Women Owned Businesses

Imani owner of Tafari Wraps

To celebrate Women’s History Month, Women Accelerators is highlighting a few women who inspire us to reach our potential and follow our dreams. Imani from Tafari Wraps and Daniela from Selfie World share their advice and solutions to challenges that come with running your own business. A bonus, these two tenacious women are local from the Boston area.


African-Inspired Head Wraps, Accessories & Décor | Tafari Wraps

Instagram: @tafariwraps

Imani from Tafari wraps knew she always wanted to run her own business from the early age of eighteen. She won a fashion competition in Boston, MA, and was awarded a trip to Bermuda with the opportunity to design a competition gown for Miss Bermuda to wear in the Ms. World and Universe Pageant. Now you may wonder, how does one findTafari Wraps the inspiration to create something of their own that leads to entering competitions and designing clothing for models? Imani was homeless at the age of fourteen because of her personal journey in acceptance of her Rastafarian faith. She took an unfortunate situation and created something beautiful. She shares, “I had to learn how to make my own clothes because what I envision myself wearing wasn’t available and even if it was, I couldn’t afford them.”

Why did you start your company?

Imani shares that she started Tafari Wraps to erase the negative stigma placed upon black cultural attire and home décor. Her goal was to celebrate her African and Caribbean heritage through head wraps, wearable art, and art education. Tafari Wraps was created to inspire change and restore dignity by using African textile which depicts the landscape of Africa and bold colorful silks with the vibrancy of the Caribbean to uplift the spirit.

Imani and her daughter, Delmeshia, currently run Tafari Wraps.  Imani also tells her goal is, “To build a family legacy.”

What was your inspiration?

Experiencing racism in corporate America is what fueled Imani to start Tafari Wraps. She shares being chastised by co-workers and clients while working as an on-the-road decorator in a high-end decorating firm in Boston’s Back Bay.

Do you have any motivators?

Imani shares that one of her coworkers made a derogatory statement while she was on the job. This fueled her to move from the corporate world and start the House of Tafari Collection. She also shares with us some of her personal mentors and credits them to, Ms. Joyce Williams, Cynthia Kalian- Kaminsky and as well as a host of others. Her sister Lee and Dotsilee McFarlane, always advertise my work through word of mouth. My daughter Delmeshia Haynes is my partner, friend, mentor, and teacher.  Friends and business associates from the Caribbean and African American communities in Boston.  Organizations such as Nu Market, local and international media platforms, such as The Boston Globe, Bay State Banner, Exhale Magazine, Boston Magazine, and WGBH.

What is a piece of advice you can give to readers who are thinking about pursuing their own business?

Make sure you start a business with products or services that solve a problem or problems.

Selfie WRLD Boston

Instagram: @_daniela.ma

Daniela Martinez is an influencer/Youtuber who runs Selfie WRLD located in Boston, MA. She was always looking for a new place to take pictures and decided to put her creativity into power by creating Selfie WRLD. Daniela knew she always wanted to run her own business, but she was not sure what that would be. That being said, Selfie WRLD ended up being an added bonus, and she shares her dream business is “yet to come.”

Do you have any motivators?

She shares that she wouldn’t be where she is if it wasn’t for Ashley Wilkerson, the owner of the first-ever Selfie WRLD and the Selfie WRLD brand. Daniela credits her fellow co-workers and teammates, Emiel Barbosa and Jermoe Wilson who she shares “are the rocks that keep us running. They are very knowledgeable in the operations and finances of running a business and taught me everything I know.” Daniela also credits having a solid friend group helped her ideas become a reality.

How did you grow your team?

We hired close family and friends to begin with and then hired more employees to join the family. We established a sense of family and trust from early on. Whether we were related or not, we were all one big family trying to learn how to run this business together. There were a lot of obstacles in the beginning, but that was expected.

As a female business owner, what has been your greatest accomplishment?

The year 2021. She shares she was juggling a full-time job, budding a social media career and was also in the process of buying her first home as she was ALSO starting the development of Selfie WRLD Boston.

How did you preserve through tough times?

My family and friends were always telling me, “it’s only a matter of time before everything is perfect and you’re going to look back to this day and laugh.”

What’s next?

Daniela shares that she wants to focus on her Youtube account,  Daniela Eliza. “Youtube has become a huge part of me and I love making videos.”

What is a piece of advice you can give to readers who are thinking about pursuing their own business?

If you have an idea in mind, do it. Don’t think about it because you’re just going to talk yourself out of it. You just do it. Stay consistent, and it’ll eventually pay off. The road to success isn’t linear so you’re going to run into obstacles. You just must keep pushing.

Do you remember your first transaction?

Yes! We were open for reservations before we were officially open, and we received so many sales. It felt amazing seeing so many people booking tickets so soon.

The power of following your dreams and reaching your own potential has no bounds. It is all about making that first step out of your comfort zone.

model: Ashley Gelin, instagram: @ashmarieee_

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A 2022 Guide to Self-Care

“New Year, New Me” as they say. Although, I believe every day is a chance to try again.

by Urvi Patel, PA-C on January 03, 2022

Managing your mental health while trying to balance work life, school life, social life, personal life, and even family life is not easy. Do you feel burned out? Do you feel stressed? Do you feel anxious? Do you feel depressed? Here are some tips to better take care of yourself while working through the ebbs and flows of life. Remember, you come first. You cannot pour from an empty cup. Fill yourself with self-care and love before tending to others.

1) Eat right

Serotonin is a chemical in our brain that affects our mood, feelings of well-being, regulating hunger, and improving positive sleeping patterns. When there’s a lack of serotonin, we experience depression, stress, irritability, and even panic attacks. Did you know we even have Serotonin in our digestive system? It helps to push food through faster to reduce the time food stays in our digestive tract and the amount of irritation caused to our intestinal lining. Here are some foods that can help produce serotonin in our body:

  • Salmon: Rich in Tryptophan (produces serotonin). Also contains Vitamin D which is important in serotonin production.
  • Nuts and Seeds: Important food group that is rich in Tryptophan for our vegetarians!
  • Turkey and Poultry
  • Tofu and Soy
  • Milk and Cheese
  • Pineapple

2) Natural vitamins to fight depression

Clinical depression is more than just a feeling of sadness. Other symptoms include: feeling a sense of emptiness, changes in appetite, feelings of worthlessness, anxiety, restlessness, changes in sleep pattern, anger/irritability, difficulty concentrating, and thoughts of suicide or death. If you or a loved one are experiencing these symptoms, it’s important to reach out to a professional. But have you ever wondered, “What are some other things I can do along with getting professional help?”. Let’s talk about the importance of vitamins! Consult with a healthcare professional before taking these supplements.

