Parenthood

Men Don’t Need to Elevate Us — Just Treat Us the Same: A Discussion on Equity, Motherhood and More

Panelists photographed by Annie Vovan

At the end of August, The Riveter hosted a day-long event at Farmhouse LA, where women gathered to discuss inclusivity, equity, career paths and being a mom while pursuing professional goals. We heard from two insightful panels of women in Los Angeles who are leading the way in elevating women and their work. 

Fresh-from-the-farm brunch greeted guests as they arrived, followed by the first panel, entitled “Women of Influence and Impact.” During the noon hour, guests mingled and chatted about brand experiences. The afternoon session kicked off with another panel discussion, called “Working Mothers and More.”

Amy Nelson, The Riveter Founder and CEO, joined to introduce the talented panelists. Multimedia journalist and creative consultant Melissa Magsaysay moderated both discussions. The panelists gave honest and unique perspectives on women and work, sharing about both their personal and professional journeys. Here’s a breakdown of the notable speakers, and some of our favorite takeaways from both powerful panels.

Panelists

Mandana Dayani — Founder of I am a voter

Rebecca King-CrewsSinger-songwriter and television personality

Mimi G — Speaker, consultant, and founder of Mimi G Style

Alison SweeneyActress, reality show host, director, producer and author

Bridgid Coulter — Actress, producer and interior designer

Panel moderator Melissa Magsaysay, photographed by Annie Vovan

On building a strong community of women

Alison: I’m very proud to say that every day I get to surround myself with women who are creative. Who challenge themselves. 

Bridgid: I was so inspired by The Riveter that I started a coworking collective for women of color and allies to diversity, called Black Bird. It’s a working wellness collective and it’s all about sisterhood and building these kinds of partnerships. I love and I’m inspired by what Amy and her whole team is doing. I’m really happy to be here. To learn and continue to grow.

Mimi G: I spend my time encouraging women and telling them that no matter what their circumstances, listen to yourself. You always have that little voice inside you that tells you the right thing that you should be doing.

On tackling the challenges of shifting careers, changing identities and forging a new path

Bridgid: My kids are 22 and 24, and I really have this opportunity to look at how can I be of service in a different way. I’ve had very successful careers. I’ve been very lucky. I’ve worked very hard. And now I have this opportunity to give back. I have a lot of knowledge and I can do mentorship. This is a way that we can start conversations that are important to have, and take the power of women and lead the way.

Alison: It doesn’t always have to be the way you think it’s going to be, and that’s okay, too. Sometimes what seems like a sideways move, or maybe even a step down, isn’t. In fact, it’s an opportunity. It’s something new and different. Be open to things that come your way. Following that instinct, following your dream, doesn’t mean it’s easy. It’s about your willingness to do what it takes until you get there. Every person [on this panel] worked really hard. They did stuff they didn’t want to do for a very long time. And that’s part of the story. Because then when you do finally get to that thing, you appreciate it. You’ve earned it. You worked for it. 

Mimi G: My path turned out to be a place for me to encourage and motivate people of all ages. I was homeless and begging people for money when I was a teenager. I would never have imagined I’d be here today. It’s really just a matter of letting the path take you where it’s going to go. But above everything else, it’s really listening to yourself.

Mandana: It’s almost crazy to think that you’re never going to evolve as a person. I knew that I would figure it out. It was really terrifying, but it was really important for my own development, my curiosity and my passion. So, I think that you can’t limit yourself to what you think you’re supposed to do or what other people think you’re supposed to do. 

Rebecca: My advice would be not limiting yourself. It’s a willingness to take an opportunity. Follow your dream. Follow your heart. What’s calling you, inside?

Panelist Mandana Dayani, photographed by Annie Vovan

On dialing back the negative self-talk  

Mimi G: I look at myself in the mirror and remind myself of my value. Especially as a mom, and as a wife, you’re supposed to be all things to everybody. And then I realized, you know what? In order for me to be a good mom, and a good wife, and a friend, I need to be selfish. I need to really understand myself. As many times as you need to in a day, remind yourself of all of these really great things that you’re capable of and that you’re doing. 

Rebecca: When it comes to the negative, that’s kind of the warfare of life. You have to fight. You have to wage the mental battle. I have a gratitude list. I write down every good thing that happens to me. And then when I feel bad, I go back and read it, to remind me that good is circling me. Good is manifesting around me. Things that I want. Things that I’ve desired. Things that I’ve asked for. They’re coming.

Bridgid: I say, “Okay, I hear you. I hear that doubt and I acknowledge you. But you don’t have any power over my choice to be active and take action.” And that action can be as simple as standing up. Getting up, getting dressed and going to work. Don’t let [that voice] overwhelm you. It doesn’t define you. 

On elevating other women

Bridgid: Make sure you have a strong community. A strong village. People who will be there. There’s this myth about women not getting along. I don’t experience that. There’s room for all of us, and nobody’s taking your space. We’re only making more space. If you build each other up, there’s going to be more room in the room. I believe that one of the most important things is kindness. Let’s be kind to each other. 

Mimi G: That’s how you build a community of amazing women doing amazing things. Because if I see that you’re doing something great, I don’t think, “She’s going to beat me or she’s going to take my position.” Instead, I’m like, “Girlfriend, I need you.”

Mandana: As you’re building your community, know what your shortcomings are, and figure out how to supplement that with people that really lift you up and teach you and help you grow. When you bring these people together, when you surround yourself by people that inspire you, you just continue to grow and evolve.

On excelling professionally while maintaining boundaries 

Mimi G: I work really hard so that I can stop and make dinner for my kids and my husband. For us to watch TV. I’m going to sit down and spend time with my friends and my family. That’s where I get creative. 

