Practice self-compassion, build resilience, and set boundaries: What advice do you have for women in 2021?
As we approach the one-year anniversary of the start of the pandemic and studies continue to show that the social and economic impacts of the crisis are falling harder on women, we asked the THNK Community: What advice do you have for women in 2021?
Start where you stand
“As someone who works on women’s rights, people often ask me what they can do to support the movement. We’re awake – and angry – and anxious for change. Women already do so much, we don’t need to take on this additional burden as well. I tell people – EVERYONE – to start where they stand, to channel their energy into action in the spaces they occupy – at home, at work, with their families. This isn’t just for women – it’s for all of us. The sooner we see that this is our collective responsibility, the more likely we are to achieve it. I cannot believe that women’s rights and equality are still on the agenda, still up for debate, still not understood and accepted. How are we even still talking about this?!
I have spent 25 years working in humanitarian settings for women’s rights – mostly on ending sexual violence – in places like Afghanistan, Haiti, Mali, Chad, and so on. That’s one way to do the work – but there are others. It’s about our micro-actions and about how we stand up for other women; how we create space for younger women – or any women who are left out; how we model behavior for our friends, our children, anyone. My advice for those who want to take this on is to start where you stand – small actions will make a big difference.” – Lina Abirafeh (AMS Class 11), Executive Director at The Arab Institute for Women at the Lebanese American University
Recognize your strength
“To every woman and especially to social entrepreneurs, please recognize your strength and your impact. Working with social entrepreneurs across the globe for 18 years made me realize that women’s impact must be recognized, elevated, and respected. When women change laws at the national level, they scale-up and affect millions at that moment of history but also millions of others in the future. When they change mindsets and beliefs, they actually scale deep improving the lives of generations to come.” – Iman Bibars (AMS Class 12), Vice President of Ashoka Global
Treat yourself like someone you love
“Treat yourself like someone you love. That’s my advice to myself for 2021. Go ahead, be a little ‘selfish’ and do something for yourself every day. And when things get overwhelming – and they will – do the opposite of what you’d normally do. Shake your system up. It always works. In my days of doubt, when my inner critic is convincing me that I’m no good, I try to help someone else – because what you want to heal, always heals you. Allow it. Find peace in your own storms. Trust yourself unconditionally.” – Sushma Joseph (AMS Class 16), Advertising & Broadcast Professional
Set boundaries (and stick to them)
“Boundaries – and the ability to set, keep, and honor them – is inexplicably woven into self-care and well-being. One of the biggest consequences of COVID-19 and the lockdowns was that boundaries fell like dominoes at the first poke from people we cared about. While women lost the majority of paid work globally, from sex work to the service industry to executive-level positions, they gained the majority of unpaid labor at home. The only way to manage and mitigate all the external factors beyond human control is to set and keep boundaries with all family members, especially other adults in the home. Decide who will be in charge of food shopping and prep. Decide who checks on family and do not accept excuses from others. Make charts if you must.
The onus cannot be on one person to carry the socio-emotional burden of the whole family. While this crisis has shown how unequal our systems of coping are, it has shone a huge light on what needs to change moving forward. Women can teach all children to do laundry and to prepare basic food and snacks. Women can now take time away from families to regroup and re-coup emotional well-being. Make no mistake: If systems are to change, it will be on us to change them.” – Indrani Goradia (AMS Class 15), Founder of Indrani’s Light Foundation
“What does 2021 mean for us? In one word: RESILIENCE – the ability to bounce back. COVID-19 has changed our regular way of working, where we all have had to adapt to a new digital way of working. The advantage of this hybrid model lies in the opportunities now open to us – a marketplace that is no longer defined by geography but by access to the internet. For me, personally, in my work with my nonprofit to empower girls in India, this access has allowed me to reach out to organizations across India, to build on community expertise, to create new ways to fundraise and raise awareness, and to build on these new learnings.
Sure, there have been challenges and even moments of doubt and fear along the way – but if my life’s journey has taught me anything, it is this: When we choose to challenge, to be resilient, we not only make a commitment to our vision, but we take action to create new pathways that lead us to new opportunities. So, celebrate the small successes, put yourself in situations that enable you to grow as a person and learn to look outside of yourself, your thoughts and emotions, because you are not alone.” – Smita Suchde Grütter (AMS Class 15), Founder of HEMLATA
Prioritize your own fulfilment and joy
“The pandemic has shown us how much more value women add in the workplace, community, and home, than we are appreciated for. My advice for women in 2021 is to appreciate themselves more; notice and acknowledge everywhere that you are adding value and celebrate yourself for it. Also, prioritize your own fulfillment and joy; be selective about how you invest your energy and definitely invest more of it into yourself. It’s okay to say no and to be more sustainable with your energy and time. The more fulfilled women are, the better it is for organizations, communities, and families.” – Melissa Mbugua (AMS Class 12), Co-Director of Africa Podfest
Be the boss in your own financial life
“Dare to let go at home – at least practice. Let your partner contribute more and realize that you are not dispensable. If you work part-time or you are a stay-at-home mother for a period of time, I suggest that you agree with your partner that he will pay you a basic salary and pension to even things out. Start to save in a fund every month. Make sure you own your house and/or car together. Don’t be the one that works part-time so he can focus on his higher-paid job. Be the boss in your own financial life.