  • B-12: If someone has low levels of B-12, they are likely to experience symptoms of depression such as fatigue and lack of motivation. It’s important to reach out to a health care professional to check your Vitamin B-12 levels and take supplements if necessary. Some foods that are high in B-12 include: fish, lean meats, eggs, poultry and milk.
  • Omega-3 Fatty acids are essential for the function and health of the brain. These can be taken as a supplement or in foods such as salmon, seeds, and nuts.
  • Magnesium: If your body is low in magnesium, you may experience worsening depression symptoms and insomnia.
  • Vitamin C: Known to both improve mood and cognitive functioning.
  • Vitamin D: Living in New England, it’s important to take Vitamin D supplements especially in the winter months.

3) Natural vitamins to fight anxiety

Unlike everyday stress, clinical anxiety is defined by excessive feelings of worry or persistent, even intrusive thoughts about certain fears or constant fears in general. Clinical anxiety may even be accompanied by anxiety attacks. If you or a loved one are having symptoms of anxiety, please reach out to a medical professional. Here are some natural tea remedies to help ease anxiety in addition to. Consult with a healthcare professional before taking these supplements.

  • Passionflower: Some small studies say this herb may help with anxiety, but not enough evidence.
  • Valerian Root: Available as tea and tablets. May cause headaches, dizziness, drowsiness.
  • Chamomile
  • Lavender
  • Lemon Balm

4) Exercise

The big “I know I should, but I feel so lazy”. Did you know a regular exercise routine has been shown to decrease depressive symptoms? There are multiple studies shown to prove this theory. How does exercise improve our mood?

  • Increases levels of “feel-good chemicals” such as serotonin, dopamine, endorphins
  • Improves function of immune system
  • Raises core body temperature which provides a calming effect
  • Provides an opportunity to take a break and work on yourself
  • Improves energy level
  • Improves self-esteem
  • Can help with insomnia

5) Spend some time with nature

In a world where COVID is ramping and working from home is becoming more common, it’s important to spend some time getting natural air. We were not made to be confined to one space.

  • Spending time with nature improves our emotional well-being. There’s a practice in Japanese culture called “Shinrin-yoku” which hypothesizes that mindful time spent in the forest can reduce anxiety and feelings of depression.
  • Focusing on all of your senses in nature can provide a way to feel connected to something bigger than yourself. Focus on all the beauty around you
  • There are physical benefits to nature such as the reduction of stress levels can reduce one’s heart rate and even decrease risk of stroke. Being in nature also promotes healthy levels of natural Vitamin D.

6) Meditation

Stress is something that consumes all of us. From the moment we wake up to the moment we go to bed. We are all stressed about something. We are all worried about something. This constant state of worry and stress keeps our body in “fight or flight” mode. Meditation is a way to decrease the tension that is built up in our body. There are multiple iPhone apps that may help you in your journey to meditation. HealthLine suggests: Insight Timer, Headspace, Mylife, Calm, Oak, Simple Habit, and others.

  • Stay consistent with your meditation routine
  • Start with 5-10 minutes a day
  • Pick a time you will not be interrupted

7) Practice gratitude

Scientific research shows that gratitude affects the brain’s reward system.

  • Every night for a week, write down three things you are thankful for.
  • Make a gratitude jar. Every day for the next year, write down something you are grateful for and put it in the jar. Read it when times are hard.
  • Purchase a “gratitude workbook/journal”

8) Read books that help shift your mindset

Here are some books I believe will help shift your mindset.

  • 101 Essays that will change the way you think – Brianna West
  • Attached by Amir Levine and Rachel S. F. Heller
  • The Power of Habit by Charles Duhigg
  • Search Inside of Yourself by Chade-Meng Tan
  • Rewire Your Brain by Jacob King
  • The Mountain is You by Brianna West
  • Winning the War in your Mind by Craig Groeschel

9) Self-Love

  • Treat yourself: Get your nails done, get your hair done
  • Call out of work and take that mental health day
  • Take a day to do absolutely nothing
  • Say no to those plans
  • Take time off social media
  • Mute/unfollow that account
  • Have that difficult conversation you’ve been avoiding
  • Repeat those positive affirmations
  • Do that thing you’ve been scared to do
  • Tell your friends how you’re really feeling

10) Therapy

I am not ashamed to admit that as a woman in the mental health field, I am also in therapy. I have been able to recognize my triggers and act accordingly. I am no longer who I once was. I am learning something about myself every day. I am learning to love myself a little more on the dark days. Therapy is more than just talking about your emotions/feelings. It’s learning to rewire your brain and an opportunity to rewrite your story. The girl who rose.

  • Check out Psychologytoday.com
  • Filter through based on insurances, gender, race, sexual preferences.
  • An insider tip: When you choose a therapist you’re interested in, give them a phone call rather than emailing them. Emails get lost in the inbox.

11) Medication Management

Sometimes, we can do all of the above and still experience persisting anxiety and depression symptoms that start to become debilitating. This is a reminder that it’s okay to seek professional help and learn more about prescription medication options. To discuss these options, reach out to a psychiatrist. There’s lots of stigma around medications in this day and age, but it’s important to remember that you come first. Depression and anxiety are caused by a chemical imbalance in our brain and there are medications that can help boost the serotonin a lot more rapidly than we ourselves can. Getting help doesn’t make you weak. In fact, you are brave and strong for taking that first step. I’m proud of you.


Your local physician assistant, Urvi Patel

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Here’s What You Need to Know About Environmental Justice

You may have started hearing the terms ‘environmental racism’ and ‘environmental justice’ more often recently. Maybe you’re hearing them for the first time. The concept of discrimination perpetrated through placing minority and low-income communities at greater environmental risk is what Kamala Harris was talking about in her speech at the DNC. It’s something that health scientists are talking about. It’s part of what Ed Markey wants to combat with his Green New Deal. While COVID-19 has triggered a larger and more imminent conversation about environmental justice, it is not a new concept. Here’s what you need to know to begin learning about environmental justice.

