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:


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!


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


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


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.

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.


Two of my favorite Smart Girls!


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.


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.


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.


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.


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!


Mom 2.0 Photo Recap


One of my favorite things about being Dove’s Global Self-Esteem Ambassador is the opportunity to reach different audiences with messages about confidence and the beauty of being you. Last week, I was at the Mom 2.0 Summit, which connects parent bloggers, content creators, and marketers around conversations that help shape how we see and think about today’s families.


The summit kicked off with an amazing conversation about the power of our words online with none other than the award-winning journalist (and my eternal #WCW) Soledad O’Brien.




Soledad is such a genuine, open, and captivating person. We went from strangers (although I have to admit, I had a HUGE professional crush on her!) to chatting like old friends, taking selfies, and having her adjust the microphone on my bra strap!


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During the keynote address, Soledad and I discussed the power of words, parents’ roles in how their children create and consume social media, and Dove’s recently launched #SpeakBeautiful Effect on Twitter that helps you identify the power of our online words and their impact.


With the rise of social media, everyone has the power and platform to share their stories and use their voices. It’s so important that we are intentional about the messages we send out and use those platforms to lift others up, rather than tearing one another down.




Don’t think I won’t frame this!




As if things couldn’t get any better – on day two – I hosted our famous Dove Self-Esteem workshops with the fabulous Hollis Heath, a fellow Dove Self-Esteem Educator who also works in New York City to help young people find their strength through education and creative arts.




Our workshops also focused on the power of our words and how to rewrite our beauty story. We were joined by the amazing women from Mom 2.0, who not only participated in their own workshop, but then came back to mentor girls in another workshop.


I’m always moved by how open, brave, and willing participants are, and these women and girls were no exception. Seeing groups of passionate people engage with their journeys of self-discovery, regardless of where they may be on their paths, inspires me time and time again.


Girl scouts_Dove


We were joined by the Girl Scouts of Orange County who were so incredibly outspoken and creative in their answers about beauty and body image. Clearly these were girls who have been thinking about and talking about how to develop their confidence. Their answers would blow you away!




We had everyone write their beauty story using just one sentence. And the catch? That sentence had to have just 6 words. Think of it as a mini-mini tweet. The girls were supposed to sum up the story they’d like to tell the world about their relationship and understanding to their own beauty and confidence. Here are just a few:


L: “Finding out that everyone is different.”

R: “Finding and expressing my inner creativity.”


I mean… 🙂


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Did a workshop really happen if we don’t take a picture??

Trick to getting a good smile – have everyone yell “1, 2, 3… Self-Esteem!!!”


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Mom 2.0 was an uplifting experience reminding me that, as long as we open ourselves up to seeing it, exploring it, and embracing it for what it is, #BeautyIs found in everyone around us.


If you want to learn more about the power of YOUR words and what you can do to leave a more positive digital footprint, check out Dove’s #SpeakBeautiful Effect on Twitter. It’s as easy as clicking “retweet” (literally).


5 Comedians Who Made Us Laugh and Stood For Something


In honor of Humor Month – here are some funny ladies with a serious passion for making change.


Moms Mabley


Jackie Moms Mabley was an African American, arguably genderqueer stand up comedian. Using her Moms persona, Mabley was able to touch on taboo topics like sex, politics, and racism. Mabley frequently visited prisons to perform and was considered a notable Civil Rights Activist.


Gilda Radner


Gilda Radner, an original cast member of Saturday Night Live, is best known for her outrageous characters, like Roseanne Roseannadanna and Baba Wawa. Radner’s boldness, fearlessness, and resistance to the status quo in her comedy and acting paved the way for women to step out of the roles that male-driven comedy traditionally forced them into.


Whoopi Goldberg


In her 1985 stand-up performance Direct from Broadway, Whoopi Goldberg uses five distinct characters to make valuable social commentary about racial stereotypes, reproductive rights, racist standards of beauty, immigration, and devaluation of people living with a disability.


Margaret Cho


Margaret Cho created and starred in the first show prominently featuring an East Asian family, All American Girl. Using radical commentary, personal stories, infamous accents, and body as art, Cho tackles sexuality, racism, body image, and rape culture all through her comedy.


Jessica Williams


The young Daily Show correspondent is already making huge waves in her role. From attacking race issues and police brutality head on to addressing violence against women and rape culture, Jessica Williams is making a name for herself as a comedian actively using her voice to incite cultural shifts.


Who would you add to the list? Who is your favorite funny change-maker??


3 Reasons Why Being a Leader is Better Than Being Liked

I know. I know. You want to be a leader. But perhaps you don’t feel like one because you are too busy caring if people like you. And listen, I get it. It’s totally normal.


