Strength from our Ancestors, Ourselves and Each Other

SM05 United women

The vital voices and contributions of women in our society will be celebrated prominently this week. Convened by the White House, the United State of Women Summit is an opportunity to rally the collective brilliance of a diverse group to make a powerful difference as it pertains to women and economic empowerment, health and wellness, educational opportunity, violence against women, entrepreneurship and innovation and leadership and civic engagement.

I will be in attendance in our nation’s capital as part of a delegation with Kimberly Bryant and Black Girls Code. SecondMuse’s collaboration with NASA through the International Space Apps Challenge and Datanauts will also be on powerful display.

This is our country – where I was born and this history heavily influences me to this day. My grandmother Mildred Woods McLaughlin and my mother Harriet McLaughlin Stafford are two of the strongest women I know. They taught me that love and service are watchwords for improving the world and that justice occurs by seeing the world through your own eyes and not accepting what others tell you it is. Given the complex problems the world is facing I’m thankful for their lessons and many more that have created a strong foundation and have formed the person I am today.

Beyoncé speaks of us getting into “formation”. When I hear those lyrics – “Okay ladies now let’s get in formation”, it’s a call to action and a reminder that outside societal pressures can not stop you from becoming the best person you can be– whether that’s a leader in a school district or a courageous mother or the “next Bill Gates in the making”. As I reflect on what “formation” means to me, I’m excited to be with many diverse women of various backgrounds, belief systems and experiences at the United State of Women Summit. We are united in the belief that together we are stronger; that’s the “formation” and “coordination” that Bey is talking about. The work that we do at SecondMuse is grounded in an understanding that all human beings are created noble and thus contribute immense gifts and talents that can create a better world for all. Our programming and approaches allow everyone to “slay”, because there’s a deep recognition that innovation is the capacity of a diverse collective aligned together.

In a world that encourages people, and in particular women, to cut each other down and foster jealousy, SecondMuse strives to create environments and solutions that embrace diversity and authentic collaborations. As a collective of strong and diverse women and men, we recognize the importance of unity and diversity as reflected in this important question– What does it mean to be stronger together? Please join in and share your reflections too.

What does it mean to us to be stronger together? Reflections from SecondMuse Team Members

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Roxann Stafford and Monica Price Cohen at a SecondMuse Big Think in Portland, Oregon.

“Stronger together means that we (families, communities, companies, societies) are stronger when there is equality between men and women. How equality is manifested may look different in different situations. It does mean though, that we respect, support, encourage and look out for each other as equals. This is true for women standing together as well as men standing together with women.”Carrie Freeman

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Beth Beck of NASA with Carrie Freeman at Space Apps in Pasadena, California. 

Standing strong together is working with others for the wellbeing of society, motivated by a love for humanity and a recognition that humanity constitutes a single social body. It is the process of creating shared understandings that result in individual initiative and collective action. It is considering not just the effect of what we are doing, but also the effect of how we are doing it.Chad Badiyan

“Being stronger together means more empathy and less ego, more collaboration and less competition, more inclusivity and less insecurity.”Davar Ardalan

Katey Metzroth during her 5 Borough Pop Up Tour as part of her work with New York’s Next Top Makers.

Katey Metzroth during her 5 Borough Pop Up Tour as part of her work with New York’s Next Top Makers.

To stand stronger together means that everything I think about doing alone, I know can be accomplished with the support of others. It means we can co-create, not compete. Women cannot be pitted against each other when we know to stand together.” - Eleanor Greene

“Listen for what needs to be heard that hasn’t been heard, allow fresh perspectives to shape processes and outcomes”Elyssa Dole

Kimberly Bryant of Black Girls Code sits down with Davar Ardalan at Space Apps in Pasadena, California.

Kimberly Bryant of Black Girls Code sits down with Davar Ardalan at Space Apps in Pasadena, California.

