Women Who Lead: Activism Through an Intersectional Lens – Panelist Mahreen Ansari

By Mia Lukic

Tune into the “Women Who Lead” Panel Discussion for an invigorating conversation with a panel of diverse group of local women leaders, Thursday November 5, 2020 6:00 – 7:30 pm

Use the link below to register

https://bit.ly/37Q8EMi

As the event gets closer, and even as the event passes we would like to highlight our panelist for their extraoridnary work in our community, and for their extraordinary work in this event! The first panelist we would like to highlight is Mahreen Ansari, a junior at UMKC pursuing her undergraduate degree. Mahreen is studying Political Science and International Studies with a Pre-Law emphasis. Vice President of both the Student Government Association and UMKC’s College Democrats chapter, Mahreen is passionate about climate justice and is a community organizer with Sunrise Movement Kansas City. Through her climate justice work with Sunrise Movement Kansas City, she hopes to create space within environmentalism for BIPOC (Black, Indigenous, People of Color) and other traditionally excluded groups. We had a chance to sit down with Mahreen one on one and ask her some more in-depth questions about her work in the community. The following is that interview!

 

What motivates you to keep working towards justice in a time where the country is so divided, and many people choose to reject the realities of social issues and/or scientific fact?

For a long time, I always felt like “well someone has to do the work!” But with a global pandemic and the beginning of the uprisings this summer, I have felt so burnt out because I just have been doing and feeling a lot. So, I have shifted my thought process to “someone has to start it” and I’ve just been rolling with that. I feel like with that thought process it’s easier to recognize that work must be done and it’s important that all of us find ways to contribute to this rather than just taking it all on by ourselves. Being a part of different organizations that are dedicated to different aspects of the fight for social justice as well as having friends who are as committed to this fight as much as I am helps so much because you don’t feel alone. It’s important to recognize the importance in the work you do and having a support system for yourself. I know that, for many of us, we are living in shocking times where it feels like it can’t get any worse, but honestly, the people who came before us have survived this, and worse, and that resilience is something that we have inherited from our predecessors. I always try to think of my support system, my work, and my ancestors to keep myself motivated. I do want to remind everyone though that rest is necessary, and you shouldn’t feel ashamed for taking time for yourself.

How does your intersectional identity as a woman impact your outlook on the world and certain issues?

My femme identity gives me a broader outlook on the world, in the sense that I’m marginalized for it so it pushes me to want to build coalitions with people who are marginalized in the same or similar ways. It reminds me that all of these struggles are interconnected, and that the fight for social justice can only truly be won if we all work together. I also understand the how, where, and why women and femmes are marginalized in the ways we are because of that firsthand marginalization I experience from this identity, which helps me better recognize ways to battle it and advocate on my behalf.

What would you say to young female leaders who are just starting on their path to leadership?

I would encourage young women and femmes who are just starting on their path to leadership to stay true to who they are. We exist in a world where we’re encouraged to dilute our beliefs or practices to be more digestible for people, but that’s not why you exist. You should never have to dress a certain way to be taken seriously, or sound more polite when you speak so that people listen. We need to create and work on the world we want and that doesn’t happen through compromising who we are. Don’t be afraid to take up space in places dominated by men or masculine people because you have just as much, if not more, of a right to exist in those spaces. If you are criticized for how you react or interact within those male or masculine dominated spaces don’t let it phase you because the “criticism” that you’re facing has a large chance of being based off of negative biases.

Are there any programs/projects you are currently working on that you would like to mention?

I have two things I want to shout out. First, in my work as Vice President of Student Government Association at UMKC I have been working with the Office of Student Involvement and the Collegiate Panhellenic Council to bring in an outside organization to put together a workshop based around diversity and inclusion for students. It’ll give students the opportunity to engage in real introspection and critical reflection and explore the fluidity and ubiquity of race in American society. I’m so excited for this and I want to encourage all students to RSVP for it, the event is on RooGroups under “2020 Inclusive Student Leadership Retreat”. Second, I want to shoutout Sunrise Movement Kansas City, the climate justice organization that I organize with, for the amazing work they do. We’ve been working on pushing City Hall to pass a Green New Deal resolution for Kansas City that will not only push Kansas City to be a greener city but also to make sure that in that transition everyone in Kansas City is being accounted for and taken care of in it. I do a lot of the digital graphics for Sunrise Movement Kansas City which has pushed me to start my own series which explores a lot of race-related history and issues of Kansas City.

