrow my list down to 10 because there are actually so many to choose from. (Here’s a list of 90 more women where these came from.)

 

1. Ava DuVernay

ava

Ava is the director of Selma, I Will Follow and Middle of Nowhere. Her newest production, OWN TV’s Queen Sugar (television show), was created in collaboration with Oprah Winfrey. She is the first black woman to direct a film nominated for Best Picture (Selma) and the founder of ARRAY; a distribution company geared toward female filmmakers and people of color.

 

2. Debbie Allen

debbie

Debbie Allen is an actress and well-seasoned television director (countless episodes over nearly 30 years). Recently, she directed episodes of Scandal and Grey’s Anatomy (where she also appears as a character in a recurring role).

 

3. Elizabeth Banks

elizabeth

Elizabeth is the producer of Pitch Perfect, both the first and the sequel (as well as acting in it as a cappella commentator, Gail). Rightfully so, Universal Studios hired her to direct the upcoming third Pitch Perfect. She’s also said to be working on a Charlie’s Angels reboot.

 

4. So Yong Kim

so-yong

So Yong is a writer-director who’s made 3 drama films: In Between Days, Treeless Mountain and For Ellen. She picked up a Special Jury Prize at Sundance for her first film, In Between Days, about a Korean girl navigating immigrant life in Canada.

 

5. Gurinder Chadha

gurinder

Gurinder directed Bend It Like Beckham, helping to launch the careers of many actors (like Keira Knightley, Parminder Nagra, and Archie Panjabi). She also directed British film, Angus, Thongs, and Perfect Snogging, which raised the profile of Aaron Taylor-Johnson. She’s currently working on an animated DreamWorks musical about Bollywood.

 

6. Martha Coolidge

picture1

Martha is the ONLY female president in the history of the Directors Guild of America. With a few decades of working in the industry, she’s also directed a plethora of interesting films like: Real Genius, Valley Girl, Rambling Rose and Introducing Dorothy Dandridge.

 

7. Anne Fletcher

anne

Ann Fletcher revitalized Sandra Bullock’s acting career in 2009 by directing romantic-comedy, The Proposal (which gave Bullock her biggest success ever at the time). She also helped put Channing Tatum on the map by directing the first Step Up film.

 

8. Julie Taymor

julie

Julie directed a huge (over $6-billion-gross-huge) musical stage production of Disney’s The Lion King. She’s also directed content about some of the world’s most iconic artists: 3 Shakespeare adaptations, a Beatles musical, an Oscar-nominated biopic of Frida Kahlo

 

9. Dee Rees

dee

Dee is the writer and director of Pariah; a refreshing “coming-out” story about a young black lesbian in Brooklyn, NY (Adepero Oduye). She also directed the recent HBO mini-series, Bessie (starring Queen Latifah).

 

10. Gina Prince-Bythewood

gina

Gina is the director of 2014’s highly-underrated Beyond the Lights, The Secret Life of Bees, and the 2000 classic romance film Love & Basketball. She has also written several episodes of the iconic American TV show “A Different World.

 

And there we have it. 10 women creatives who definitely deserve seats in the director’s chair for Hollywood’s blockbusters.

 

Learn their faces and their accolades. Bring these directors up in conversation. Share this list with a friend. If we shout out these incredible women loud and long enough, Hollywood will have to listen.

 

Share!

#BlogHer16 Closing Keynote Recap

It’s not often that we get to have honest, public discussions with a few hundred folks about intersectional feminism and activism. That’s exactly what we did at the closing keynote of the #BlogHer16 conference this past Saturday. I was honored to moderate this inspiring panel conversation about how people in the public eye can use their platform for activism. As well as about how we all can serve to be better allies to the causes that move us.

 

My long-term partners at Dove kicked off the panel sharing about their new campaign #MyBeautyMySay and it’s right on time for the Olympics! The media too often makes comments about female athletes and their appearance rather than focusing on their accomplishments. And have you read these headlines lately?? Now accomplished female athletes are being described by their husbands rather than their own achievements!

Screen Shot 2016-08-08 at 4.52.02 PM

Screen Shot 2016-08-08 at 5.06.17 PM

 

So leave it to our panel of bad asses to break it all down! I was joined by the incredible: Jurnee Smollett-Bell and Matt McGorry, and professional boxer Heather “The Heat” Hardy. As actors and athletes in the public eye they are also fighting for social justice – whether it’s HIV/AIDS awareness, civil rights, racial and gender equality or equal pay. They are all utilizing their privilege and public platforms to speak out.

 

We dug into what makes a good ally – especially to causes where you are not the predominant demographic effected (think: how to be a good white ally for Black Lives Matter) and also how to fight injustice within your own field of business (think: how to challenge sexism and racism amongst your co-workers and bosses). Not easy subjects for sure. But this panel handled it with such clarity, grace, and courage. We could have gone on for hours more. So much work still left to do. But catch up on some of the highlights below.

 

And remember this is a conversation that is just in its beginning stages – we have to continue to work together and have the hard conversations because #ChangeIsAWeThing.

Panel Conversation Highlights:

BlogHer Panel

Too bad I didn’t enjoy myself.

BlogHer Team

The whole BlogHer team!

Share!

