Amy Bell Hou is a writer, early childhood educator and mother living in Oakland. She is a co-founder of Drop Leaf Press, a women-operated poetry press based in San Francisco.
March 8 is International Women’s Day.
It’s also a day that multiple organizations for the advancement of women are calling for a women’s general labor strike. They’re calling it “A Day Without a Woman.”
The purpose of the strike is to shine a spotlight on “the enormous value that women of all backgrounds add to our socio-economic system–while receiving lower wages and experiencing greater inequities, vulnerability to discrimination, sexual harassment, and job insecurity.”
Women are a vital, often undervalued sector of the labor force in the world. At our paid jobs, women typically earn less than men in the same roles and suffer career setbacks if they decide to have children. Women also typically take the lion’s share of domestic work, like cooking, cleaning, and child care. Such unpaid labor is vital to a functioning economy and ought to be recognized as such, yet motherhood remains the number one predictor of poverty.
At Heels of Success, we endeavor to support all women as they balance careers, partnerships, children, and their own growth as individuals. We hope our posts can help bring more women into positions of leadership, because we believe the goal of widespread gender parity in the American workplace — nothing less than a major cultural shift — is only going to come when women have an equal number of seats at the table where decisions are made.
As such, we stand in solidarity with women, trans people and their allies for A Day Without a Woman.
While many women, particularly those in the fields of healthcare, childcare, and elderly care may not be able to strike, there are still ways for women and their partners to show solidarity.
The Women’s March organizers have set up a good FAQ and resources page, which will guide you through ways to show your support. Read the full International Women’s Strike platform here.
- Avoid shopping on that day, unless the business is local or women-owned.
- Can’t strike? Wear red to show your support.
- Men can participate by bringing up equal pay and paid family leave with decision-makers at work, leaning into housework and care work for children, and reflecting on their own expectations of women co-workers.
We’d love to hear your thoughts.
Photo by Jeff Fusco
I took a bit of a break due to a trip to the summer Olympics in Rio and a 9-day trip to London. Now that I am back from that travel, I plan to update the blog more regularly!
Over the summer I guided an older gentleman on a tour of CHOP. He had a special historical connection to the Hospital and has been a longtime supporter. I felt grateful for the opportunity to spend time with him since he is the retired CEO of a very successful company. Although he is no longer CEO, he remains on the board. Along the way, he had some good advice for me.
He told me the story behind hiring the CEO who replaced him. He said that he had two candidates, one who had the very best Ivy League School business credentials with an impeccable resume of experience. The second candidate he considered was someone from a less prestigious business school and not as experienced.
His company selected the second candidate for the role. Although he did not have the same pedigree, this former CEO told me that the board hired the second candidate simply because he embodied the company’s values.
His comment made me reflect on the organizational values where I work — Integrity, Compassion, Accountability, Respect and Excellence — and the importance of assessing those values in the people that I hire. Experience can be gained, but embracing and truly living your organizational values is what is most critical to success. When you hire people, reflect on your values and the values of the company where you work. Make certain that you ask questions and reference check to better understand how well your candidate embodies those values. Don’t get distracted from what’s important by placing all your focus on pedigree and experience.
I always tell people that everyone you hire is a reflection on you and an extension of your leadership. Ensuring that you surround yourself with people who espouse your values is an important foundational step toward making sure they represent you as the leader and the place where you work.
Sue Bell Yank is an arts organizer and writes about social practice in contemporary art. She has worked on the Watts House Project and was formerly the Assistant Director of Academic Programs at the Hammer Museum and the Director for Online Education at the Oprah Winfrey Network. She is currently the Director of Communications and Outreach at 18th Street Arts Center in Los Angeles.
Early on in my career in the arts, I worked at a small non-profit art gallery in Culver City for minimum wage, a couple of days a week. I was going to graduate school at the time, mostly to meet more people in the city and figure out where my place could be. One of my favorite professors was a New York transplant who had decided to make a go of it out west and start one of the most ambitious non-profit gallery programs in the city.
Working for her was not always easy – life is scrappy in a tiny arts non-profit. But the close quarters (literally – we were all squeezed into about 2 cubic yards of space in the “office”) gave me a front-row seat to how an arts organization can be run, and it was the best education I could have gotten. Artists screamed, curators cried, we laughed and drank (sometimes), we gossiped, and tried our very best to produce important contemporary art exhibitions.
But what she ultimately gave me was much more valuable than the 10 dollars an hour I was making. She was connected to a web of artists, students, and arts workers, and unconditionally generous with her contacts. Seeing any possible sparks of interest and commonality, she set about inserting me into this network so I could create threads of my own. One of these introductions was to Edgar Arceneaux, who was embarking on an ambitious community-engaged art project called Watts House Project, which combined arts, social justice, and community participation. Working on that project and all of its complications allowed me to find my place in the art world (supporting the work of socially-engaged artists), my own personal mission (access to arts education for all), and my next job at the Hammer Museum.
