You can do small things to help women succeed at the office. Here are 5 of them.

Barack Obama is probably the most feminist commander-in-chief we've ever had in the White House.

There are a ton of reasons why that claim is valid.

But I will say — prepare yourself, Obama fans — things weren't always easy for women staffers at the White House on the president's watch.

According to a report from The Washington Post, Obama's White House once looked a whole lot like most other White House staffs before it: a total boys' club.


"If you didn’t come in from [his presidential] campaign, it was a tough circle to break into," Anita Dunn, former White House communications director, told the outlet. "Given the makeup of the campaign, there were just more men than women."

This meant women had to work extra hard just to get a seat at the table (literally) and even harder for their voices to be heard.

Did the few women in the early Obama administration days crack under the pressure? Hardly. They strategized.

Using what they called "amplification," women staffers made a concerted effort to support one another. When a woman would make a key point at the office, another woman would make sure to reiterate its importance and value. This not only put more weight behind the idea, but also placed more emphasis on who voiced it in the first place (read: not a dude).

Their subtle, sort of sneaky, kind of brilliant plan worked.

The president noticed their initiative and began calling on more female staffers to take part in important discussions. Today, his inner circle is split evenly between men and women.

GIF via "Saturday Night Live."

Unfortunately, America's boys' club problem doesn't stop at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue.

Across the rest of the country, women are often overlooked for important roles they need to advance their careers, and business executives (who are disproportionately male) are less likely to try and build relationships with their female subordinates, which can hinder a woman's networking prospects.

You can't dismiss these inequalities when you look at the facts.

Women are the CEOs at only 4.4% of S&P 500 companies. They make up a disproportionate number of low-wage positions. And they continue to make far less money than their males peers.

We're better than this.

If those stats have you gunning for a punching bag, don't fret. Be part of the solution!

Here are five ways you can change the gender dynamics in your own workspace.

1. Become a vocal ally to the women at work. Heck, you'll benefit too.

I'm sure most of us can name off one or two (or a dozen) talented women we work with. Like the White House staffers learned, fighting alongside these women to make sure their skills and drive are recognized by managers doesn't just help them, it can help you too.

Doing things like, say, tossing out their names for big assignments or including them in important discussions can work out to be a total win-win.

GIF via "Lindsay."

"It will help your women colleagues have access to more opportunities," according to Jennifer Thorpe-Moscon, a director at Catalyst, an organization that advocates for women in the workforce. "And you will be recognized for identifying and nurturing top talent that helps your organization grow."

2. Provide "air cover" for women with risky ideas.

Let's face it: Bringing up bold, out-of-the-box ideas to your boss can be a very scary thing.

But these types of ideas can spur some of the best results and help bolster careers to new heights.

That's why providing women colleagues with "air cover" — protection and encouragement — when they have one of these ideas can be hugely helpful in empowering them to speak up, said Thorpe-Moscon. Let them know they have your support.

3. If you're a guy, be aware that sexism is still a very real thing in the workplace, and it often slips right under our radars.

Sexism is still affecting women at the office — in ways both big and small — and it's probably far more harmful than we even realize.

Men, you can especially help in curbing this behavior.

If you're a dude, don't shy away from defending your women colleagues. Speak up when you hear a misogynistic joke or see a woman getting left out of a critical conversation.

GIF via "Lord of the Rings."

And make sure to actually listen when someone needs your help.

"Men can listen to women and trust their experiences [to promote gender equality]," said Thorpe-Moscon. "When women in your company tell you they’re being excluded, take their concerns seriously and work to fix them."

4. Recognize that women from disadvantaged groups face even more barriers to success, and fight to change that too.

Minority women, in particular, face big obstacles even just getting a seat at the table, let alone climbing their way up to managerial roles. Unfortunately, negative stereotypes and a lack of trust between workers of color and managers play roles in this discrepancy.

Some may call that racism, others may call that unconscious bias (I call it both). Either way, it's flat-out wrong that talented women of color are overlooked for positions and promotions every single day because of the color of their skin.

GIF via "How to Get Away With Murder."

Even though there are ways women can fight to overcome these challenges at the individual level, we must recognize there's a larger problem at play.

"The leadership gender gap is significant, persistent and systemic," reports a 2016 study from the American Association of University Women on this issue. "Individual choices alone simply will not solve the problem."

In order to rework the systems that leave many women of color out, we may need to start some conversations in our own work environments — and yes, fellow white people, they may even be uncomfortable (we generally hate talking about race, after all). But they're necessary.

Reach out to make sure women of color feel supported and valued in your office (remember #1 and #2 on this list?), and assure them they have an ally in you.

5. If you're a woman, don't be afraid to be yourself — even if the world's suggesting otherwise.

There's a ton of patriarchal pressure on women to act (and look) a certain way, and this pressure can understandably bleed into your work space. Entrepreneur Zeynep Ilgaz, however, learned that simply being authentic can be a real asset — not to mention it's good for business.

"When I started my company, I thought that if I acted tough, I’d achieve more success," she wrote in Forbes. "I wore pants to work and rarely dared to talk about my family. But one day, I decided to stop pretending. I started talking about my family with customers, and to my surprise, people began relating to me, our relationships grew stronger, and the company culture became unbelievably transparent."

You being you can help other women around you be themselves, too.

We have to get better at guaranteeing equal and inclusive work environments for women.