Where can people go to learn more about the work you do?

If you’re interested in joining or finding out more about Sunrise Movement Kansas City, you can check out our social media, all of our handles are @sunrisemvmtkc. If you’re interested in checking out the graphics I made about race-related history and issues in Kansas City, you can check out my personal Instagram @exotik.queen where I post my content.

 

Be sure to register to see Mahreen in the Women Who Lead Panel and keep checking in to learn about the other panelists!

Two Steps Forward, A Hundred Steps Back

 

By Abbie Lewis

As if this pandemic hasn’t caused enough trouble, women all around the world are once again being set back. An article in the New York Times discusses how women with children make up much of the unemployed people right now. Women make up 56% of the overall job loss due to COVID, even though, before the pandemic, they only made up 43% of the overall workforce. Experts theorize this is due to the already struggling stance of women in the workforce, as well as the overall societal expectation that women are still responsible for the care of the household and children. With daycares and schools closing or switching to all virtual, someone must stay home with the kids and in most cases, it’s the woman. With everything women have going against them in the world, this seems to just be another obstacle that will set us back.

I know what some of you are wondering: Are gender roles really still that relevant? The answer probably varies on who you ask, but the reality of the situation is, there is still a wage gap between men and women in the workforce, and there is still an expectation placed on women to be the caretaker of the home, which is why men have been slower to step down from their positions at work to help with child care during this pandemic. Why must it always be the woman who steps back in her career choices if it comes down to one parent in a heterosexual marriage needing to? It’s not just men being unreasonable, the answer is also entangled in some institutionalized issues. Such as, in America, it only becomes harder for a woman to get another job once they’ve become unemployed, even if it is because of a pandemic. A 2018 study found that even after 1 year of unemployment women stand to lose 39% of their wage. That is on top of the gap they already face by just being a woman when compared to their male counterparts. I guess it would make sense for the one who makes the most money to continue their job, and that is often the male, which is a whole other discussion relating to how women are still behind in society.

With this year being the 100th year anniversary since women were given the right to vote, you would think we’d be further in society than we are. While the pandemic was certainly a shocker that we didn’t think would ever happen, even without it, women fight daily for the chance to be held as high as men are, in society, but especially in the workforce. As a woman, it makes me want to fight harder than ever and do whatever I can to make a name for myself and all my fellow ladies everywhere. This pandemic is just another hurdle we must jump over, but let’s jump super high and show everyone what we’re capable of!

 

COVID-19’s Impact on Women

By Jordan Tunks

COVID-19 is impacting everyone, but it is impacting women in a different way than men. When the shutdown began in March of 2020, things like restaurants, shopping centers, and movie theaters were being shut down one after another. These industries are employed mostly by women causing the unemployment rate of women to increase dramatically. According to Forbes.com, women accounted for 55% of workers that became unemployed in April compared to men at 13%.

When the shutdown first began, childcare was not deemed as an essential service. This left many mothers in a predicament many men were not put in. This created a burden on women to figure out what to do with their children while they went to work, forcing some women to have to take off work and stay at home. This could lead to more problems at work if they were having to call off multiple times in a row. Fortunately, childcare was deemed essential after a month or so into the pandemic so these mothers and childcare workers could resume their schedule.

The COVID-19 pandemic has also impacted women’s mental health more than men. According to Forbes.com, 52% of COVID-related stress has had a negative impact on women compared to 37% of men. This pandemic has been hard on women in multiple ways, from figuring out childcare to losing a job and having to find another source of income. Men did not have as much of a setback as women, especially when it comes to employment. Many male dominated occupations were deemed a necessity, allowing them to continue working though the months of shut down. Men also typically hold higher positions at work, presenting them with the opportunity to work from home, which many women did not get. Due to these situations, women were and are being affected in very different ways than men during this pandemic. Do you feel like Covid-19 disproportionately affected you?

Loving Someone with Depression

By Elise Wantling

I have struggled with depression on and off, (but mostly on) for the majority of the past decade. My partner has struggled with it for even longer than that, probably close to 15 years now. We have been part of each other’s lives for a little over two years as of writing, and together we have taken turns caring for one another when the depression brain takes over and things seem too hard to bear.