In fact it’s our humanity that compels us to desire closeness and connection with others and want to feel accepted by our family, peers and community.


But the truth is that true leaders aren’t always liked. In fact, they often aren’t.


The tough and unsung choices leaders make everyday can’t come from pleasing people – they have to come from tapping into their gut, inner strength, wisdom and personal resolve. Leaders do the right thing even when it’s difficult.


Here are 3 reasons why being a leader is better than being liked:


  1. Because being liked doesn’t always create social change:

There is a lot for us to shift in the world and it won’t get done worrying about winning a popularity contest. When we prioritize being liked over roles in leadership, we let the opportunity slip by to make a palpable difference in our communities and in the lives of the people we care about most.


  1. Because the world needs more women leaders:

Women are drastically underrepresented in leadership roles, (and we need to change that – stat!) Women make up roughly 15% of executive officers and about 5% of Fortune 500 CEOs. We all have the power to change that by encouraging women we know to step forward for leadership positions and to be bold enough ourselves to step forward and lead!


  1. Because your voice needs to be heard:

Now more than ever we need to cultivate leaders who can share their courageous visions with compassion and connection. Who better than you? If we want to combat some of the vitriol and hate that we see in our world – let’s start by raising our voices. Playing small in the world doesn’t help anyone. You have strengths and incredible power. Don’t let them go to waste! The time to speak up is now.


Women Inspiring Women

I’m spotlighting my SHEROES in honor of Women’s History Month to celebrate the wonderful people we know in real life, and make them the true celebrities!


Erin Loos Cutraro is the Co-founder and CEO of She Should Run — an organization inspiring more women to consider running for public office.


I asked Erin: In this last year, what has represented the biggest step forward for women in our country?


Here’s what she said:

It’s increasingly likely that this year we’ll have a woman as a major party nominee for President of the United States for the first time in US history.

And by showing that no path is off limits for women, we inspire more women and girls to envision themselves making a difference by stepping up to lead.


How Inspirational Women Shape Our Lives

This March, I’m spotlighting my SHEROES in honor of Women’s History Month! Let’s celebrate the wonderful people we know in real life, and make them the true celebrities!


I asked Julie Ann Crommett – force for change and Google’s Program Manager for Computer Science Education in Media: Who is the most inspirational woman in your life?


Here’s what she said:


Without a doubt, it is my namesake. Both my mother and abuela (“Abuita”). I am named after both of them and am a combo of their biggest personality traits.


My abuita Julie left Cuba with my abuelo, mom and godfather with only the clothes on their backs and what they could carry in some duffle bags. By the time she was my age, she had left her home country, moved multiple times with two kids, resettled in a new country and was holding down a steady job. That kind of courage and grace is at once astounding and inspiring.


At almost 82 years young, she is still going as President of the Southeast Regional Catholic Women’s Association where she is driving a campaign to stop human trafficking locally. She has modeled to me resilience, maintaining faith and hope at the center of one’s life and to believe that anything is possible no matter your age, circumstance or set-backs.


My mother, Ana, is a remarkable woman. Coming of age during the feminist movement, she attended Tufts undergrad and Harvard Graduate School of Education and has single handedly changed the lives of thousands of children as a tireless teacher, school principal and educational strategist. For her, the kids come first and that those who can not speak for themselves always need champions.


I watch her in awe as she’s reinvented the second half of her life learning non-profit management, working in corporate America and marking new paths to make a difference including working jointly with my abuela to stop human trafficking. It is from her that I learned my voice mattered, to never quiet down even when others demand, to follow my biggest dreams, that empathy is the key and that teaching / serving others is the greatest reward.


How To Be Confident Without Being Arrogant

One common question I’m asked: How can I be confident without being arrogant?


I love this question. I usually tell people it’s OK to know your own strengths (even more OK to own them!) And it doesn’t help anyone when we deflect compliments and play small in the world.


But it makes sense that human nature is to feel a desire to be liked. To be loved. To be admired. And we sometimes worry that if we’re too confident that might push someone away.


The truth is, true confidence doesn’t have to be bragged about. The real different between confidence and arrogance is all about the intention behind it. Confident people live their lives – confidently. They don’t need to “in your face it” with dropping names, putting others down or overly boasting about anything. Confident people live it because they feel it. They don’t need to prove it.


I find bragging (and trust me, I’ve done my fair share) comes from when we feel insecure, uncertain and unworthy. So check your intention next time you think you may be spouting off too much of your own awesomeness. And know that your confidence isn’t just heard but seen, felt, and witnessed. Just by being you.