1. The EJ Movement been around for decades, and they’ve done the research

While the awakening to environmental contamination started decades before, the grassroots movement concerned with environmental justice and activism began in earnest in the 1980s. Over the years, local victims have joined the movement as they began to experience the impacts in their own neighborhoods.

In 1984, the California Waste Management Board contracted Cerrell Associates to write a report identifying the “characteristics of communities least likely to resist the siting of waste incineration facilities”. Communities found to be “affluent” and “wealthy” were taken out of the consideration for these sites. Communities described by words like “depressed”, “distressed” and “minority-owned” were favorable. They concluded that communities made up of college-educated, middle- and upper-class professionals would have more wherewithal, political power, and ability to organize against the pollution of their homes, while low income, less educated, rural communities would not.

Over the years we’ve seen how this targeting of certain communities has led to increased hazardous waste, air, and water pollution in those areas. The Farmworkers Union in the San Joaquin Valley of California has spent decades fighting pesticide contamination of the fields in which they work as well as the areas in which they live. An article published in 1992 stated that “about 10% of total pesticide use in the USA is in the San Joaquin Valley”, and it is still an issue today.

This research article shows that, in the US, fine particulate matter exposure “is disproportionately caused by consumption of goods and services mainly by the non-Hispanic white majority, but disproportionately inhaled by black and Hispanic minorities. On average, non-Hispanic whites experience a “pollution advantage”: They experience ∼17% less air pollution exposure than is caused by their consumption. Blacks and Hispanics on average bear a “pollution burden” of 56% and 63% excess exposure, respectively, relative to the exposure caused by their consumption.”

Children are more susceptible to the health impacts of exposure to air pollution and other toxicants. The Clark County school district in Nevada released data that showed during the 2006-2007 school year, “African American students had the highest rates of asthma by race (13.4%) followed by Hispanic/Latino students (6.6%). Furthermore, asthma is the single leading cause of missed school days in the nation and has been shown to be a significant factor in absenteeism leading to being held back a grade in Clark County Schools.”

The use of surface mining techniques, where companies use millions of pounds of explosives to remove mountaintops in order to excavate the coal underneath, has led to a water crisis in areas like Appalachia and taken a “catastrophic toll on the health of those whose water supply lies in its path”. Residents can’t use their tap water for drinking, cooking, cleaning, or bathing. One man had his water tested and was told it was so toxic that, if he washed his clothes in it, there was a possibility direct sunlight could set his clothes on fire. People are having to drive for more than an hour to stock up on bottled water. This, of course, has environmental and economic domino effects when it comes to the use and price of gas as well as the production of plastic water bottles.

2. Be wary of government groups meant to protect your environment

In 1992, The National Law Journal published its findings from an investigation into government agencies’ roles in environmental injustice. The opening statement reads:

“The federal government, in its cleanup of hazardous sites and its pursuit of polluters, favors white communities over minority communities under environmental laws meant to provide equal protection for all citizens.”

They found that the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) favored white communities over minority communities when it came to placing penalties on sites violating environmental laws as well as the clean-up of abandoned hazardous waste sites. Today, we continue to see our government refusing to be part of the global solution to environmental issues and even choosing to roll back protections that have been put in place, putting minority communities in greater danger by doing so.

Unfortunately, we cannot talk about environmental injustice without getting political. Environmental discrimination is made possible by politicians and people in power who sign off on the policies and regulations that lead to these injustices. Our votes are more important than ever.

3. Environmental injustice does not happen in a vacuum

For decades, the dumping of toxic waste, pesticide usage, and exposure to air and water pollution has been more prevalent in low-income communities than affluent ones. These factors cause health issues in people with less access to affordable healthcare, which can lead to being held back from academic advancement thus causing a disproportionate lack of opportunity and professional development. These underlying health issues also make people more susceptible to disease, like the coronavirus.

However, at some point in the not-so-distant future, what is hurting our minority communities will hurt us all. The domino effect that starts with the farmers in San Joaquin Valley and the coal mining towns of Appalachia will end with contaminating every community. There is no way to keep polluted air and water strictly within minority neighborhood boundaries. There are so many circumstances in which we take preventative measures – in times of war, with our health – why would we not do the same for our environment? By the time all of our air and water is affected, it will be too late.

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Mentor Journal 3: Beginner’s Mud

Our 2017 Mentoring Program wraps up this August! Thanks to everyone – mentors and mentees – who contributed their time and insights. We’re excited to share our some of our successes and lessons learned!


Beginner’s Mud

My Mentoring Team met up on a sunny Sunday in July to discuss our progress and questions going forward. This was our second in-person meeting (the first one being in February) – and we had a Skype meeting in between. We had a lot to discuss and celebrate – it has certainly been a busy last few months for everyone!

I came into the Mentoring Program with an unclear sense of where my career was going. Even though I had friends and family sharing advice, and formal evaluation at work, I was missing the resources to fine-tune my direction and reach the next level. At our final meeting, our mentor described what we were experiencing as making it through the “beginner’s mud”. Those graduating from college may have a strong sense of confidence, accomplishment, and identity. When we enter the workforce, we need to re-orient to new environments and routines. Being in a new schedules and adapting to organizational politics may affect of our energy and identity. Throughout this process, we may lose our way: feel unsure what direction to go in, where to put our energy, and how to communicate effectively. We may get stuck in reactionary mode and unable to see the bigger picture.

It takes plenty of work to get out of the “beginner’s mud”. Throughout the six month program, I would often write to my mentor via e-mail with questions I had and frame the challenges I was running into. I kept track of how I felt: What types of experiences made me feel empowered, which types made me feel unsure of myself? Identifying those feelings and responding with actionable steps was key. Having an experienced professional — who was, in fact not in my same professional field — to help troubleshoot and clarify my thinking along the way, was a tremendous resource. I believe we as “beginners” (or not) truly need this kind of feedback in order to become polished and confident professionals.