Mandana: Work ethic comes with boundaries. Earlier in your career, you should be working very, very, very hard and gaining those skills. I still work insanely hard within the hours that I’m working. As you grow within your career, you learn the boundaries. It’s a skill you develop. You get a lot smarter with the time that you’re dedicating to your work.

Alison: There’s a lot of guilt when women work and have a family. I think it’s ingrained — it’s just part of our make-up. If I’m not going to be with my kids, then I’m going to be the best person at work that I can possibly be, to make it worth it. 

Rebecca: You can have it all, but not all at once. There are seasons to your life. When your children are little, you’re just not going to get everything done. You have to decide what works for you. You have to take the stuff that feels good. And when something doesn’t sit right, you have permission to throw that out.

On how men can be better allies

During the Q&A session, one of the few men in the room asked, “How can men do a better job to elevate women?” Take a look at what the panelists had to say.

Alison: Men don’t need to elevate us. Just be fair. Just treat us the same. 

Mimi G: A lot of times we get this idea that we have to be better, work harder, because we’re women. We need to make a bigger impact. But really, you want somebody to treat you just the same [as men].

Rebecca: Evaluate yourself. Do the personal growth to ask yourself where you may have chauvinistic beliefs. If you examine the way you respond to certain situations, [maybe you’ll ask yourself] why do I think she needs my help? We can all become better humans every day, and that to me is the best way to support. Just do the work on yourself as to how you treat other human beings, regardless of who they are.

Mandana: Don’t treat me like I’m a woman. Just treat me like someone you work with. 

Bridgid: One of the ways you can be an ally is, if you’re hearing it [negative comments about women], you speak up. You make someone realize you don’t think in the same way. You start to make them examine themselves in a way I can’t. You as a man, can say, “Hey, I think that’s a little chauvinistic for you to say that about that woman. She’s kind of badass, and she’s taking care of her business. And the way you’re saying that is not appropriate.” 

Panelists photographed by Annie Vovan

“Working Mothers and More” panelists 

Jamie-Lynn Sigler — Actress and co-founder of Mama Said podcast

Jenna Parris — Musician and co-founder of Mama Said podcast

Lizzy Mathis — Host, former actress and model, and creator of thecoolmom.com

Erica Domesek — Founder of P.S. – I made this

On the word “balance”

Jamie-Lynn: I think it’s completely unattainable. I recently made a promise to myself where, no matter where I was, I was going to be present. So now when I’m focusing on my job, I’m 100 percent there so then when I’m with my kids, they’re getting a whole lot more quality of their mom. I’m enjoying myself in each place that I am. I still have the struggle, but my experiences are much richer.

Erica: I think the idea of balance is something I struggle with, and I’m okay with that. Everybody is struggling and hurting, and they don’t talk about it because they’re ashamed and it’s hard and it’s embarrassing. I just want everybody to give themselves a break and know that it’s okay to fall apart a little bit.

Jenna: I don’t think I’m ever going to get to a place where I feel 100 percent balanced. I don’t strive for the big balance. I’m working on little, teeny goals to make myself feel better. I’m not looking for the big picture. I’m just doing little baby steps. 

Lizzy: I think that balance is BS. There’s no way to achieve this balance that everyone speaks of or that you’re supposed to have or everyone from the outside looking in thinks that you already do have. You can’t fire 100 percent, all day long. It’s just impossible. No one’s built like that. So, you have to find whatever little moments you have that you can give 100 percent to. You make choices, you find your rhythm. 

On how women can best elevate and support one another 

Jenna: Be more honest about the relationship with your significant other after [having children], because it takes a toll on your relationship.

Jamie-Lynn: Share your successes and share your victories, but please always put the disclaimer about what went on to achieve that. I feel so much better about myself when I’m being honest and vulnerable because there’s so much more connection that happens.

Erica: Don’t keep it all in. Maybe one person or three people or 300 people will hear the things you shared and say, “Thank you. You inspired me.”

Melissa: It [parenthood] is the great equalizer. Sharing helps us with what we’re going through. So, share more, be honest, be transparent.

Guests of The Riveter, photographed by Annie Vovan

On the importance of personal wellness 

Jamie-Lynn: It’s the whole oxygen mask thing. You put on your mask first before you put on everybody else’s. I have to take care of me. Date night is part of my wellness — connecting with my husband. Connecting with my friends. Food. Therapy. 

Jenna: I still struggle with that. I’m not good at taking care of myself. 

Erica: Find your magic. It’s baby steps. You’re not going to do it all at once. It’s small, attainable goals.

On maintaining your identity after becoming a mom

Jamie-Lynn: I wish someone talked to me about this before I had kids, of how different it could be. I’m not the same and I’ve learned to embrace that. It’s a process. I think you need to go through those feelings. The first [Mama Said podcast] we ever recorded was, “Who am I Now That I’m a Mom?” Because every mom I’ve ever met in my entire life has felt this way after a baby. Your identity is completely stripped. You’re a new version of you. It’s a new life. You are never the same. You will never sleep well, you will never not worry, but you will also feel so many things that you have never felt before in your life. Everything is greater.

Lizzy: You’ve just got to let go. You can’t be afraid of what you’re going to lose of yourself because, you’re going to lose parts of yourself. But you find other parts of yourself that you didn’t even know were in there. You’ll never know the power that you had in you until you become a mother.

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Hannah Fairbanks is a freelance writer living in San Francisco. When she’s not writing, you might find her reading, packing bento box lunches for her two young daughters and adventuring around the Bay Area.