Still not sure if you have confidence or arrogance? Think about:


  • Confidence is built on self-discovery. It comes from knowing and accepting yourself and your strengths – and owning those strengths. It takes time and effort to foster and build.
  • Arrogance is a reactionary feeling. In fact, it’s the opposite of confidence – it’s a method to prove yourself rather than accept and love yourself.
  • Being confident is being comfortable with who you are. You don’t have to put anyone else down to feel good. So if you are trying to – odds are you aren’t feeling true confidence.
  • Share!

    5 Books That Will Inspire You

    For me, reading is an essential outlet for my inspiration. I feel like a great book has the power to uncover our most buried emotions and awaken a new delicious curiosity.

    Here are 5 books that give insight into inspiration, education, and motivation in my life. Enjoy!

    daringgreatly-199x3001. Daring Greatly
    by Brene Brown

    Who doesn’t love Brene?? (Insert Oprah voice here).

    She has the uncanny ability to make you excited about embracing imperfection and uncertainty (I mean, come on!) But I’m also lucky to call her a friend – so do yourself a favor — dive into her love, humor and smart advice right away!






    Masterminds_and_Wingmen_jacket_image-768x11672. Masterminds & Wingmen: Helping Our Boys Cope with Schoolyard Power, Locker-Room Tests, Girlfriends, and the New Rules of Boy World
    by Rosalind Wiseman

    Rosalind is the mastermind behind Queen Bees and Wannabes (which ultimately became the movie “Mean Girls”), and now she tackles the boy world with Masterminds & Wingmen which explores how bullying, social stigmas and power struggles shape our boys emotionally. A must read for parents and educators!




    big-magic-book3. Big Magic
    by Elizabeth Gilbert

    I’m in love with Elizabeth Gilbert. And her work. Totally, madly, obsessively in love. Her words and thoughts hit me in the heart and make me go, “MMMM YAAASSS” out loud! This book helped me also develop a really sexy relationship with my creativity – so I highly recommend!







    97812500789574.  I wonder: Celebrating Daddies Doin’ Work
    by Doyin Richards

    Doyin hits on the question every dad asks himself: “I wonder if I’m doing a good job.” And my answer to Doyin after reading this book is: YES! I love his persistent optimism and his wonderful and refreshing celebration of fatherhood. A must read and share!




    imgres5.  Poems From the Pond by Peggy Freydberg, edited by Laurie David

    I’ve already written a post about how Peggy (who started writing poetry at age 90, btw!) has become my muse. Her brilliant collection of poems brought every emotion I have to the surface and gave me new perspective on how we view life’s progression. Even if you think you don’t like poetry, I promise – you will not put this book down.




    Ending Toxic Friendships

    You may have heard me talk about your “esteem team” before.


    I think it’s important to know very specifically who has your back at all times.


    The one you ugly cry with.


    The ones who see you at your worst and know you at your best.


    The one you call to the move the body.


    Consider it my new definition of #squad goals – but you really only need one special person on your esteem team.


    And I can’t emphasize enough how important it is on your journey to self-discovery. It’s been a crucial component on my own path, too.


    So how do you know who’s on your team?


    Your “esteem team” are the ones who allow you to grow, and who encourage it, actually.


    But we may not always be surrounded by those people.


    Especially when we’re younger, it can feel like having a bunch of friends is important. But the truth is – especially when it comes to friendship – quality goes much further than quantity.


    Sometimes when we realize we are friends with people who are stumping our growth it’s hard to think about letting them go.


    But trust me when I tell you – and you can borrow my 15 years of hard friendship lessons learned – you need to say goodbye to someone who can’t stand fully by your side.


    How do you know when you’re in a toxic friendship?


    Here are a few questions you can ask yourself:


    When you are with this person do you feel more empowered or more discouraged?


    Are your thoughts and ideas valued and listened to?


    Do you feel comfortable being yourself around this person?


    If you can’t be your true, authentic self when you’re with this friend, it may be time to have a conversation about this. I know – it’s scary, but a true friend can handle a moment of discomfort and honesty. It can be awkward but real friendships survive.


    What happens if you have that convo and nothing changes?


    Maybe it’s time to move on.


    So now what?


    Ending a toxic friendship doesn’t have to be dramatic. We can start by making a conscious effort to limit the amount of time we spend with that person. We can focus on the friends who ARE positive and gravitate toward them.


    But it doesn’t end there. It’s also important to take a look inside yourself in the process, and ask:


    Why am I continually choosing friends like this?


    How can I prevent this from happening again?


    When we want to make a change in our lives, we have to take initiative.


    There’s no doubt in my mind that you’re capable of it. We all are.


    We have to make sure we’re learning from our experiences. When you go through difficult patches, remember to think about what you can take away from them. How can it help you better yourself? How can it help you get back on track to where you want to be?


    It isn’t always easy, but it IS possible and worth it!