The English idiom: “a picture is worth a thousand words," aptly describes newly sworn-in president-elect, Donald Trump, as he climbed out of the chauffeured vehicle, leaving his wife behind, never once looking for her, or taking the time to do what usually comes naturally for most couples-a little thoughtfulness and a willingness to share such a historic moment with the woman he calls his wife. After all, the U.S. Presidential Inauguration only takes place once every four years. Some might point out that he may have been distracted. Trump did himself no favors to dispel the talk that he's an out-and-out misogynist when he left his wife behind. President Obama, took a moment to wait and welcome her to join in the festivities. Trump's faux pas has been discussed by many as a harbinger of worse to come.
But this article is not about the newly elected president. It's far more important than that. It's about an organization that has transformed millions of lives for more than 100 years.
The Planned Parenthood Federation of America, Inc. (PPFA), is a nonprofit organization that provides reproductive health services both in the United States and worldwide partnering with organizations in 12 countries. Stateside, PPFA, consists of 159 medical and non-medical affiliates, which operate over 650 health clinics. The organization directly provides a variety of reproductive health services and sexual education, contributes to research in reproductive technology, and performs advocacy work aimed at protecting and expanding reproductive rights.
A relevant history lesson not taught in school...
Planned Parenthood was founded by Margaret Sanger, on October 16, 1916, in the Brownsville section of Brooklyn, New York, where she opened the first birth control clinic in the U.S. Sanger founded the American Birth Control League, in 1921. Sanger, her sister, Ethel Byrne, and Fania Mindell were arrested and jailed, accused of distributing obscene materials at the clinic. Sanger preferred going to jail, turning down the option to simply pay fines instead, realizing that the cause would garner national attention, which it did. Though convicted on misdemeanor charges, Sanger's strategy paid off: the convicting judge modified the law to permit physician-prescribed birth control, a watershed moment that led to major changes in the laws governing birth control and sexual education in the U.S.
It became Planned Parenthood in 1942, because people had found the previous name offensive and against families.
By 1960, the Federation had provided family planning counseling in hundreds of communities across the country. Interestingly enough, Sanger-like many other advocates of birth control-publicly condemned abortion, arguing that it would not be needed if every woman had the education and access to birth control. Following Sanger, Alan Frank Guttmacher became president of Planned Parenthood, serving from 1962 until 1974. During his tenure the FDA approved the sale of the original birth control pill, giving rise to new attitudes towards women's reproductive freedom. PPFA also lobbied the federal government to support reproductive health, culminating with President Nixon's signing of Title X to provide governmental subsidies for low-income women to access family-planning services.
Then in 1978 Faye Wattleton became the first African-American president of the Planned Parenthood Federation of America.
During Wattleton's term PPFA grew to become the seventh largest charity in the country, providing services to four million clients each year through its 170 affiliates, across 50 states. Then from 1996 until 2006, Gloria Feldt became president and activated the Planned Parenthood Action Fund (PPAF), the organization's political action committee, launching what was the most far reaching electoral advocacy, voter education, and grassroots organizing to promote the PPFA mission. Current president, Cecile Richards, daughter of former Texas governor, Ann Richards, and formerly deputy chief of staff to the U.S. Representative Nancy Pelosi, started her term on February, 2006. Richards was voted one of Time magazine's 100 Most Influential People in the World, in 2012.
Our elected officials...
A year ago the 114th Congress kicked off 2016, much like it had in 2015, by voting yet again to strip federal funds from Planned Parenthood, the nation's largest family-planning provider, because its health services include abortion. There's already a federal law preventing taxpayer dollars from being used toward abortions (patients have to pay for abortions out-of-pocket). But Republicans have long despised the family-planning provider for ideological reasons, and now they control the House, Senate and the White House.
Courtesy of Longroom.
Scarlett Johannson revealed she visited planned parenthood as a teen during her speech at the Women's March.
More than 40 years after Roe vs Wade, politicians are still trying to legislate what women can and can't do with their bodies. North Dakota, recently passed a law that outlaws a woman's right to choose, starting as early as six weeks, even if a woman is raped. Forty-two states have introduced laws that would ban or severely limit access to a woman's right to choose--laws that would make it harder to get contraceptive care, laws that would sever access to cancer screenings and terminate educational programs that would help prevent teen pregnancies.
Help spread the word...