Jess’ Bookshelf: All the Single Ladies

In honor of Independence Day, let’s put our attention on the largest growing demographic of women who are poised to change our world – Single Ladies!

 

If you let mainstream media and advertising paint the picture of single women – they are usually lovelorn, seeking marriage or partnership and generally feeling incomplete about their lives.

 

But cue reality: today’s single women are more satisfied personally, professionally driven, and delaying decisions like marriage and children until, when or if they are ready.

 

They are seeking a life that unites their value system with their circumstance. Many are single by choice, choosing powerfully to re write their own family legacies, expectations and societal impositions.

 

Oh, and in case you aren’t convinced yet – Single Women are also basically going to decide our next President.

 

In 2012 single women were 23% of the vote for Barack Obama and a major player when it came to getting Obama re-elected! Think about that for a second, in 2012 single women made up almost an entire QUARTER of votes in the United States.

 

If you haven’t picked up Rebecca Traister’s new book – please do. It was this descriptive sentence that made me click “Buy” on Amazon Prime:

 

“All the Single Ladies” is a remarkable portrait of contemporary American life and how we got here, through the lens of the single American woman.

 

Covering class, race, sexual orientation, and filled with vivid anecdotes from fascinating contemporary and historical figures, “All the Single Ladies” is destined to be a classic work of social history and journalism.

 

And you can catch more of Rebecca’s incredible insights here:

Share!

United State Of Women Photo Recap

This past Tuesday, I was honored to both attend and speak at The United State of Women Summit!

 

The Summit brought together thought leaders and community members passionate about gender equality, served to celebrate the progress we’ve made throughout the Obama administration and to discuss solutions to continue the work we are doing.

 

But for me, this event also served as a gorgeous coming together of my career tribe. I’ve been working in the women and girls empowerment space for over 20 years. You meet A LOT of incredible people over the course of two decades, and it was fulfilling and energizing to see hundreds of those people all together at this momentous event.

 

USOW2On Monday night, we kicked off this incredible event with my partners at Mattel and She Should Run. Our welcome dinner brought together leaders from all areas of women’s empowerment from bloggers to entrepreneurs, educators, public servants, and brand executives. I believe Change is a we thing, and this photo only touches the surface on how excited I get when all of the amazing people I know are in the same room!

 

USOW3
Lisa McKnight, SVP, Marketing, North America at Mattel
(check out Erin Cutraro trying to photobomb us! 😉 )

 

USOW4
Oh, there she is! Erin Cutraro, Co-Founder & CEO of She Should Run

 

USOW5
The next morning we headed out to The United State of Women Summit. Over 5,000 leaders were in attendance making so as you can imagine, the energy that filled the space was exhilarating!

 

The day opened with an address from Vice President Joe Biden. He addressed sexual assault and violence against women, leaving everyone with a very clear message: it’s on us to change the culture for survivors.

USOW6
From L to R: Juliana Chugg, Ana Flores, Jill Biden Owens, Jess Weiner, Jamia Wilson, Amy Poehler, Meredith Walker, Dr. Stacy Smith

After the VP’s speech I had the pleasure of hosting a panel on Revolutionizing Gender Norms. We had an AH-MAZING group of women including Meredith Walker and Amy Poehler – Amy Poehler’s Smart Girls at the Party, Jamia Wilson, Executive Director of Women Action Media, Ana Flores, Founder of Latina Bloggers Connect, Juliana Chugg, the EVP and Chief Brand Officer at Mattel, and my colleague Dr. Stacy Smith of the University of Southern California Media, Diversity, & Social Change Initiative.

 

Together this panel explored solutions around how to increase diverse representation in the media, deconstruct gender norms, and own our voices and stories.

 

USOW7
Two of my favorite Smart Girls!

 

USOW8
After the panel – we raced downstairs to get a good seat to hear The PRESIDENT of the United States, Barack Obama, who gave one of the best speeches of his career.

 

Best line of the President’s speech which was chock-full of amazing sentiment about women’s empowerment was: “I may be a little greyer than I was 8 years ago, but this is what a FEMINIST looks like”. Boom.

 

USOW9
And then this happened. I was invited to meet THE FIRST LADY!

 

I could barely speak but I did manage to utter, “I love you” about a zillion times. I’ve been fortunate to work with The First Lady’s office on important issues like gender stereotypes.

 

USOW10
As if all of this excitement wasn’t enough for one day – I had a chance to do a West Wing tour with my friends from Starfish. Starfish is a spectacular organization that is dedicated to unlocking and maximizing the potential of young women in Guatemala to lead transformational change. The two lovely women featured here are leaders in their community and are fighting for education reform in their country.

 

USOW11
The next day I definitely had a happiness hangover. I then headed over to the National Academy of Sciences to speak to other thought-leaders about explicit and implicit bias in media and how it impacts our families and children.

 

USOW12
In her closing remarks, Michelle Obama spoke about how important it was to open the doors of the White House for people who normally wouldn’t have access. I feel lucky to have been one of those people and they have allowed advocates (or advo-consultants) to use their powerful platform to raise the important issues impacting our women and girls.

 

It’s events like this, moments in history really, that make me take a step back and reflect on all that has happened over the course of my career. I can hardly believe all of the change I’ve been fortunate enough to be a part of throughout my time in this space, and I can hardly wait to see all that’s yet to come!

Share!