Coronavirus disruptions weigh more heavily on women

From the desk of Hannah Stenzel of Godfrey Financial Associates, Inc.

Woman working while sitting with daughter at table in house

This past weekend, my social media feeds filled with pictures and heartfelt notes of gratitude to mothers everywhere. I never ceased to be amazed at the beauty, resiliency, and individuality that women embody every day. Yet, at this moment, so many women are struggling with the increased demands that the Covid-19 pandemic has incurred.

We’ve known for a long time that chronically struggle under the stress of bearing the unequal weight of household work, caretaking roles, and lower wages. So what happens during a pandemic when they have even more stresses, and even less support?

This article in Biz Women by Caitlin Mullen was helpful to begin understanding the scope of the problem because it uses specific numbers and examples of how women are affected in greater capacities; not just with higher stress, but also with increased exposure rates to possible infection, lower healthcare, and more job complications. All of this leads to compounded worry and stress.

Mullen states, “Given women’s tendency to shoulder more of the concern and preparation, it’s not surprising women are more likely than men to report coronavirus worry or stress has had a major negative effect on their mental health. More than one-third of women said these worries have had some effect on their mental health, per the Kaiser Family Foundation poll.”

Moving forward, I’m hopeful that we can explore how we can provide better support systems for women while being safe (and socially distanced).

You can read the full article here.

Positive Steps to Building Your Team COVID-19 Crisis Communication Connection Plan of Action

From the desk of Sharon A. Burstein, President and CEO, Sharon Burstein International

People respond to crisis situations in a variety of ways. How you respond
to situations is how you recover. When you look at a glass of water do you think of it as half full or do you see it as half empty? One looks from the view of an optimist, while the other is a pessimistic viewpoint and attitude.

In the wise word of Winston Churchill, “A Pessimist sees the difficulty in every opportunity; and an optimist see the opportunity in every difficulty.”

During this time of the COVID-19 outbreak, lives have been turned upside down. We are spinning in new ways and experiencing new words like social distancing and shelter in place. Throughout everything, hope is important to find and latch on to. It may take some intentional effort, but having hope and seeing possibilities ahead and beyond, sets the framework for a positive mindset. Staying in a mental place of seeing hope and possibilities is great for your mental mindset, which has significance in helping to keep you healthy.

Keep your eyes on the road looking forward. There will be hills and
turns throughout the journey, but learn to move with the swaying turns and obstacles in your path and stay on the road. There may be times to shift gears to pass, accelerate or slow down, but keep your eyes looking forward ahead, know where you are headed and your destination. If you do not know where you are headed, you will never know if you have arrived.

Throughout the past months, much has been written about how companies, organizations, and not for profits of all sizes around the country are reacting and responding to COVID-19. What is interesting is that companies, organizations, and not for profits have shown huge diverse ranges
as to how they view where we are and their future. Now is the time to look beyond where we are, to have a vision, and think from a viewpoint of innovation as to how to grow, thrive, and be relevant moving forward. This is not the time to wear blinders, be controlling, have tunnel vision, and silo mentality ways of thinking.

While money is a key component of a business’s success, it’s not everything. During these unchartered times, relationships and building a culture of caring are essential. Now is the time to reach out to clients, customers, colleagues, friends, neighbors, family, and the community and
simply show that you care. Yes, difficult decisions are being made by everyone, but now is the time to show and demonstrate through your words and actions that you care about. Creating, growing, and maintaining connections in all aspects of our life is significant and relevant.

Here are 2 of the greatest things that you can do during these times and 2 of the worst things that you can do.

2 Great Things to Do: Create a Positive Mindset and Discover Ways to Be Happy

2 Worst Things to Do: Hibernate and Freeze

Be the architect of your mindset and attitude. When you allow the power of positivity to flow, you will find greater satisfaction. These are times when many existing leaders stumble and fall and a time when new leaders emerge and shine. When you hibernate and freeze, you are not helping yourself or others around you and are closing everyone and everything out. This rigid approach is a hindrance and helps nothing and no one. By creating a positive mindset and discovering ways to be happy, you are being open, keeping an open mindset, and looking forward.