Examine Your Writing

Our mentor mentioned that simply the way one presents issues and describe the context, can reveal how confident you are and how much direction you have. It is great to write out your goals and questions throughout the mentorship process, so you can track your growth: skills and mindset. Saving six months worth of communications can tell a great story!

Can your mentor, or anyone else, understand what you need help on, based on your writing? If you feel too overwhelmed to begin anything, can you write out everything you’re worried about?

My mentor and I looked at my first and final questions side by side, and the difference was clear. My first set of questions were vague and tentative, revealing how lost I was. The second set were very focused and full of context for where I am now and where I’m headed.


Success Stories

We were excited to hear back from our other mentees about how they are doing. Here are some things our mentees achieved in the past six months:

I went to a very good event offered by one of our group member’s employer

Landed new position – dream job!

I met some great women professionals and formed new friendships.

Knowing what I don’t want, and surviving in a toxic environment while realizing it isn’t about me. It motivated me to think about my career and what my goals are and to take action. I revert back to my comfort zone often and realized it’s finally time to take action and get out!

I personally felt like it was a great feedback I got from the mentor that I was able to apply it for my future position.

I affirmed myself more and gained more confidence.

Take the courage to actually seek help. though I am not very good at seeking help from others.

Understanding personality types and career choices

We discussed a lot of Meyers Briggs. I loved learning about how I can better communicate with folks with different personality styles.

Discussing managing people

Stuck with a very difficult situation to get to the next stage.


Replacing Yourself

We’re encoded to think that irreplaceable means that ‘I can do something that no one else can do’. But in fact, the most irreplaceable people are the ones that empower others to do something they couldn’t do before.

Developer Tea, episode “Developer Career Roadmap: Step 9 Replace Yourself

This quote jumped out to me as just the other day I attended a webinar where the speaker asked the attendees to “write out the skills/qualities that make you irreplaceable”. It is often easy to default to our competitive nature, i.e. how much value we as individuals have compared to others. I love the way the quote above flips this idea, the shift of perspective is so supportive. Knowing everything and being able to do everything is not necessarily something we should endlessly strive for (what a relief!).

How can we continue supporting each other in our day to day careers? As our program concludes, we on the Women Accelerators team challenge you to take this idea into your career, whether you consider yourself a mentor or not.

Our next Mentoring Program will start in early 2018. Please check our website in late 2017 if you’re interested in participating.


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Mentor Journal Entry 2: Mentorship Strategies

We are now halfway into our Mentoring Program! Between February and April, groups met for the first time. Many groups are now meeting virtually on Skype for their second and third meetings in late spring/early summer.

Soon after our first check-in with mentee participants, one of our mentors asked if there could be a check-in for them, as well. This made us realize that, while our mentors have more professional experience than their mentees, they could also use frameworks to support their efforts for our Mentoring Program.

What are some ways to ensure mentorship is successful? Are there activities mentor teams can work on together?

Regular communication is key!

We suggest groups connect every month. While the first meeting was in person, we encourage groups to meet via Skype to give more options for scheduling. Over the course of six months, it is possible mentees have graduated or moved for new jobs.

Even if all group members are in the same location, keeping consistent meetings throughout a six month period can be a challenge. The most important thing is to stay in touch. Some groups may use platforms like Google Hangouts or Slack, while others may prefer group e-mail. If mentors are willing, offer for mentees to reach out to you personally for one-on-one advice.

We suggest mentors lead with check-in questions via e-mail, such as

  • What are points/issues you’d like to discuss?
  • Any news/changes that have happened since we last talked?

These are helpful to send in advance of a meeting so that there is an agenda to talk about or in place of a meeting.

At the start of the program, mentors received PDFs with each mentee’s goals. Halfway through the program is a good checkpoint. What are a particular mentee’s roadblocks, if any, to reaching those goals? Some mentees may have achieved something they weren’t expecting.

Beyond checking in, what are some things groups can discuss?

Here are some words from our mentors, regarding activities/discussion starting points that help spark discussion:

To engage all in a meaningful way is important – so I usually start with something like: what is the best experience and/or worst experience you had in the past week. Is there something lodged in your head you keep on thinking about…Whatever discussion this sparks, leads directly to mentoring moments….and naturally develops a very engaged further discussion. I invite other mentees to ponder, suggest, or compare their own experience among themselves before I come in to “mentor”. Oftentimes, by offering hints, leading questions targeting specific issues etc….the mentees actually come up with various good solutions themselves. Those are the best/most valuable learning/mentoring moments.

We attended a women’s salary negotiation workshop together. Doing a group event/speaker/training was nice.

It is important to acknowledge life demands within the context of the goals they have set for themselves to get from this mentoring program. More than anything, those demands put stress on goal achievement. Helping them adjust the pressure they put on themselves to achieve “now” is helpful.

The Women Accelerators volunteer team put together the following additional list of activities:

  • Role playing scenarios in the workplace/laboratory/etc.
  • Resume and cover letter writing/editing session
  • Practicing salary negotiation
  • Practicing a job interview

Our mentees are growing to become our next leaders

As groups progress through the program, mentees are gaining experience which may help them be future mentors, or simply support their fellow mentees. We hope that our program will keep the cycle of support going. A couple mentors mentioned the following, regarding mentee contributions:

One of my mentees has stepped up to do more of the organizing. I think an articulation of these responsibilities, who holds them, and how they may rotate among the mentees would be helpful at the outset.

My approach is ‘peer’ mentor b/c most are not just out of school/post-doc

Mentors might also reflect on their own journeys to generate additional discussion points or storytelling opportunities for their group. Some guiding questions:

  • What was a time you learned a lot because it didn’t go smoothly?
  • Who was your best mentor and what did you learn from him/her?
  • What skills do you think are critical as a woman leader?
  • What was your proudest moment?

We hope this list of tips, discussion points, and activities will be useful to our groups, and wish everyone the best for the next weeks of the program! Later in the summer, we’ll share some final thoughts and concluding lessons on our 2017 program.

We are so grateful for the mentors who have volunteered their time this year!

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Mentor Journal Entry 1: What is Mentorship?

Welcome to the Women Accelerators Mentor Journal!