First, let me explain what depression is. Depression is a catch-all term for a couple different mood disorders. The most common type (according to Harvard Health) is major depression, also known as clinical depression, which would be classified as the “worst” type, that carries with it changes to your sleep patterns, lack of energy, feelings of worthlessness, and suicidal thoughts and feelings. This can last for years before it goes away, if it ever does. There is also persistent depressive disorder/dysthymia, which is basically “depression lite”. It comes with most of the same symptoms as major depressive disorder, but they aren’t as intense or long lasting. It is characterized by a “low mood” lasting at least two years. The third kind is seasonal affective disorder (SAD), which occurs during the fall and winter. I’d rank it as the “least bad” on the scale, as it usually isn’t as intense as major depression or PDD and only lasts a few months of the year.

There are other types of mood disorders or personality disorders that depression can fall into, but these three are the most common. Ryan, (my partner) and I both have standalone depression diagnosis (we both have clinical depression/MDD), but we both have other mental health issues as well (one of which is anxiety, which often comes alongside depression). We are both currently seeking treatment for our depression, taking meds and seeing our own therapists, but that isn’t always enough to keep the depression at bay. Depression can manifest in a number of ways, but for Ryan and me it manifests in a similar way. First, it starts with the gradual decline in energy. I’ll notice he sleeps more and seems less present during his waking hours. He wants to go out less and stay in more. When he sleeps, it’s restless and full of nightmares. He becomes disinterested in his hobbies, he stops helping around the house, his life starts to become a cycle of work and sleep with very little in between. It starts out slow, and gradually gets worse, and usually manages to escape detection until we reach a breaking point of either me or him getting frustrated with his lack of ability to function.

Then it usually hits us: the depression fairy visits and casts a nasty spell. This usually leads to a conversation about how he’s been feeling, which will reveal that emotionally he’s doing about as well as he is functionally (which is to say not doing well at all). We then draft a game plan: first, an appointment to get meds adjusted. Second, investigate therapy options if he isn’t already actively in therapy. Third, get back on a healthy eat/sleep/work schedule, making sure no meals are missed and that there is a healthy level of sleep being accomplished, not too little but also not too much. We check in daily on emotional levels, having candid conversations about suicidal thoughts or feelings and feelings of worthlessness or not being good enough. Little by little, together, we pull him out of the dark hole he has fallen into. Sometimes it takes just a few weeks, sometimes it takes a few months, but eventually he is able to wake up one day and tell me that everything is alright again.

It’s not always him that gives into the depression. Sometimes, just as often as it happens to him really, it happens to me. We’ve been lucky so far in that when one of us has needed to be carried for a bit the other has had the strength to do the carrying. In the beginning of our relationship I often worried what would happen if we both fell victim to depression at the same time. What I have learned is that love has given us the ability to rally when needed. Some days, even when I can’t manage to care much for myself, I find the strength and energy in me to care for him, and vice versa, he does that for me. I am by no means saying our love or our relationship has cured our depression. But I am saying it has made things more bearable. Through my relationship with Ryan I have found someone I can confide in and share my struggles with, who truly gets them and can relate. Someone who shares the feeling of triumph when after weeks of dragging yourself out of bed you finally wake up and find yourself excited to face a new day instead of dreading it. He reminds me to take my meds and takes me to my doctor appointments. He rejoices in my joy, and holds me in my sorrow, and I likewise am able to do that for him.

Loving someone with depression when you have depression isn’t easy. Some days it feels like the cycle of depression will never end. Other days, you feel like you’re free of it forever.  Just like every relationship, a relationship that is touched by depression still requires love, trust, and communication. It can be incredibly challenging, but also deeply fulfilling. Even with its’ challenges though, I wouldn’t trade my relationship for the world, and for those of you who can relate, I hope you can say the same.

New Year, New Goals

By Korrien Hopkins

It’s a New Year and, like many other women, I have goals I’m looking forward to accomplishing in 2017. I have made New Year’s resolutions many years in the past, many that I forgot quickly in the weeks following January first. I know for a fact setting realistic goals and taking it day-by-day will lead to great success in the New Year. Often we make these resolutions, but we don’t make plans. light-person-woman-fireA goal with a plan is merely a thought. Most of the time we act as if we need to make these drastic changes to our lives, but in reality we just need to make improvements that come with time and growth. As women, we are always told by society that we must act and look a certain way. Pressure is already put on us by society, so why put more on ourselves? I think the only thing women should change this year are the things we care about. As women, we are told to care for and about everything. This year, I challenge women everywhere to put their mental health first and care a little less about everything else and more about themselves.