Millions are standing with Planned Parenthood with #PlannedParenthood@PPAct and #IStandwithPP because there's simply too much at stake to allow government to interfere with our rights for reproductive health. Today, approximately one in five women in the U.S., visit Planned Parenthood, and nearly 75 percent of those women are low income. “No woman can call herself free who does not own and control her body," was the motto coined by Margaret Sanger over 100 years ago.
It still rings true today, but now more than ever, our help is needed. Grassroots protests and fundraisers can have a significant impact toward protecting one of the most relevant organizations, not just in the United States but also throughout the world. It is easy to forget that sometimes the smallest deeds ignite the greatest outpouring of support and action.
Tuffet restaurant, in Brooklyn, raised over $3,500 for Planned Parenthood, through a raffle, silent auction and drink sales. The owner, said that she didn't think that she would be the best person to address questions on the current political climate that threatens the access to healthcare for millions of women across the country. She's wrong. Her actions, like the actions of countless other selfless individuals, who do far more for the betterment of society than so-called elected officials, are a powerful reminder that deeds address needs far more often than words.
Deeds like proposing legislation favored by many elected officials to not only take away the legal right to choose, but also take away life-saving access to cancer screenings, health education, annual well-women exams, HPV vaccine, pap tests (cervical cancer screenings), STD testing and treatment, pregnancy testing, HIV testing, urinary tract infection testing, breast exams, vasectomies, birth control, pregnancy options education, is not only heartless. It's also a not-so-subtle way to discriminate and harm millions of people (not just women) nation-wide. The vast majority of people would certainly agree that everyone deserves access to affordable, good healthcare regardless of income levels and sex. We are better than this.
The vast majority of people would certainly agree that everyone deserves access to affordable, good healthcare regardless of income levels and sex. We are better than this.
Did You Know...?
- Today more than 55 million women have no co-pay birth control thanks to the Affordable Care Act, saving women an estimated $1.4 billion in its first year alone
- In 2014-2015, thanks to Planned Parenthood, we saw a 40 year low for teen pregnancies
- Planned Parenthood's website garners 60 million annual visits
- The FDA approved Liletta, (Feb 2015) an IUD device that is safe and effective for up to three years and is priced at $50 at qualifying public health clinics
- In June 2015, The Lancet published a study conducted by Planned Parenthood affiliates and researchers at the University of California, San Francisco, about how training healthcare providers in contraceptive counseling and insertion of the most effective forms of reversible contraception-IUDs & implants-could affect patients contraceptive decisions and prevent unintended pregnancies
- Since Roe vs Wade, 11 murders, dozens of attempted murders and hundreds of death threats have plagued Planned Parenthood facilities in the U.S.
- In 2015, Planned Parenthood Advocates of Oregon, advocated for a landmark law making Oregon the first state in the nation to require health insurance companies to give a year's supply of the pill, patch, or ring up front
Sweaty Palms & Weak Responses
Early spring 2018, I walked into the building of a startup accelerator program I had been accepted into. Armed with only confidence and a genius idea, I was eager to start level one. I had no idea of what to expect, but I knew I needed help. Somehow with life's journey of twists and turns, this former successful event planner was now about to blindly walk into the tech industry and tackle on a problem that too many women entrepreneurs had faced.
I sat directly across from the program founders, smiling ear to ear as I explained the then concept for HerHeadquarters. Underneath the table, I rubbed my sweaty palms on my pants, the anxiousness and excitement was getting the best of me. I rambled on and on about the future collaborating app for women entrepreneurs and all the features it would have. They finally stopped me, asking the one question I had never been asked before, "how do you know your target audience even wants this product?".
Taken back by the question, I responded, "I just know". The question was powerful, but my response was weak. While passionate and eager, I was unprepared and naively ready to commit to building a platform when I had no idea if anyone wanted it. They assigned me with the task of validating the need for the platform first. The months to follow were eye-opening and frustrating, but planted seeds for the knowledge that would later build the foundation for HerHeadquarters. I spent months researching and validating through hundreds of surveys, interviews, and focus groups.
I was dedicated to knowing and understanding the needs and challenges of my audience. I knew early on that having a national collaborating app for women entrepreneurs would mean that I'd need to get feedback from women all across the country. I repeatedly put myself on the line by reaching out to strangers, asking them to speak with me. While many took the time to complete a survey and participate in a phone interview, there were some who ignored me, some asked what was in it for them, and a few suggested that I was wasting my time in general. They didn't need another "just for women" platform just because it was trending.
