Happy Women’s History Month! 

What a time to identify as a woman! On August 18, 1920, a proportion of American women were enfranchised and given all the rights and responsibilities of citizenship through the 19th Amendment — and we’ve continued to raise hell for gender equality since.

We’ve come a long way, but not far enough. On the bright side, we now all have the ability to raise awareness and take action against inequality. 

During this month of commemoration, we also celebrated International Women’s Day on March 8. This year, the theme was all about how we can #ChoosetoChallenge and call out gender bias and inequality to forge a more gender-equal world. 

Every day I #ChoosetoChallenge the status quo to help create an inclusive world with these two keys:

🔑  Practice kindness with one another. 

🔑  Support villages and communities for each other to empower all women to be successful working parents. 

Showing compassion and kindness to each other goes hand-in-hand with our ability to build villages and communities of support — when we see each other’s differences, we can help level the playing field for everyone.

Here are the issues I challenge with kindness and the ways I help support villages in the course of my work. 

The Inequities of Technology

Critical to being part of a village for each other is to consider the unique circumstances we all face and then work together to solve them. 

Think about the privilege of our unfettered access to technology, for example, and how it might differ from others. 

If you have a smartphone or access to a reliable Internet connection in your home the world is at your fingertips, and you can find the answer to almost any question.

That also means you can access healthcare. With technology, you can seek health providers, learn more about health insurance and how to get it, register for the COVID-19 vaccine and access eligibility information and access telehealth. You can even find ways to treat medical issues through holistic methods. Without technology, many people lose access to important yet basic privileges.

According to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, more than one in six Americans living in poverty lack Internet access. Plus, people in rural areas have less access to the Internet, and fewer seniors living under the poverty line have access.

Here are two other significant barriers to healthcare access I strive to resolve in my work:

  • Rural environments are grossly underserved with healthcare facilities. Even though nearly 20% of America lives in rural communities, people there are often isolated and have to travel long distances to find clinics, medical offices, specialists, or hospitals. What causes these disparities in healthcare? Uneven distribution of physicians, lack of recognition from legislators, socioeconomic factors and more. 
  • Language barriers. Many impoverished people are recent immigrants whose primary language isn’t English, which is a substantial barrier to receiving quality healthcare in the U.S. As the daughter of immigrants, I understand this problem all too well.

At Stride Community Health Center, we take creative steps to combat these health inequities, especially during the pandemic. As we continue to #ChooseToChallenge these inequities, here’s how we support our patients’ villages and provide access to healthcare: 

👩‍⚕️ Because many people can’t leave their homes due to transportation and mobility issues, we take healthcare into our surrounding communities. We have our COVID-19 drive-through vaccine clinics set up to accommodate people in cars as well as those who are pre-registered but arrive on foot. We also have multiple methods by which people can pre-register for a COVID vaccine, including staff who assist our patients. 

👩‍⚕️ We educate women on multiple aspects of women’s health and the options available to them, including gynecological health (like abnormal pap smears) without them having to come into the clinic. 

👩‍⚕️ To build a language bridge among immigrants or refugees who aren’t seeking healthcare, we use our relationships with church and community leaders to increase trust and familiarity and become a presence in the places this population relies on. 

Because we’re a village, we don’t silo anyone. 

Building Workplace Inclusivity

If you think that women don’t have to choose between career and family in 2021, think again. 

The idea of “having it all” is imposed only on women. While we dare to strike a balance in our lives, men who work (and often have caretakers to manage their home lives) rarely experience any criticism for prioritizing their careers. 

Although the Civil Rights Act has prohibited sex discrimination in employment since 1964, women still have to fight for equal and fair treatment, despite our overwhelming presence in America’s workforce.

Today, women make up nearly 60% of America’s labor force and working mothers account for nearly one-third of all employed women. Yet workplace gender inequality still persists. And the pandemic has only magnified this.

For example, The Pew Charitable Trusts reports that mothers of small children lost work at three times the rate of fathers during the pandemic. Some 16% of single mothers of young children lost their jobs in February 2020, compared to 6% for single fathers. 

Take this incident illustrates a situation that arises all too frequently: A friend of mine — a mother and practicing physician — shared an experience she had with her boss. While on her way to work, she called to let him know she had to drop her kids at school, which was running on a 2-hour delayed start, so she’d be about 15 minutes late for a meeting. He asked, “Can’t you get someone else to take them?”  Her response was “no.”

For many women, the reality is that there is no one else. More importantly, they shouldn’t have to choose between their children and work. We must change this culture.

That’s why every day I challenge the discrimination and inequities women caretakers who work are forced to manage. Now and always, my role is to create an environment where my staff and colleagues don’t have to choose between being an engaged parent or a good employee. 

To forge gender equality in the workplace, we have to talk about it and share our experiences to expose the problems and then work together to come up with reasonable solutions. That’s how we support villages for each other.

It Takes a Village to Raise a Family

My colleagues and I often talk about how our lives are like Jenga blocks. We try our best to hold them together, but it’s not just us playing the game. And sometimes it’s just not possible.

A study by Great Place to Work and Maven Clinic found that working mothers are 28% more likely to experience burnout than working fathers. In 2020, roughly 9.8 million working mothers in the U.S. suffered from workplace burnout. 

The pandemic-related transition to e-learning placed additional strain on our family and careers, but then again, early release days and holiday breaks weren’t easy to navigate when the 40-hour workweek was “normal,” either. 

Now the assumption is that working from home makes it easier to manage family and career, but that’s not the case. According to Hubble HQ, only 48.2% of the parents who responded to its recent survey said childcare would significantly improve their work-from-home experience.

We need a village. The adage that “it takes a village to raise a child” is a proverb that originated in the Nigerian Igbo culture, but it’s also a philosophy that has spanned cultures and civilizations. We can learn from the Igbo: we need each other and shared resources, shared understanding, shared commitment to our responsibilities as parents and to our careers in order to be successful. 

COVID-19 has distanced us from our circles — our villages — and impacted family dynamics. As we consider and plan to re-emerge into post-pandemic life, the vaccine will help our ability to take care of ourselves and our families safely without the pressure to do it all alone. Let’s capitalize and realize the value of working together, as a village

💡 I #ChoosetoChallenge gender bias and inequality by giving my staff the ability to take care of their families, by seeing myself as a part of their village and acting when they need support. 

For my community, I offer women’s and COVID-19 health education for anyone who wants it. And I’ll continue to work tirelessly to vaccinate everyone so we can all create our own support villages, too.