Here are a few of my favorite quotes for women to take into the New Year:

“Ditch the resolutions.

To resolve means to find a solution to a problem.

You are not a problem

The way you showed up for your life the past year was necessary for your growth.

Now is a time to reflect. To learn.

To create an intention, a positive call to shift,

A spark of magic + manifestation

Rooted in self-love

and backed with action.” – Unknown

 

“You must do the things you think you cannot do.” – Eleanor Roosevelt

 

“A New Year is the beginning of anything you want.

Let the past be over and get ready

for a new adventure.” – Unknown

 

“Life is sweeter if you make yourself do uncomfortable things.” – Helen Gurley Brown

 

Click here for more inspiring quotes from projecteve.com.

Also take a look at these awesome articles:

7 Women Share The Best New Year’s Resolutions They Ever Stuck With

31 New & Improved 2017 New Year’s Resolutions From Female Celebs Who Know What’s Up

Shrink Your Stress!

Source: Google Images Through Creative Commons

Source: Google Images Through Creative Commons

By Jesse Bihlmeyer

Yikes! Thanksgiving break has come and gone – now, it’s almost finals week. I’ve been studying, cramming, and spending countless hours immersed in my books in order to come out of finals on top. The multitude of finals, essays, and projects swamp us students in stress – making this time incredibly difficult to manage social, personal, and interpersonal relationships.

But at the Women’s Center, we facilitated an art workshop as a way to help students balance the pressure of finals with the pressures of life. On the December 5, 2014 we created shrink art and self-care coupons and asked students to join. We made shrink art (Shrinky Dinks) for a relaxation session that people deserved. People had the opportunity to take all of their wonderful de-stress ideas and create them on shrink art to prepare themselves for the hectic end of the semester.

This was a chance to think about something happy, something relaxing, and was also something that students could give themselves – which they did not need to buy. In addition, people had the opportunity to design self-care coupons they can give to themselves (or others) during finals week to take a break from the stress- it may have been a break from studying, a bath, free T.V. time, a long chat with a friend, or quiet time! It’s important to remember that part of being a successful student means making time for yourself.

Should Women Become Doctors?

image from Flickr

By Patsy Campos

Because women have traditionally been the primary caretakers of their families, work/life balance is always a challenge. In a recent editorial, Dr. Karen Sibert argues that in the medical profession (especially for doctors), women may find it harder to actually find a balance between their home life and their medical practice.  She advises women to seriously consider their career choice before even going to medical school. 

Dr. Sibert feels that because so many women doctors are choosing to work part-time or leave the medical profession altogether due to family demands, the United States is on its way to a doctor shortage. She thinks that many women need to be more committed to their careers as doctors because, unlike other careers, doctors are responsible for the lives of their patients; therefore, they are always needed. Dr. Sibert’s claims are backed by studies that show that there has been an increase in the number of doctors who work only part-time or who leave the medical profession. Moreover, most of those doctors have been women. Besides the commitment doctors have to their patients, Dr. Sibert also feels that doctors have a responsibility to taxpayers whose taxes subsidize the medical schools and teaching hospitals that educate and train them.

Dr. Sibert’s article has received many comments on this issue, both in her support and opposing her. In every profession working women are challenged with balancing family life and work life, but the medical profession may be one that makes finding this balance more challenging for women doctors.  Should women doctors put more commitment into their careers and patients than their families? Or is it possible for a woman doctor to have both a successful career and a happy family? I think that, for years, men have been able to have successful careers as doctors, and women should be able to do the same. Whether her success is defined as a full-time doctor/part-time mother, part-time doctor/ full-time mother, or any combination of the two, it is an individual choice for a woman to make both aspects (work and family) fit into her life. Furthermore, she should be able to make this choice without being judged about her commitment to her career or to her family.

2011 Women of Color Leadership Conference

By Maritza Gordillo

Image copyright: WOCLC, (2011).

The University of Missouri-Kansas City’s Division of Diversity, Access & Equity (DDAE) and the Division of Student Affairs & Enrollment Management will host their 6th Annual Women of Color Leadership Conference (WOCLC) starting on Thursday, April 28th. This conference started off as the Black Women Leaders Conference, which focused on issues affecting black women. Now the conference is devoted to all women of color with the addition of young women in high school and college. WOCLC is free and open to the public and is a great way to gain confidence in areas of education, career development, leadership and health/wellness and how to use that empowerment as a tool in the future. Deputy Chancellor of the DDAE, Karen Dace, PhD., says that they have “…invested in providing a network to improve the participation and involvement of Women of Color in all communities by providing programs that improve communication, collaboration, and action.”