We are one month into our Mentorship Program and many great discussions have begun. As I go through my work week, I’ve been re-reading a note I took at our first mentor meeting:

If coworkers are unresponsive, follow up. Ask for a meeting. Use phrases and words like “constructive feedback”, “smoothness” and “efficiency”.

I’ve put this idea into action a few times since I first met with my mentor in February. Advice like this — delivered via one-to-one relationships — is so crucial and nurturing in our competitive workplace. In this and three following blog posts (May, July, and September), we will be recording and sharing more great tips like this from mentors and their mentees.

A little background on our program: Our 2017 Mentorship Program session consists of 9 mentors and 37 mentees. Meetings are in a group session (in person or remote), with 3-6 mentees and one mentor. This is the fourth year of the program, with the largest attendance.  In January, 45 women signed up for our mentor “speed networking”, where they had the chance to meet our mentors for five minute discussions. Matches were made the following week, based on their interests and personal preferences from our surveys and groups met for the first time in February and March.

To find out what our mentees and mentors are learning, and help in areas where teams are stuck, we are communicating with them more often than we have in the past. The result, we hope, will be a rich online discussion to help our participants and beyond!

All mentees are first time mentees with Women Accelerators. Some of our mentors are also new to mentoring. Given this fact, we thought it would be helpful to define the mentor-mentee relationship. One of our mentees asked: Is there any structure in being mentor / mentee?

We are encouraging all groups to meet at least once a month, to build their relationships and discussions. Some may be going through career transitions — finishing a degree program, finding a new job, etc. — so six months is a great arc throughout which transformations can be seen.

At the start of the program, we asked participants to state their goals and interests. This helped us identify the best matches for their mentor groups. Some of our mentees discussed their goals with their teams at their first meeting. Those initial goals are great to revisit monthly, or however often it seems appropriate.

Our hope is that mentorship can fill the gaps where support is missing in the workplace. There are a wide range of areas where mentors can help!

  • Navigating a workplace conflict/politics
  • Issues specific to women, which may be uncomfortable to ask about. For example, how can women get recognized for their strengths when they are less likely to speak up?
  • Providing personal stories about how they overcame challenges
  • Giving advice about how to buy a suit
  • Learning how to feel more confident
  • Escaping a toxic work environment


Mentees should attend meetings prepared with a few questions or scenarios to share. For example:

  • How can you communicate with someone who constantly changes their mind?
  • Why did I feel more confident in college, compared to in the workforce?
  • What is the best way to ask for a raise?


Being as specific as possible is helpful. It’s likely that others may have similar questions or experiences — when the mentor answers, others are encouraged to take notes and add on their thoughts.

Each group dynamic is bound to be different, and everyone has something to gain from their mentor and fellow mentees. Here are some great things our mentees are learning already:

The personal stories from the mentor but also the other mentees were very inspiring!


It might not seem super useful, but just knowing that others are feeling similar to me is very helpful to me. I have a lot of friends who seem to know exactly what they want out of their careers, but I’ve always been interested in so many things. It’s nice to know that others feel the same struggle sometimes!


Ways to tackle language challenges, personal stories about changing state of mind and shifts in careers


Network is important, try to get more interviews for practises


Confidence is the key to everything. Changing our mindset about time, money, presentation… can change how we are perceived.


It was great to hear from not just my mentor but also mentees as suggestions that can improve at workplace.


I really appreciated meeting other women who are in varying states of professional transition, like myself. We all have a lot of wisdom to share, which is very valuable.


Stayed tuned for our second entry of Mentor Journal! Next time, we’ll turn the focus back on our mentors. What are some ways to ensure mentorship is successful? Are there activities mentor teams can work on together?

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Bonus Skills: A Conversation between Volunteers Leah and Kate

Written by Leah Brunetto

Have you ever picked up any skills without planning?

It can be hard to feel productive after you’ve been working on the same tasks for a while. Sometimes, we can be hard on ourselves for not moving ahead quickly enough, and of course, work can get tedious. Gaining a new perspective on ourselves can give us some more steam for our journey — today, we’d like to take a step back and tell you about some bonus skills we picked up along the way, and how they’ve transformed and connected us.

Working on a website at a nonprofit, I’ve been working on content updates and offering releases with marketing staff for three years. I knew nothing about marketing or content management systems when starting my job. At first, I was just to go-to person for technical purposes, but later I’ve taken on more of a role in other ways, such as communicating with internal clients, recording schedules, and becoming an expert on existing content and in house assets. I learned that I really liked all this, and it was something I was good at.

This experience gave me more confidence and inspired me to look for opportunities to write and help with communications outside my organization. I happened to be at a Women Accelerators event this spring, and there was an announcement that they were looking for contributors to their blog, to write about women’s career building topics. This really caught my attention, because I had been reading and listening to a lot of media about self-empowerment, and the idea of creating my own resources to help others got me really excited.

After getting involved as a volunteer, it wasn’t too long before I met fellow volunteer Kate, an account manager for a software company who also writes for the Women Accelerators website. Kate is very passionate about writing, and has so much hard-earned wisdom about work, so I was eager to hear more about her journey. We met up on a sunny afternoon in Kendall Square to talk about some skills that she gained on the job, and how they’ve unexpectedly shaped the career she has today:

LB: So, I’m very curious — when we first met over e-mail you mentioned you had a story about your unexpected growth in your role. What changed?

KH: It all started with my client meetings. Our company’s product is the same all the time, but the people you work with will all have different needs. As an account manager, I’m the go to person. If the client is having a problem, they call and mention things like “It would be great if your product could do this…” When clients come to you and say “I really wanna be able to do A, B, C, and D…” sometimes you think, “Well, our software does Z.” And when you’re in charge of the product, you can’t just change everything on a whim. You have to think: “Are there creative ways you can implement this without disrupting the way the product works? “

First, I’d just bring all my notes back and say “here are the problems” and my boss would come up with something. After doing this for a few months, out of the blue, my boss asked “What do you think?”

One time, he was traveling and couldn’t meet with me for over three days. I ended up thinking about a project the whole time and just made a decision. He told me that was I right. At this point, I knew more about the project than him! It was terrifying but exciting to realize, “I’m the only person who can do this!”

LB: That is amazing! But I could see that even being a little scary. When we start out, we’re used to looking to other people for all the answers.