Relationships are vital keys to success in every industry and all aspects of life. Now is the time and opportunity to forge closer relationships with clients, partners, sponsors, supporters, and the community. Now is the time to build stronger alliances and communication. Now is the time for everyone to think and to be more creative using the word “HOW” and being more flexible with events, situations and relationships.

Your success in life begins with you! It all starts with how you think about who you are, what you are doing, where you have been and the direction you are headed. How you perceive and believe in yourself is up to you. The universe is open with no boundaries. It will bring to you what you wish to attract and believe. When you open your mind up to possibilities and opportunities to grow, you will find that they surround you, but you have to believe in you first.

So what are suggestions to help build your team and Board during these times? They truly are not complicated. Here are five key ways to build communication, connection, and success. These are timeless, will propel you forward now, and be relevant for your tomorrows ahead.

  • Stay Connected – Maintain Open Lines of Communication
  • Create Innovation Mindsets
  • Show Through Your Actions How You Are Helping with Acts of Kindness and Deeds
  • Dedicate Specific Duties – Grow effective teams, and work together
  • Build a Culture of Thanks, Appreciation and Gratitude

Think and build an innovation mindset. If you are at the helm, lead and bring people together. Create open lines of communication through every possible source. These are times when great leaders rise to the top. Great leaders understand how vital open lines of communication are crossing all departments, locations, and roles. They listen first, learn, understand, and then take action. Similarly, there are those who presently hold leading roles, who will sink their ships with struggles of power as they work to overthrow those who can help right the ship. Weathering a storm, let alone a pandemic requires all hands on deck. Those who yell and scream orders put everyone in jeopardy and risk.

When everyone moves forward working seamlessly as a team, overcoming challenges, obstacles, and discovering new solutions, that is creating an innovation mindset. Those organizations and companies that pull together today, will be stronger tomorrow.

Building a Culture of Success

From the desk of Sharon A. Burstein, President and CEO, Sharon Burstein International

Here’s a question for you. How would you describe the business culture of your company or organization? Business culture affects internal and external success. Many of you reading this may not even know your business’ culture. This is something vital and yet is often a guarded secret or so unknown that it causes eyes to glaze over.

The culture of a company combines, its communication, collaboration and innovation. It begins with a company mission statement. Should your company not have one, stop right here and work to create one (20 words or less). Your mission is a declaration of your vision, values, and who you are.

Look at successful companies and you will most often find a strong, transparent culture, that everyone knows. It is a first step to building effective teams. Look at the growth of a company and you find a direct correlation to business growth, employee, engagement, employee retention, job satisfaction and work performance.

As you grow your company and department, remember it is not just the skill sets you are looking to fill, it is about how people fit into your company culture, values and visions. Are they dedicated? Are they team players? Do they know and understand your company mission?

Associates in any organization enjoy working in a culture they believe in, respect and trust. Share your visions for now and the future. Looking to build greater success? Begin with a strong company culture at the forefront of where you are today and your visions for tomorrow.

Happiness and Leadership

From the desk of Sharon Burstein, President and CEO, Sharon Burstein International

Are you a happy person? Do you enjoy being happy and being around happy people?

Happiness is a choice. When you are happy and take care of yourself the more joyful life is!

Think and respond to yourself about the questions below.

Are you happy?

What makes you happy?

What makes YOU great!

What makes you successful?

Here is a question for you.

Does success bring happiness or does happiness bring success? What are your thoughts? Happiness brings about greater opportunity and possibility for success.

Did you know that happy people are more successful across the board of  all aspects of life?

Here is your -21 Day Happiness Expansion plan

Think of 3 Things every day that will grow you, your happiness and success.

            1. 3 things you are grateful for

            2. 10 minutes of exercise every day

            3. 1 or more acts of kindness

Your goal –  To build a happy you. When you are happy you build greater success and happier teams in your career and life. Studies show that happy people are more than 33% effective.

Training your brain is like going to the gym to train your muscles. Your mind will do as you think! It is the Law of Attraction.

Jason Benitez: Leading Talent and Inclusion in the Capital District

From the desk of Hannah Stenzel of Godfrey Financial Associates, Inc.