Down the road, this conversation will (hopefully) feel dated and unnecessary. Maybe we'll have equal pay. Maybe we'll have equal representation amongst our business leaders. Maybe we can declare success.

But until that day, we need to keep fighting for what's right. And it starts with us.

GIF via "Modern Family."

Several years ago, you wouldn't have known what QAnon was unless you spent a lot of time reading through comments on Twitter or frequented internet chat rooms. Now, with prominent Q adherents making headlines for storming the U.S. Capitol and elements of the QAnon worldview spilling into mainstream politics, the conspiracy theory/doomsday cult has become a household topic of conversation.

Many of us have watched helplessly as friends and family members fall down the rabbit hole, spewing strange ideas about Democrats and celebrities being pedophiles who torture children while Donald Trump leads a behind-the-scenes roundup of these evil Deep State actors. Perfectly intelligent people can be susceptible to conspiracy theories, no matter how insane, which makes it all the more frustrating.

A person who was a true believer in QAnon mythology (which you can read more about here) recently participated in an "Ask Me Anything" thread on Reddit, and what they shared about their experiences was eye-opening. The writer's Reddit handle is "diceblue," but for simplicity's sake we'll call them "DB."

DB explained that they weren't new to conspiracy theories when QAnon came on the scene. "I had been DEEP into conspiracy for about 8 years," they wrote. "Had very recently been down the ufo paranormal rabbit hole so when Q really took off midterm for trump I 'did my research' and fell right into it."

DB says they were a true believer until a couple of years ago when they had an experience that snapped them out of it:

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If the past year has taught us nothing else, it's that sending love out into the world through selfless acts of kindness can have a positive ripple effect on people and communities. People all over the United States seemed to have gotten the message — 71% of those surveyed by the World Giving Index helped a stranger in need in 2020. A nonprofit survey found 90% helped others by running errands, calling, texting and sending care packages. Many people needed a boost last year in one way or another and obliging good neighbors heeded the call over and over again — and continue to make a positive impact through their actions in this new year.

Welcometoterranova and P&G Good Everyday wanted to help keep kindness going strong, so they partnered up to create the Lead with Love Fund. The fund awards do-gooders in communities around the country with grants to help them continue on with their unique missions. Hundreds of nominations came pouring in and five winners were selected based on three criteria: the impact of action, uniqueness, and "Welcometoterranova-ness" of their story.

Here's a look at the five winners:

Edith Ornelas, co-creator of Mariposas Collective in Memphis, Tenn.

Edith Ornelas has a deep-rooted connection to the asylum-seeking immigrant families she brings food and supplies to families in Memphis, Tenn. She was born in Jalisco, Mexico, and immigrated to the United States when she was 7 years old with her parents and sister. Edith grew up in Chicago, then moved to Memphis in 2016, where she quickly realized how few community programs existed for immigrants. Two years later, she helped create Mariposas Collective, which initially aimed to help families who had just been released from detention centers and were seeking asylum. The collective started out small but has since grown to approximately 400 volunteers.

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Two weeks ago, we watched a pro-Trump mob storm the U.S. Capitol in an attempt to overthrow the results of a U.S. election and keep Donald Trump in power. And among those insurrectionists were well-known adherents of QAnon, nearly every image of the crowd shows people wearing Q gear or carrying Q flags, and some of the more frightening elements we saw tie directly into QAnon beliefs.

Since hints of it first started showing up in social media comments several years ago, I've been intrigued—and endlessly frustrated—by the phenomenon of QAnon. At first, it was just a few fringey whacko conspiracy theorists I could easily roll my eyes at and ignore, but as I started seeing elements of it show up more and more frequently from more and more people, alarm bells started ringing.

Holy crap, there are a lot of people who actually believe this stuff.

Eventually, it got personal. A QAnon adherent on Twitter kept commenting on my tweets, pushing bizarro Q ideas on many of my posts. The account didn't use a real name, but the profile was classic QAnon, complete with the #WWG1WGA. ("Where we go one, we go all"—a QAnon rallying cry.) I thought it might be a bot, so I blocked them. Later, I discovered that it was actually one of my own extended family members.

Holy crap, I actually know people who actually believe this stuff.

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Images via Canva and Unsplash

If there's one thing that everyone can agree on, it's that being in a pandemic sucks.

However, we seem to be on different pages as to what sucks most about it. Many of us are struggling with being separated from our friends and loved ones for so long. Some of us have lost friends and family to the virus, while others are dealing with ongoing health effects of their own illness. Millions are struggling with job loss and financial stress due to businesses being closed. Parents are drowning, dealing with their kids' online schooling and lack of in-person social interactions on top of their own work logistics. Most of us hate wearing masks (even if we do so diligently), and the vast majority of us are just tired of having to think about and deal with everything the pandemic entails.

Much has been made of the mental health impact of the pandemic, which is a good thing. We need to have more open conversations about mental health in general, and with everything so upside down, it's more important now than ever. However, it feels like pandemic mental health conversations have been dominated by people who want to justify anti-lockdown arguments. "We can't let the cure be worse than the disease," people say. Kids' mental health is cited as a reason to open schools, the mental health challenges of financial despair as a reason to keep businesses open, and the mental health impact of social isolation as a reason to ditch social distancing measures.

It's not that those mental health challenges aren't real. They most definitely are. But when we focus exclusively on the mental health impact of lockdowns, we miss the fact that there are also significant mental health struggles on the other side of those arguments.

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