I hadn't expected pushback, specifically from the women I genuinely wanted to serve. I became irritated. Just because HerHeadquarters didn't resonate with them, doesn't mean that another woman wouldn't find value in the platform and love it. I felt frustrated that the very women I was trying to support were the ones telling me to quit. I struggled with not taking things personally.
I hadn't expected pushback, specifically from the women I genuinely wanted to serve.
The Validation, The Neglect, The Data, and The Irony
The more women I talked to, the more the need for my product was validated. The majority of women entrepreneurs in the industries I was targeting did collaborate. An even higher number of women experienced several obstacles in securing those collaborations and yes, they wanted easier access to high quality brand partnerships.
I didn't just want to launch an app. I wanted to change the image of women who collaborated and adjust the narrative of these women. I was excited to introduce a new technology product that would change the way women secured valuable, rewarding products. I couldn't believe that despite that rising number of women-owned businesses launching, there was no tool catered to them allowing them to grow their business even faster. This demographic had been neglected for too long.
I hadn't just validated the need for the future platform, but I gained valuable data that could be used as leverage. Ironically, armed with confidence, a genius idea, and data to support the need for the platform, I felt stuck. The next steps were to begin designing a prototype, I lacked the skillsets to do it myself and the funding to hire someone else to do it.
I Desperately Need You and Your services, but I'm Broke
I found myself having to put myself out there again, allowing myself to be vulnerable and ask for help. I eventually stumbled across Bianca, a talented UX/UI designer. After coming across her profile online and reaching out, we agreed to meet for a happy hour. The question I had been asked months prior by the founders of my accelerator program came up again, "how do you know your target audience even wants this product?".
It was like déjà vu, the sweaty palms under the table reemerged and the ear to ear smile as I talked about HerHeadquarters, only this time, I had data. I proudly showed Bianca my research: the list of women from across the country I talked to that supported that not only was this platform solving a problem they had, but it's a product that they'd use and pay for.
I remember my confidence dropping as my transparency came into the conversation. How do you tell someone "I desperately need you and your services, but I'm broke?". I told her that I was stuck, that I needed to move forward with design, but that I didn't have the money to make it happen. Bianca respected my honesty, loved the vision of HerHeadquarters, but mostly importantly the data sold her. She believed in me, she believed in the product, and knew that it would attract investors.
From Paper to Digital
We reached a payment agreed where Bianca would be paid in full once HerHeadquarters received its first investment deal. The next few months were an all-time high for me. Seeing an idea that once floated around in my head make its way to paper, then transform into a digital prototype is was one of the highlights of this journey. Shortly after, we began user testing, making further adjustments based off of feedback.
The further along HerHeadquarters became, the more traction we made. Women entrepreneurs across the U.S. were signing up for early access to the app, we were catching investor's attention, and securing brand partnerships all before we had a launched product. The closer we got to launching, the scarier it was. People who only had a surface value introduction to HerHeadquarters put us in the same category of other platforms or brands catering to women, even if we were completely unrelated, they just heard "for women". I felt consistent pressure, most of which was self-applied, but I still felt it.
I became obsessed with all things HerHeadquarters. My biggest fear was launching and disappointing my users. With a national target audience, a nonexistent marketing budget, and many misconceptions regarding collaborating, I didn't know how to introduce this new brand in a way that distinctly made it clear who were targeting and who we were different from.
I second guessed myself all the time.
A 'Submit' button has never in life been more intimidating. In May 2019, HerHeadquarters was submitted to the Apple and Google play stores and released to women entrepreneurs in select U.S. cities. We've consistently grown our user base and seen amazing collaborations take place. I've grow and learned valuable lessons about myself personally and as a leader. This experience has taught me to trust my journey, trust my hard work, and always let honesty and integrity lead me. I had to give myself permission to make mistakes and not beat myself up about it.
I learned that a hundred "no's" is better than one "yes" from an unfit partner. The most valuable thing that I've learned is keeping my users first. Their feedback, their challenges, and suggestions are valuable and set the pace for the future of HerHeadquarters, as a product and a company. I consider it an honor to serve and cater to one of the most neglected markets in the industry.