"I'm going to go on record right now, I don’t think it’s going to be a close election,” says Lauren Leader-Chivée, Co-Founder and CEO of All In Together. “Because despite the rhetoric, it is not who we are.”
Leader-Chivée, a political correspondent who dedicated her life working to close gender and racial gaps in business and politics, believes Hillary's win will usher in a new female-focused perspective in our government.“Two years ago [I said to] Chelsea Clinton ‘it’s time, and she said ‘it’s way past the time,” says the author of Crossing the Thinnest Line. “I am so convinced that women are essential to our political process.”
Leader-Chivée, a lifelong democrat who is often featured on FOX and CNN, says the 2016 election is more about differences in leadership than differences in policies.
"We have a major diversity problem."“I spend a lot of time on Conservative media and have been on a lot of shows with women who support Trump,” she says. “What we are seeing play out in this election is the whole new fundamental question of what is leadership. And you see the same thing happening in business. Is leadership this command and control, powerful personality that [believes] ‘I alone can solve this,’ or is it a more inclusive collaborative, considering of other people’s perspectives, stereotypically female kind of leadership? That is really in many ways what we are voting on.”
Something that many may not realize is the great power women have in the outcomes of political races, says Leader-Chivée.
“Women have turned every election in this country since 1980,” she says. “We are the majority of the electorate and we are in fact more likely to turn out to vote than men.”
But, as with all the news surrounding gender and race that she covers in her book, there’s a flip side.
“The United States is 74th in the world for the political empowerment and participation of women, and we have fallen 20 places since 2015. Countries like Afghanistan, Tunisia, South Africa and Rwanda are all ahead of us in terms of their political representation of women and that has nothing to do with whether we elect a woman in this election”
For Leader-Chivée, social media has played an undeniable role in this election, but isn’t necessarily reflective of society’s political choices.
“This election has been like a funhouse mirror,” she says. “It has presented a warped view of who we are as a country. The extreme discrimination bias that has been so amplified by Twitter and the media in this election is not representative of who we are, but because of the great equalizing power of social media platforms it starts to seem like it is.”
She adds, “little did I know that this election would bring on one of the most venomous and difficult periods in our national conversation about this. It has certainly not elevated it.”
“This election has been like a funhouse mirror"
Part of the unspoken issue behind the negative election is the lack of women in roles of power, and the lack of comfort when they do step up into top spots.
“In the corporate world, something like 22 million women with college degrees at big companies are hitting a wall because there is still a great deal of bias in the promotion process and while women do extremely well in the early years, as they become more senior you start to hit the intangibles of what people see as leadership.”
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This disparity happens, in part because senior-level men are not investing as directly in women’s careers, helping them move forward.
“Even though women are as ambitions as men, they are often opting out from the pursuit of some of the senior most jobs in part because it doesn’t seem appealing to them," she says. "Even men and women who have equal performance reviews, the men are more likely to get promoted at senior levels.”
When it comes to entrepreneurs, the “massive funding gap,” is one of the biggest road blocks in terms of launching new businesses.
“About four percent of VC money goes to women-owned business," she says. "Women struggle with access to capital. Part of why you see so many women entering entrepreneurship is because they’re hitting a wall in the workplace. If you don’t see a path for yourself in a corporation you are more likely to want to define your own destiny and set it up, but that’s not a super easy road either.”
Of course, media is another problem.
"Media is one of the biggest reasons for the fact that women feel stunted when it comes to taking leadership roles, as 98 percent of executives at major media companies are white men," she says. “We have a major diversity problem among those who decide what we see,” she said, adding that the commentators and hosts are hugely skewed. “It’s still overwhelmingly male and overwhelmingly white.”
According to Leader-Chivée, who is the mother of two African American children, she wrote her book after witnessing the change in the diversity conversation in the country.
“I was prompted by the Black Lives Matter movement, and the explosion of videos and conversation surrounding racial issues,” she says. “I had a sense that we were at a moment in the country, that the conversation around diversity had hit a point where we were faced with a choice; Are we going to spend the rest of our lifetimes rehashing the same fights, battles and breakdowns in understanding or is there a path to doing better?”
America will become minority/majority nation in our lifetimes, which is another reason a change is needed.
“The implications of that are profound,” says Leader-Chivée, who reveals that a run for office is potentially in her future. “I felt we hadn’t had a meaningful enough national conversation in my lifetime about the importance of diversity to our economy, to the social fabric of our nation, and to our identity as American.”