KH: Yeah, that’s absolutely what’s happened for me! My boss hasn’t worked with as many biologists yet, and hasn’t done this complex of a data management setup yet. Whenever anything like this comes up, it goes to me.

LB: So you’ve become a specialist?

KH: Yes I suppose so!

LB: It’s so amazing to hear that after a short period of time, you made this great transformation, and it wasn’t something you could have really predicted. I know you started out studying chemistry, and I wonder if you could have ever imagined yourself as a software product manager!

KH: Right! We should feel comfortable giving ourselves permission to start and try something we’re interested in. So much of the time, people don’t even feel they’re allowed to do things, like try sculpting, and that’s just not OK.

LB: I totally feel that way with my job. My title isn’t “writer” or “editor”, and saying I want to try it feels kind of taboo!.Yet, here I am, interviewing you for an article and writing for the website!

KH: Yeah, I get a sense that people feel disloyal if they want to try out something new. Then, there is the whole issue of imposter syndrome: “But I don’t actually know what I’m doing…”, “What if it’s not good enough?”

LB: It seems like the key for us was just letting the transformation be gradual. We weren’t even aware of it at the beginning. Not to say that we weren’t making an effort — at the same time, this all requires a willingness to jump in and try new things. You could say, “Oh, well I was just thrown into this situation and had to adapt”, but we should definitely give ourselves credit, too. It sounds like you took a lot initiative with your project and really brought something new to it.

This was a very empowering conversation for me, and I’m grateful I had the opportunity to talk with Kate. I think our stories illustrate a few concepts:

  • Success doesn’t come all at once.
  • Skills are developed simply by doing them. As long as you’re doing it, you’re moving ahead even if you’re not doing “great”.
  • You don’t need to ask for anyone’s permission to learn a new skill, give anything you’re interested in a try!

Take a moment to name one thing you’ve learned or rediscovered in your current job. Next, imagine how you can use it in or outside your workplace in a new way. What greater role might this play in your career and life?

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Own Your Own Football: Conflict Communication

Figure out what drives your heart, then own it. And by God, they will let you play.conflict

In the evening of Tuesday, September 27th in Cambridge, a group of about thirty women engaged in industry, academia, law, entrepreneurship, and more, gathered around a conference room table. They were there not just to hear Michele Whitham speak about how she came to “own her own football”, but to connect and share ideas about handling conflict in the workplace.

Michele Whitham is a powerhouse of a woman with a list of accolades and accomplishments that easily make her one of the most admirable women I have ever met: she is a lawyer that is heavily involved in social justice, activism, and community engagement, is a 2015-2016 Inductee into the National Association of Professional Women and the Association’s VIP Woman of the Year, was a co-leader to launch the inaugural Women’s Bar Association of Massachusetts’ Women’s Leadership Initiative, and so much more. Even more impressive is that behind her stunning achievements, she is a kind, empathetic, insightful, and strong-willed woman with a story that so many of us can relate to.

Miriam Margala & Michele WhitmanLeaning into the table and talking to us like old friends do, Michele described how she discovered a love for football at five years old. She set her sights on becoming a football player, and would practice throwing the ball around with her father and her neighbor, Al Cowen, a well-known footballer in Texas. She started going to pickup football games, but time and time again she was the only girl, and she would never get picked to play. Undeterred, she continued to return to these games until a few years later, her father came home and surprised her with a gift: an official NFL football, signed by the one and only Cowen. The very next pickup game she went to, she proudly brought her own football, and not only did she get to play, but she got to be the captain.

The message of her childhood story was simple: listen to your heart and what drives you, be Michele Whithamconfident in it, bring it to the table, and the people sitting across from you will let you play because you are owning the part of yourself that put you there. That is the first lesson in conflict communication: practice the art of self-empowerment and cultivate your professional presence. Consider what you are aiming to achieve, and decide how you are going to approach a situation. Have confidence in your abilities to do all that you can do, and be committed to listening and learning as much as you can about the motivations and values of other people in the room.

There were six other points highlighted throughout the evening that sum up the most important nuggets of wisdom that Michele presented as the keys to her continued success in dealing with conflict:

  1. Everyone deals with conflict differently; appreciate those differences.
  2. Don’t take conflict personally; someone else’s reaction is not a reflection on ourselves.
  3. Be willing to listen to what the other person is saying, and if needed, express that you need to step away to process.
  4. Make an effort to maintain your credibility, to be mature, and to not let your emotions get the best of you. (Step away if emotions are running too high!)
  5. Become proactive institutional anthropologists: observe and learn the motivations/desires of your colleagues even before conflict arises.
  6. Cultivate a circle of key informants, or people that you trust to lend insights into how someone else may be conceptualizing the conflict.

de la femme membersBy the end of the evening, more than half of us in the room had joined in with Michele’s pointers to ask questions, provide thoughtful insight, and share our own positive or negative experiences. Conflict is something that we all have to deal with, and none of us are in this alone. Approaching a conflict with maturity, a willingness to listen to others and a sense of your own self-are three important pieces to successful resolutions. And we must not forget to lean on each other for help when we need to see more sides to the story.

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Register for “Own Your Own Football: Conflict Communication and Resolution Strategies”

Join us for de la Femme’s kickoff event on September 28. The topic will be on Conflict Communication and Resolution Strategies for successful professional management.

What you say and do matters for the outcome you want in any given situation.  Whether at the workplace or in our personal lives, we have all been through scenarios where communication barriers result in negative and costly outcomes.  There is always a time, when you need to listen and a time to speak up for yourself.  Ever wonder when is the time to speak and when to listen?  Oliver Wendell Homes Sr. once said, “It is the province of knowledge to speak and it is the privilege of wisdom to listen.”  Join us with Michele Whitham to learn the insights/skills of successful professional self-management and hone in some practical workplace conflict resolution strategies.


Date/Time: Wednesday, September 28, 2016, at 6 PM.

Location: The Broad Institute, Kendall Sq, Cambridge, MA.

Dinner and drinks will be provided.  Registration is required, sign-in upon arrival.

Register at dlf-conflict-communication.eventbrite.com (Early registration by 9/21 for $10! Register Now)

Visit our website!  