This past week, I had the pleasure of meeting Jason Benitez and interviewing him about his dreams and goals for his position as Vice President of Talent and Inclusion of the Capital Region Chamber.

Benitez is now the second person to hold this title, succeeding Angela Dixon this past July. This position was created as part of a strategic overhaul that the Capital Region Chamber began five years ago in an effort to better serve the evolving needs of our communities.

Benitez is inspired by the opportunity for his position as being a hub of connection and empowerment for businesses throughout our region.

Connecting Local Business with Talent

            Benitez likens his role in developing talent and inclusion to a community-wide human resources department, working with businesses and community members on several different fronts. “It’s very much a multi-pronged approach,” he explained.

            The talent aspect of his role involves guiding businesses to tap into the wealth of skills and knowledge that our local communities hold. “It’s doing what you can to make sure that the needs of the business community are being met; especially in ensuring that there is a pipeline [of a workforce] that is prepared and ready to meet the needs of the business community,” he explained.

            The inclusion aspect of his role makes sure that our educational institutions, businesses, not-for-profits, and community-based organizations are working with underrepresented populations, and fostering greater equity throughout their procedures. One of the most important questions he asks is, “Are we really taking advantage of a full and wide cross-section of our population?”

            For example, Benitez noted the underrepresentation of women and people of color in STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Math) fields. “We look at the end dilemma and work backward. Why are fewer women considering this? How can we produce more women with STEM skills that businesses are  asking for?”

He highlighted the Chamber’s P-TECH partnership with Capital Region BOCES and two local school districts that empower high school students to complete a significant amount of a STEM associate’s degree while still in high school. Then, colleagues at the Chamber work to get underrepresented groups interested and prepared to take on these STEM roles.

Removing barriers to access education is crucial. “We have to make sure that the institutions that are providing these skills are engaging underrepresented groups in this pipeline process,” he stated.

Including underserved and underrepresented communities in the workforce is a win-win: companies with a more diverse workforce are more likely to achieve above-average profits, and by supporting our vulnerable populations, our community becomes stronger as a whole.

What Makes Diversity and Inclusion Work?

Diversity and inclusion are two distinct and integral parts of his role. What’s the difference, and why does it matter? There’s a popular quote by Verna Myers, the VP of Inclusion Strategy at Netflix, which states: “Diversity is being invited to the party. Inclusion is being asked to dance.”

What this means is that while the diverse representation of populations is important, inclusion speaks to everyone’s ability to be involved in a community. In order to work, inclusionary policies must be part of a business’s (and a community’s) entire system and culture, not just a token gesture.

Benitez elaborates, “Diversity and inclusion have to go hand in hand; it can’t just be a box-checking. It has to be considering “What is [an employee’s] experience like once they get there?” That’s the climate, the inclusion piece. That’s what speaks to tenure and longevity, how inclusive the workplace actually is.”

            Our regional workforce is experiencing a wave of change. Benitez asks, how are businesses and organizations really preparing for this wave? “When I say preparing, I mean are they examining their hiring practices, their promotion practices, the climate of their day-to-day workplace…and asking, are those things presenting an opportunity or an obstacle to certain folks?”

His History in Education

Benitez worked for most of his career in higher education, beginning in the early 1990s when he came to Albany from his hometown of Brooklyn to study at SUNY Albany as an EOP student. He graduated and stayed at SUNY Albany where he worked at residential life, running dorms and counseling students, and also meeting his wife.

Benitez continued his legacy by becoming the Director of Multicultural Affairs and EOP Coordinator at Schenectady County Community College in 2009, and then as Associate Dean of Diversity and Inclusion at Union college from 2011 to 2019. At Union College, Benitez spearheaded programming and diversity work, advised a wide array of student clubs and organizations, and developed numerous campaigns that still continue; such as the Social Justice Retreat and Pride Walk. It was at Union College that he developed a working relationship with Marna Redding, which led to his being tapped for his new role at the Chamber.

His extensive experience working in higher education imbues him with a valuable and unique skillset; the ability to talk to different communities, to engage, to build diversity and inclusion related initiatives. It’s also easy to see the passion he has for identifying and cultivating the immense potential of the people and organizations he works with.