I think it is our turn to go out and create a situation that is exciting and prosperous for us. We carried a lot of the load in 2020 and this year, the weight should tilt so that the men who are at home these days step up. Nurture your soul, stay engaged, stay active, and try not to let restrictions and the circumstances we are in pacify you.” – Siri Warren (AMS Class 3), Innovation Consultant at DoPurpose Design and SoCentral
“In moments of crisis, there are also opportunities. Women should stand their ground. It is up to us to take a leap. Maybe this is the moment for us to think bigger. That project or that vision you had in mind – it may be worth exploring as organizations and people become more flexible.” – Mayi Cruz Blanco (AMS Class 12), Global Head of Athlete Programs at The Adecco Group
Look at the whole system
“I think that we are inherently conditioned to serve others before we serve ourselves. And what COVID and this reframing of the world have invited us to do is to have radical self-love and to remain unapologetic in our visioning for ourselves and for our communities in the world around us; we are powerful beyond measure. And we have a new opportunity to architect the future from a feminine perspective. I personally went to THNK to educate myself, biohack myself, reboot myself, on all systems – physical, mental, spiritual, emotional, and I landed after THNK really committed to feminine design strategy. It is a new systems approach to help solve world problems, not based on gender, but purely on values. And I think that feminine values are accessible for men and women and all people, but really allows us to think not about quick-fix solutions or from top-down agendas, but really from a more holistic approach and an inclusive approach and an endurance mindset where it takes time. I think the other big factor is that we don’t live in a single issue, society, or world. We’ve recognized the enormous complexity of systems.
And so the feminine design strategy for me is about looking at the whole system. I personally think for celebrating Women’s Day and International Women’s Month that we have an opportunity to amplify, showcase, and reveal the true essence of what it means to be creatives who want to have influence in the world where everyone is a stakeholder, not just those that are privileged; that we have a right to engage and create movements around the world and different issues that we deeply care about, because it will take a holistic approach to solve the problems. And on International Women’s Day, what better unveiling to support and invite feminine design strategy to solve some of these problems?” – Ami Becker Aronson (AMS Class 15), Lead Feminine Design Strategist at Bernstein Family Foundation
Align within to lead the emergent world with love and courage
“While the pandemic may have reversed some or much of the progress made over centuries, my first message to you, fellow women, is to keep rising! Maya Angelou wrote, ‘Just like moons and like suns / With the certainty of tides / Just like hopes springing high / Still I’ll rise.’
May we always remember that we have, throughout history, cared for all life and the living, shown extraordinary ingenuity, resilience, integrity, courage, empathy, generosity, and made big changes happen inside and out with much humility.
As the ‘great turning’ is underway, it is imperative that we tap into this precious wealth within us to nurture the soil of our inter-being on this planet, to pump love in all the arteries of life, to bridge and cross-pollinate in unprecedented ways, and to raise generations of changemakers and earth stewards. This is my second message to you! I, therefore, invite you to respect and sync in with nature, integrate wellbeing into your life, practice self-compassion, embrace uncertainty, dare greatly, and take the time for your inner journey, to heal and lead collectively, the thriving living ecosystems on our most precious home. May we all see that there is no ‘other’; We are all one!” – Nadia Sandi (AMS Class 16), Social Innovation & Entrepreneurship Strategist
Recognizing your privilege: How men can better support women
“Gender equality should be a topic where men are involved. We talk about parity and inequality and I think we need to talk about what we see in society and the environment. For me, the big word and the real goal would be inclusion. That’s the keyword. Before inclusion, you need to talk about what people feel and suffer as barriers to this equality. True empathy starts with a radically honest understanding of our own privilege. Why don’t I see it the way you see it? How can I put myself in your shoes? I have to accept where I am and where I’m coming from. Privilege is something I haven’t earned; it’s something I just received.” – Piero Gandini (AMS Class 14), Strategist & Motivator of Change
Get the tools to build resilience, foster inclusive cultures, and lead for systems change in THRIVE: Lead With the World in Mind.