Read a story about conflict communication by one of our members: https://womenaccelerators.org/2016/09/seeing-the-silver-lining-in-a-conflict/


Michele Whitham

Michele Whitham is an established employment and privacy lawyer, community leader and owner of Whitham Law LLC, serving clients in Massachusetts, the United States and worldwide. She is a former Co-Managing Partner of Foley Hoag LLP, where she practiced for twenty-five years, and is a well-known lawyer who has been recognized nationally for her accomplishments.

Her many accolades include recently being listed in The Best Lawyers in America® for Employment Law – Management, co-leading the launch of the inaugural Women’s Bar Association of Massachusetts’ Women’s Leadership Initiative, and being named one of Massachusetts Lawyers Weekly’s Top Women in the Law. Michele is a 2015-2016 Inductee into the National Association of Professional Women and the Association’s VIP Woman of the Year Circle; a director of the Partnership Inc. (promoting diversity in management ranks).


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Seeing the Silver Lining in a Conflict

Written By Kate Hardy.

For most people, conflict is uncomfortable at best and downright nerve-racking at worst. I’ve met few people that genuinely Conflict Communication imagelike conflict, but since we all have different backgrounds, opinions and experiences, conflict is simply unavoidable from time-to-time. I don’t think it has to be a wholly terrible thing though. I know you may read that and think I’m crazy, but bear with me here for a minute: If we work to change our mindset about disagreements, they can become powerful learning tools.

I think about times that I’ve experienced conflict at work. There’s one instance in particular that really rises to the top for me, and it was a disagreement about how to handle a project for a client. I had one idea, and a colleague had a very different idea: I saw an opportunity to add a new feature into our software product that I felt would increase the value for our customer, whereas my colleague felt that we should not do any development work to the software until the customer had used it as-is and requested changes. The debate about which methodology would work best got a bit heated, and although there were no personal slights, I walked away from the disagreement feeling flustered and upset. I ruminated on this all day, and found that it had really gotten under my skin.

By the time my day had ended and I was at home, the distance from the problem had given me a shift in perspective. I had gotten upset that my colleague had disagreed with me, yet I had also disagreed with him. I considered the reasons why he felt his method worked better (no development time spent on what could potentially be a wild goose chase), and I had to admit that he did put forth some genuinely good insight. But then I also recognized that, as the person that worked with this client almost daily, I already knew what they needed at a bare minimum to finish the project, so it was up to me to put that into small, actionable steps that would both impress the customer and not be overly taxing on our developers. I started to form a new methodology over the course of my evening, and when I went into work the next day, I had resolved to walk into my colleague’s office and tell him I had considered his ideas, and I wanted to propose something new that took the best from both of our opinions. Turns out, he really liked my new proposition.

It obviously takes two to tango in a conflict. Sometimes the other person doesn’t play fair. Sometimes the other person can’t be reasoned with or wants to pull rank. Conflict isn’t always going to have a rosy, picture-perfect outcome. But if we consistently steel ourselves for the worst in a disagreement, we’re setting ourselves up for a painful situation. And oftentimes it can feel really good to be the person that is able to step back and say, “You know what? Your ideas are good, and here’s what I like about them. I also think I can contribute in this way.” Consider a time when you’ve been on the receiving side of someone offering an olive branch like that – it’s a relief, right? And if you’re like me, I can’t help but respect the person that a bit more.

Communication in conflict has as much to do with clearly explaining your position as it does with actively listening and understanding the position of someone else. At the end of the day, we all want to be heard. It helps me to remember that my experiences give me a unique opinion, and they are not the same experiences as someone else. By working together, a middle-ground path can make both people in a conflict feel heard and pave the way forward.



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Paving the way for a female POTUS?

When I turned to my internet news source today, I was delighted to see the first headline on my page talking about the first female CEO of General Motors (GM) being named. So, being from the Motor City (ahem, Detroit, MI), I would be remiss if I did not write about it.

Starting in January, Mary Barra will take over from the current GM CEO, Dan Akerson, to lead one of the top auto makers in the country, if not the world. Her career started as a plant engineer on the GM factory floor in 1980. Soon enough, she moved up the male-dominated ranks of the motor industry by obtaining an MBA from the Stanford Graduate School of Business, working as an executive assistant for a former GM CEO, and more recently, acting as senior vice president for global product development for the company.

I was very excited to read about Mary Barra and her journey through the management division of GM mainly because it was similar to that of many hard-working successful women. And it provides a great example of how women can navigate through an industry that was formerly dominated by men. However, after mentioning this story to a friend of mine, he asked me one question that I never thought about myself: Is this a small step to the US maybe finally being ready for a woman president?

That was a difficult question to answer. I want to believe that yes, this is a great leap to dissolve gender inequality, however, it seemed more like a stepping stone rather than a leap. Afterall, this was 2013, and we are NOW just talking about a CEO for the Big Auto 3? Yes, Mary Barra is a high-ranking female executive. She has personally experienced and led positive changes in the male-dominated automobile industry culture. But because this industry has been an integral part of US culture for the better part of a century, many will likely first see how Barra fares before they pass judgment on women in leadership roles.

Many other countries have had great women leaders, as my friend reminded me. But how much more will women have to do before the whole “frail female” stereotype has been dissolved? Many had criticized the decision Marissa Mayer, the president and CEO of Yahoo, made to return to work so soon after giving birth last year because a mother should spend that time bonding with her newborn child. Here she was trying to abolish this stereotype and be responsible as the president of her company, but the media was trying to fit her into a gender-specific role. This only highlights the fact that in order to fully accept women into high-ranking executive and leadership roles, we must change the culture’s perception on women in business, science, and in other areas of society.

Women still have a long way to go before being fully accepted as leaders in American culture, but women like Mary Barra help make it possible even one step at a time. Her journey (and others) are great examples of how to overcome obstacles and help to pave the way for female officials, even for the next female POTUS.


*Thanks to Ishan Mahapatra for the great idea!

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Want to give a better presentation?

I was recently reading a great opinion article by David Rubenson of “The Scientist” magazine where he provides advice on how to improve your skills for giving a biomedical research talk.

Although I completely understand why he specifically targets scientists (he is writing the “The Scientist”, after all), I think his points could well be applied to others looking to improve their talks. So please feel free to check out the link below to get a better grasp of giving presentations — whether it is for your next science talk, big board meeting or even job interview.