“Aside from the obvious strength in numbers, working together makes me stronger and better as an individual–more inspired, determined and likely to contribute something of value. Together I am more able to lend and sustain my own strength because I also gain it in the process.”Heidi Hamlow

“What being stronger together means to me is that there is safety in taking risks in pushing boundaries to create a better world. We’re stronger together because when we fail or ‘it’ doesn’t go as planned, together we pick up the pieces and try again. Together, we find a better way to move ourselves forward, at times, taking steps backward in order to better see the way forward.” - Katey Metzroth

Elyssa Dole celebrating the success of the Space Apps Data Bootcamp in Pasadena, California.

Elyssa Dole celebrating the success of the Space Apps Data Bootcamp in Pasadena, California.

“We are stronger together when we listen to each other, give one another the space to be heard, and use our collective power to amplify the voices that have historically been silenced.” - Kendra Yoshinaga

“It means elevating each other – acting on each others behalf – believing that all of our actions, even the mundane, are like a chain reaction. When we are stronger we don’t have a seat at the table, we own the table, and our sons and daughters are raised at the table with unquestionable acceptance and equality.”Lena Delchad

Davar Ardalan, Kendra Yoshinaga, Matt Scott and Eleanor Greene during their first official communications team meeting in Washington, DC.

Davar Ardalan, Kendra Yoshinaga, Matt Scott and Eleanor Greene during their first official communications team meeting in Washington, DC.

Being stronger together means valuing diversity hand-in-hand with unity to ultimately open doors to a future where we all win.”Matt Scott

“Standing strong together is celebrating the whole and holding the tensions inherent in our differences. It’s embracing our diversity and fully living into my unique greatness. It’s having compassion for others and being unafraid of making our needs a priority. “Monica Price Cohen

“To me, being stronger together means supporting one another in our roles as colleagues, mothers, daughters, sisters, friends, and so much more. I think it’s really important for women to be able to show their whole selves when coming to the workplace and not have to pretend to be someone else just to fit to our society’s norms of what it means to be a working professional.”Natalia Arjomand

SecondMuse colleagues Heidi Hamlow, Todd Khozein, Carrie Freeman and Jeff Hamaoui on a Mayan Pyramid in Mexico.

SecondMuse colleagues Heidi Hamlow, Todd Khozein, Carrie Freeman and Jeff Hamaoui on a Mayan Pyramid in Mexico.

“Gender equality is fundamental to any meaningful social progress. Standing together means recognizing each other’s capacities and strengths, and working together to provide opportunity to as many people as possible, placing special emphasis on opportunity for women. Opportunity to obtain an education, to work, to a decent life and to lead. Women have a moral courage, intuition and capacity to lead that the world desperately needs today.”Neisan Massarrat

“The more arms that are linked together, the stronger and tighter and more unbreakable the bonds are.”Rupesh Shah

“Can you imagine an athlete that neglects to work out half of her body? Gender inequality is as bad for men as it is for women and the attainment of gender equality is as much our responsibility as it is that of women. If we get that right we’ll stand stronger together.” - Todd Khozein

I am humbled and honored to be a part of the United State of Women Summit and accompany Black Girls Code, an organization that I have been so lucky to be a part of for the last couple of years. Please follow me on Twitter over the next 3 days @jroxann and use the hashtag #StateOfWomen to join in the conversation. If you see me, I’ll be humming “Freedom” because Bey also reminds us that “I’ma keep running / cause a winner don’t quit on themselves”. This is true about us as a collective of people. We are stronger when we run together. I look forward to singing along with all of you and continuing to stand strong together.

 

Roxann Stafford

About Roxann Stafford

Roxann brings together the worlds of social impact and design thinking. Her background in mechanical engineering, business, and psychology combines the analytical rigor and empathy necessary for sustainable systems design. Prior to joining SecondMuse, she was a consultant at FSG with a focus on Shared Value and Collective Impact. As a Senior Associate at Jump Associates, she worked with visionary organizations to identify new markets, reinvent existing categories, and develop new sources of revenue. Roxann’s expertise in linking human needs with technological solutions has helped her clients develop robust strategies and successfully bring numerous products to market.

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