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In 2016, I finally found my voice. I always thought I had one, especially as a business owner and mother of two vocal toddlers, but I had been wrong.
For more than 30 years, I had been struggling with the fear of being my true self and speaking my truth. Then the repressed memories of my childhood sexual abuse unraveled before me while raising my 3-year-old daughter, and my life has not been the same since.
Believe it or not, I am happy about that.
The journey for a survivor like me to feel even slightly comfortable sharing these words, without fear of being shamed or looked down upon, is a long and often lonely one. For all of the people out there in the shadows who are survivors of childhood sexual abuse, I dedicate this to you. You might never come out to talk about it and that's okay, but I am going to do so here and I hope that in doing so, I will open people's eyes to the long-term effects of abuse. As a survivor who is now fully conscious of her abuse, I suffer from post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and, quite frankly, it may never go away.
It took me some time to accept that and I refuse to let it stop me from thriving in life; therefore, I strive to manage it (as do many others with PTSD) through various strategies I've learned and continue to learn through personal and group therapy. Over the years, various things have triggered my repressed memories and emotions of my abuse--from going to birthday parties and attending preschool tours to the Kavanaugh hearing and most recently, the"Leaving Neverland" documentary (I did not watch the latter, but read commentary about it).
These triggers often cause panic attacks. I was angry when I read Barbara Streisand's comments about the men who accused Michael Jackson of sexually abusing them, as detailed in the documentary. She was quoted as saying, "They both married and they both have children, so it didn't kill them." She later apologized for her comments. I was frustrated when one of the senators questioning Dr. Christine Blasey Ford (during the Kavanaugh hearing) responded snidely that Dr. Ford was still able to get her Ph.D. after her alleged assault--as if to imply she must be lying because she gained success in life.We survivors are screaming to the world, "You just don't get it!" So let me explain: It takes a great amount of resilience and fortitude to walk out into society every day knowing that at any moment an image, a sound, a color, a smell, or a child crying could ignite fear in us that brings us back to that moment of abuse, causing a chemical reaction that results in a panic attack.
So yes, despite enduring and repressing those awful moments in my early life during which I didn't understand what was happening to me or why, decades later I did get married; I did become a parent; I did start a business that I continue to run today; and I am still learning to navigate this "new normal." These milestones do not erase the trauma that I experienced. Society needs to open their eyes and realize that any triumph after something as ghastly as childhood abuse should be celebrated, not looked upon as evidence that perhaps the trauma "never happened" or "wasn't that bad. "When a survivor is speaking out about what happened to them, they are asking the world to join them on their journey to heal. We need love, we need to feel safe and we need society to learn the signs of abuse and how to prevent it so that we can protect the 1 out of 10 children who are being abused by the age of 18. When I state this statistic at events or in large groups, I often have at least one person come up to me after and confide that they too are a survivor and have kept it a secret. My vehicle for speaking out was through the novella The Survivors Club, which is the inspiration behind a TV pilot that my co-creator and I are pitching as a supernatural, mind-bending TV series. Acknowledging my abuse has empowered me to speak up on behalf of innocent children who do not have a voice and the adult survivors who are silent.
Remembering has helped me further understand my young adult challenges,past risky relationships, anger issues, buried fears, and my anxieties. I am determined to thrive and not hide behind these negative things as they have molded me into the strong person I am today.Here is my advice to those who wonder how to best support survivors of sexual abuse:Ask how we need support: Many survivors have a tough exterior, which means the people around them assume they never need help--we tend to be the caregivers for our friends and families. Learning to be vulnerable was new for me, so I realized I needed a check-off list of what loved ones should ask me afterI had a panic attack.
The list had questions like: "Do you need a hug," "How are you feeling," "Do you need time alone."Be patient with our PTSD". Family and close ones tend to ask when will the PTSD go away. It isn't a cold or a disease that requires a finite amount of drugs or treatment. There's no pill to make it miraculously disappear, but therapy helps manage it and some therapies have been known to help it go away. Mental Health America has a wealth of information on PTSD that can help you and survivors understand it better. Have compassion: When I was with friends at a preschool tour to learn more about its summer camp, I almost fainted because I couldn't stop worrying about my kids being around new teenagers and staff that might watch them go the bathroom or put on their bathing suit. After the tour, my friends said,"Nubia, you don't have to put your kids in this camp. They will be happy doing other things this summer."
In that moment, I realized how lucky I was to have friends who understood what I was going through and supported me. They showed me love and compassion, which made me feel safe and not judged.