David Rubenson. Opinion: How to give better talks. The Scientist.


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The windy, curvy road to success

After reading an article written by Nathaniel Koloc for the Harvard Business Review (1) about being successful, I took a step back to think about my own road to success.  Was it as easy as many movies had lent me to believe it would be (Hello, Legally Blonde!); or was it a windy road full of obstacles that led me to become the person I am today?

Of course, it was a no brainer. I was a “windy-road” sort of girl. The road to success is never easy, but it is nonetheless very meaningful.

So what are the keys to success? Nathaniel provided quite a bit of advice on the topic in his own article (1), so I will just add a few of my own which I think we should all think about:

Be goal-oriented. Most of us have no idea what we would want to do for the rest of our lives. And that’s OK! I think this is most prevalent in women finishing with their PhDs in the biological sciences (of course, I am speaking from personal experience amongst me and my friends). Now that we have our PhDs, what do we do? Rather than thinking what do I do, think what CAN I do. Ladies (and gentlemen), you have gotten this far. You were driven, motivated and goal-oriented. And keeping those skills and using them in your new professional life can only help. So if you want to use your degree to, say, teach children about science, then research how you can get there.  Talk to other people in the area and network.

Talk to people. If you are interested in any sort of job, try to reach out to as many people as you can to learn more about it. For example, if you have always wanted to be a nurse, why not talk to the nurse at your doctor’s office about hers (or his) job?  If you are in the sciences, talk to more people at conferences. And don’t be nervous or scared.  The fact of the matter is that most other people are just as nervous or as scared as you.  Be outgoing, chat, and learn about what they do. At worst, they just won’t talk to you. At best, you have managed to get a new contact.

Network, network, network. They don’t have seminars on this for nothing, folks.  Networking is one of the most important tools we have in our job-search arsenal. Not only does it help you learn more about your prospective new job, but it also “adds a face to a name” when you are applying for jobs. Let’s say you talked to person X at a meeting. Months later, you send person X an email about this-that-or-another. The chances of you getting a response are much higher because this person will remember you.

Get started now. While it may seem like a daunting task, just simply doing a Google search or sending an email will not only bring you one step closer to getting the job you want, but it will also relieve some of the stress and concern with job searching. Why? Because you have started doing something. The worst that can happen? You don’t get a response. However, sending multiple emails will increase your chances of hearing back and learning more about your potential future career.

You can always change your job. The best advice I have ever received about careers was from my cousin, actually. As I was looking for jobs last year, he told me “Monica, do the job you want to do now. You can always change later.”  Even though that last sentence seemed so obvious, I never thought of it. And hearing it (and subsequently letting it sink in) was quite freeing. I can do the job I want to do right now.

Now, while that advice was what I needed to hear at the time, now, I realize that any job I have should be a stepping stone to the career that I want. Admittedly, I am not sure of what the career I want actually is at the moment. But I know that every job I have and every volunteer opportunity I take will help me to figure it out. And it will bring me one step closer to the career that will make me happy.


(1) Koloc, Nathaniel. Build a career worth having. Harvard Business Review. http://blogs.hbr.org/cs/2013/08/build_a_career_worth_having.html

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Being your best “whole” person: advice from a Harvard professor

There still is hope for female scientists.

A recent blog post came out in Scientific American by Radhika Nagpal where she talks about her life as a tenure-track academic professor at Harvard University (1). Many of us have already imagined the stereotypical life of a Harvard professor — constantly working, hunched over a desk writing grants into the wee hours of the morning. We believe that every academic professor is not able to maintain a good work-life balance. In fact, one of my own female advisors gave me this piece of advice: “If you want kids, the quality of the time that you spend with them is important; not the quantity of time. So make sure you get a good nanny.” A good nanny? So that as-a-matter-of-fact statement solidified for me what the life of an academic professor would be like. And I certainly didn’t want that.

And then I read Dr. Nagpal’s account of her life as an academic professor where she is able to maintain a wonderful work-life balance…at Harvard, no less! She seems to seamlessly be able to integrate her family life into her career. To be quite honest, I cringed a little just typing that sentence — how I have been conditioned to believe that your family life needs to integrate into your career. Regardless, here’s my take-away from her blog.

“I stopped taking advice”: And she’s right. What works for one person may not work for you. Yes, it is great to listen to the roads that others’ took to get to where they are, but it was their road and not yours. Listen to yourself (read: see the “best ‘whole’ person” you can be section below). There is no one road to success, and the roads vary from person to person.

“I work a fixed number of hours and in a fixed amount of time”: This section of her blog really stuck with me. Within the last year, I’ve graduated with PhD and left the big city that I had lived in for 6 years to go to another big city where I have a job as a post-doc in the biological sciences. I went from working over 80 hours a week in graduate school to cutting that time in half in order to maintain a healthy work-life balance. I also stopped “working late Friday night and I don’t open my email client until Monday morning.” (1) Dr. Nagpal is right; people do adapt. If it was an urgent message, my colleagues know how to reach me on my cell phone. But honestly, no experiment has been that urgent — as least not yet (I hope I just didn’t jinx myself!).

“I try to be the best ‘whole’ person I can”: And being a “whole” person can mean a lot of things, but most importantly, it means taking care of yourself and your wellbeing. Once you do, only then can you put good, solid effort into other areas of your life. For me, it means taking the time to care for myself by working out, reading a good book, or seeing friends. Dr. Nagpal is right, being your best “whole person” is giving yourself your very best. And I, at least, will not settle for anything less.

So if you haven’t read Dr. Nagpal’s great advice yet, I certainly encourage you to do so (1), even if you aren’t in the sciences. Her musings about her “feelgood” email folder and trying to be the best “whole” person you can be is easily applied to all who want to have it all. This post really helped me realize that as women, we can have the family and the career, and maintaining a work-life balance certainly helps with that. And by doing so, you are able to give 100% in every aspect of your life.

(1) http://blogs.scientificamerican.com/guest-blog/2013/07/21/the-awesomest-7-year-postdoc-or-how-i-learned-to-stop-worrying-and-love-the-tenure-track-faculty-life/

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