“I really felt in many ways that I was able to work with students in the chapter right before they were going on to do some really great things, and I like to think that, for at least some of them, that I had an impact on them through our years of interactions and programs…that’s what’s inspiring, is being able to see them in their first year, and witnessing and contributing to their growth. It’s very rewarding and powerful.”

The Talent and Inclusion Summit

            That same passion he has for collaborating with students as they work towards doing great things, Benitez brings to local businesses as they develop and evolve.

            One of the first steps in expanding this offering was the inaugural Talent and Inclusion summit, which was this past September 19th.  

“We had 150 attendees, with keynote speakers and break-out panels focusing on underserved communities, such as veterans, folks with disabilities, and folks with an incarceration record,” Benitez explained.

            Benitez looks forward to making this an annual event and expanding other Chamber offerings to carry forward our region’s economic opportunity.

The Future of the Chamber, and Our Region

The latest development in the expansion of the Chamber includes merging with the Southern Saratoga Chamber of Commerce. This now allows the Chamber to effectively align and engage a larger area of the capital district, which will serve everyone.

Benitez sees the strategic implications of this merger. “We’re really trying to send a strong message of regional unity; that it’s great for these cities to have their unique identities, but it works to our best interest as a region…that we can still operate independently, but that we should think and strategize as a region.”

Inclusion and the Women’s Business Council

Benitez sees the natural alignment of core values between his role and the Women’s Business Council, and he is excited for helping women to achieve greater equity in the workforce.

            I showed him a WBC Voice entry by Karen Lombardo, citing an article showing that 49% of all new businesses started in the United States were run by women and that the majority of those women were African American. Benitez commented on how women-owned businesses tend to grow faster and present a greater opportunity for change. “Speculating as to why women-owned businesses tend to grow faster, is because…they are going to operate in a way that’s more progressive, more open to opportunity, fairer. And maybe those elements are helping those businesses to flourish because people are flocking to them.”

            Benitez has experienced how empowering each other leads to increased opportunity and hope for everyone, and he takes that forward as a personal mission. “I used to say to my students that your education creates a light, and you have a duty to not hide that light. You have to use it to illuminate the path for those that are coming up behind you.”

Capital District Sportswoman of the Year

Image result for capital district sports woman of the year 2019

The Capital District Sports Women of the Year program honors the best and brightest female student athletes from high schools and colleges in the Capital District of New York State. They are the future women of the WBC.

The CDSWOY initiative was created by Eric McDowell, President of The Eric Idea Agency,

Capital District Sports Women of the Year, Inc. will honor 10 high school and five college female student-athletes for academics, athletics and community service in May.

To learn more about this organization, join them on October 14th for a reception that will take place at the Glennpeter Jewelers Diamond Centre, 1544 Central Ave. in Albany, from 5:30 p.m. to 7:30 p.m. The reception will include complimentary hors d’oeuvres, appetizers and dessert with a cash bar. 100% of beverage sales during the event will be donated to CDSWOY.

The raffle will include a gift certificate for a wine tasting event ($1,500 value), a design and wine party ($500 value), and a 50/50 drawing. A silent auction will also be held. Admission is free, donations are appreciated.

Sign-up here to go to the October 14th reception.

For more information, go to, email at or call Eric McDowell at 518-588-8016.

Tee’s Nuggets of Survival Part 2

From the desk of Tee Marie Hanible, U.S. Marine, Philanthropist, Entrepreneur, National Speaker – Activist, Co-Star of FOX’S “American Grit” and our 2019 Bold in Business Speaker.

Image result for tee marie hanible

Last week, Tee Marie shared that her first nugget of survival is communication now we shift a focus on her second: individual accountability.

“Now this may mean many different things to different people but for me, it simply means knowing when it’s time to make the hard decisions and having the intestinal fortitude to make those hard decisions. One of the hardest things to do is making a decision to go in a different direction or to start over. 

However, sometimes you will find yourself in a situation where you may have to implement a plan b) or a plan c) hell sometimes even a plan d).   No plan is 100% foolproof and that’s ok, knowing when to say, “this isn’t working, let me try something else” is what a true leader does – it’s what a Warrior does!”