As a Latina college student, I am so glad that we have events that focus on women like me who struggle in many ways to succeed in college and in our future careers. The WOCLC will kick off its three day event with a conference for college students that will be held on April 28th at 9 a.m. and the conference for high school girls will be on April 29th at 9 a.m. The conference for adult women will be on May 12th at 7:30 a.m. All events will be held at the Pierson Auditorium, UMKC University Center, 5000 Holmes.

Who Does She Think She Is?

"Following Chicken George," by Nedra Bonds

By Arzie Umali

Last night about 150 people gathered at the Event Space at JavaPort in the Kansas City Crossroads Arts District for a private opening of the group art exhibit Who Does She Think She Is?  Artists, patrons, supporters and friends of the UMKC Women’s Center enjoyed live music by local musician Elaine McMillian, spoken word performances by Cheri Woods and “MissConception” and dance performances by the group Assemblé.  They also got a sneak preview of the exhibit that officially opens tonight for First Fridays and features artwork by 26 local female artists.

The exhibit is part of the UMKC Women’s Center’s Her Art Project, a series of programs that strive to bring equity to women who work in all disciplines of artistic expression. By asking the question Who Does She Think She Is? the art exhibit hopes to recognize women for their artistic achievements and to  raise awareness to the unique challenges that women face as they try to meet the demands of family, careers, and artistic fulfillment.  Other Her Art Project events taking place in the month of April include a panel discussion about balancing work and life with creative careers at the KC Public Library on April 12 and an Artist Salon addressing the state of women in the arts in Kansas City on April 27.  More information about these programs and the Her Art Project can be found on the Her Art Project Website

Please support Kansas City’s women artists by stopping by the First Friday opening tonight at the Event Space at JavaPort, 208 W. 19th St. from 6 – 9 pm. If you can’t make it tonight, the exhibit will be up through May 13 with another First Friday opening on May 6.

Working Mothers Face the Motherhood Penalty

 By Patsy Campos

Image from Flickr.com

Many women dream of that moment that they become mothers.  For many women this is a happy time, as it should be. But for many working mothers, they are finding a work environment that can be somewhat hostile, unfair, and even sexist.  But why is there so much discrimination towards mothers when it comes to careers?  Why do people degrade something that is a natural part of some women’s lives?

 Society tends to makes its own rules.  I recently came across an article that addressed this issue; I cannot believe how unfair some people are towards working mothers.  Joan Williams, a professor of law at the University of California said that according to a recent study, mothers are 79% less likely to be hired and 100% less likely to get promoted.  Also the study found that mothers are assumed to be less competent than non-mothers.  Who created this mess? 

As I searched through people’s responses in the study I found one that struck me: “the economy needs people who will be there every day and not miss work because of a sick child.”  Just because someone is a parent, it does not mean that they are going to miss work.  People shouldn’t be so quick to make assumptions and to draw conclusions; furthermore, why are they so quick to make this assumption about a working mom, but not a dad. I remember my parents always were at work and received perfect attendance. 

What is sad here is that not only do women have to consider how many children to have or when to have them when it comes to their careers, but whether or not to have children at all because apparently being a mother looks bad to employers.  I believe being a parent should not hinder anybody in the job market. 

We are in the new millennium and it surprises me that people are still discriminating for very foolish reasons.  Many working mothers are very resilient and adaptable – they work, attend school, take care of their families, and still fit in some social life.  That is impressive and it shows determination which is an important quality employers should be looking for.  Working mothers need the support from society and employers who can see the benefits of hiring a working mom and not just the draw backs.  We should eliminate the assumptions about working moms and the motherhood penalty, so that women can make choices about motherhood without worrying about the impact on their jobs.

To hear more about work/life balance, join us for the Starr Community Conversation, “The Three Faces of Work-Family Conflict: The Poor, the Professionals, and the Missing Middle,” on Tuesday, November 9, at 5:45 p.m. at Bruce R. Watkins Cultural Heritage Center. The conversation will take a deeper, diversified look at local stories of the work/life balance struggles of Kansas City’s “three faces.”