To be clear, I wish that I had been paid more, and I always have advocated (mostly unsuccessfully) for paying interns a living wage. However, it’s a sad reality that work in the arts thrives on unpaid or minimum wage entry level positions (a reality I have been complicit in), and this prevents many people who can’t otherwise afford to work for so little from rising up. But non-profits working on incredibly tight budgets have little choice – oftentimes free intern labor means the difference between creating world-class programs and closing up shop. So we trade on cultural capital – connections, community, reputation – in order to gain more clout and opportunity later in our careers.
Cultural capital worked for me, even through those lean years, because of the privileged position I was working from. I vowed I would mentor other young people rising up, connect them, and give them as much advice as I could – but also to advocate for more equity in the arts. I got the opportunity to do that at the Hammer, where much of my job included working with UCLA students as interns and Hammer Student Association members. It’s been one of my greatest pleasures to watch former students infiltrate the rest of the art world, spreading far and wide. Much of this was due to their own ingenuity and drive, but also to the professional opportunities they got at the Hammer. I also wrote more recommendation letters than I can count.
Early on, most of the questions I got were about how to meet people in the art world, how to get connected, how to get opportunities. But recently those questions have shifted a bit. As I grow older, the women I mentor have also grown older – in their mid to late twenties rather than just out of college. And these women are much more concerned about sustainability. How can a job in the art world actually pay enough money to live? How do I balance wanting to have children with a demanding career that more often than not invades your personal life?
I’m not sure what to tell them. The truth is, arts jobs do not pay well. I’m not sure they ever will. And things are not easy for a working mother of two young children in a field where trendsetters have little regard for the need to pick up your children from daycare, feed them, and kiss them goodnight.
The wonderful thing about the arts, though, is that in LA at least, it can be a rich community. There are ways to raise concerns with key members of your community and advocate for change. Many artists and arts administrators I have worked with are caring, thoughtful, social justice-minded people who are all in this together. They wrack their brains and argue about things like education equity, community cohesion, gentrification, gift-based economies…because oftentimes, the best art is about questioning the status quo and considering questions of equity. When I worked a brief stint in the entertainment industry, I missed that. I took a large pay cut to return to the arts, and I’m so much happier amongst my people. The line from the Metric song Other Side kept running through my head:
All we want is to feel like all we got didn’t cost us everything, even if we never win.”
I traded actual capital for social capital, and there found my way again. Forming, maintaining, and sharing a strong web of relationships, finding your community and your mission, and then advocating for yourself and your family in the midst of it is key to making it all work. Another wise former boss of mine told me to “Find your people, and bring new people in.” In any world, that’s possible.
I wanted to share this article from the Harvard Business Review, “To Seem Confident, Women Have to be Seen as Warm.”
It details a fascinating study which suggests that, in order to be viewed as confident (read: worthy of promotion), women need to display not only competence, but warmth and nurturing qualities. Men, on the other hand, are judged solely on the perception of competence.
This is a huge issue for women, workplace culture, and promotion practices. What do you think?
My youngest son will graduate from college next weekend. It sounds cliché but I find myself wondering where the time went.
My husband and I talked about traveling to Europe directly after the graduation. After providing a college education for seven children, we planned on celebrating our freedom from tuition payments by spending the equivalent of a semester of tuition on travel for ourselves. Well, plans are great, but then life happens and as it turns out, we are both too busy with work and family obligations, so we’ll defer the trip to another time. (We have committed to taking a shorter amount of time away for ourselves this summer.)
Seeing “my baby” graduate is a big transition for me. It has made me reflect on an earlier, very difficult transition: dropping him off at college in Chicago, four years ago. It was just before labor day weekend and, like the other children in our family, he did not want us to linger around campus. We had an evening flight scheduled that day, but at 10:30 in the morning he instructed us to take the empty moving boxes to the dorm’s trash chute and head on out. I was a bit hurt, but his behavior was exactly like all the others. He was saying, “Thanks for dropping me off but I need to get on with making friends and transitioning to a new chapter in my life.” It was a healthy response.
After dropping him off we headed home for the remainder of that Labor Day weekend. I found myself in tears. So much of my identity had been about being a mother. I was so used to coming home from work to children and all of joys and obligations associated with parenthood. My friends said, “you have a big job and a busy travel schedule, you should be relieved…you have so much more to fill your life…” But regardless of what they said, I was very sad. I could not even walk by my son’s room without shedding tears.
I headed to the dreaded grocery story while feeling sorry for myself. In the parking lot while I was loading groceries in my car, I ran into an acquaintance. She too had just dropped her son off at college but she was looking at this transition as an opportunity. She and her husband were heading to the Bruce Springsteen concert and then to a party at a friend’s house. They were excited to go out to dinner and start seeing movies again. The entire encounter was a “snap out of it” situation for me. On the ride home, I vowed to have a mental model shift in how I was seeing this life transition.
Now, with his graduation from college I am facing another transition, but I have been seeing it as an opportunity. Instead of dreading the change, I will help my son launch the next chapter of his life, just as I launch my next chapter.