There’s still time to register to attend Bold in Business on Friday, October 4th. Now is your chance to sign up HERE!

Communication that Works at Work

From the desk of Julia Hayden, Community Relations and Resource Development, Habitat for Humanity of Schenectady County, Inc.

Is the warmest form of flattery imitation?  Well, maybe not.  Consider the power and empowering nature of listening.  Listening to others is a skill, as well as a tool to help develop your relationships at work (and beyond).

In this series, we will give thought to how we as leaders, professionals and entrepreneurs can bring about effective cooperative change in the workplace through communication.  Sound communication starts with a commitment to listen to understand.

It's my last day here
photo by laflor

Today’s workplace is ripe for conflict and misunderstanding.  With most of our communication taking place through email, text or social media – a screen quickly removes listening from our conversations.  Rapid-fire communication feels efficient; however, it may be taking you down the slippery road of misinformation or missed-information.

Take a moment to consider – the last time you intentionally started a conversation to listen.  Now compare that to an experience when you felt someone else was unwilling to hear or understand your thoughts.  Listening takes time, thought and intention. It also reduces conflict and misunderstanding.

You cannot escape conflict at work. Yet, the best remedy for conflict is to take the time to listen to others thoughts.   Listening to hear is the key. Again, think about the last time you found yourself in a push-pull at work.  Do you feel that conflict was the result of communication (or failure to communicate?)

More and more business leaders and entrepreneurs believe listening is the key to success. Listening comes with a unique set of benefits.  The most direct of which is the strong potential to reduce conflict or misunderstandings.  Just this alone can reduce “re-work” at work.

Listening can turn misunderstandings into positive action and more rewarding interactions. Elle Kaplan, CEO/Founder of LexionCapital, is a strong advocate for reducing conflict through active listening.  She explains: ‘Active listening’ [listening to hear] is the key to getting the most out of a conversation, and has numerous personal and interpersonal benefits. While studies show that most people believe they have above-average listening skills, the average person listens with only about 25% efficiency. Listening is a misunderstood skill, and one in which you probably have great potential for growth.”

Listening to hear and understand goes beyond the words in the exchange. It demands your complete focus on what someone is saying, rather than ticking off the words to get it done.  It is intentional, not accidental. ‘Peter Drucker once said that “The most important thing in communication is hearing what isn’t said.”

To begin to explore communication that works at work think about how you can give others the space to communicate their thoughts fully. One easy step is to move away from the screen and focus on building a conversation.

Take the conversation to the other person.  Use the convenience of text or email to set up time to talk.  Do not let words, phrases or even emojis hijack your communication.  Being present allows us to hear, see and experience what is being said.

By doing this you have transformed an exchanged into a conversation.  This first step gives you the opportunity to truly understand what someone else is trying to say, along with getting to the meaning of their thoughts.

Next, hold off on the desire to formulate your response before the other person is finished.  Learning not to rush listening is the art form within the skill of listening. By doing this, you free everyone up to talk and share ideas. It creates an ease and flow within your conversation.   

Listening is the warmest form of flattery. Listening conveys you are interested in someone else’s thoughts and that you are committed to having a meaningful conversation. 

Through our organizations and companies, can we unite our community efforts to help others?


From the desk of Julia Hayden, Community Relations and Resource Development, Habitat for Humanity of Schenectady County, Inc.

On April 25th over 135 community leaders, elected officials and engaged community members attended Habitat for Humanity of Schenectady County’s community symposium entitled “It Takes a Community – Building a New American Promise.”  Covenant Hall at the First Reformed Church of Schenectady was filled to capacity.  The symposium generated a resounding commitment to better connect our community resources.

Tackling the complexity of poverty is not easy.  Discussions can grind to a halt.  Not so during this recent symposium.  Schenectady’s Mayor McCarthy welcomed the Keynote speaker Brenda Kenneally, who grew up in poverty in the Capital Region of Upstate NY.  Kenneally quickly engaged the audience with her perspective as a mother, teacher, multiplatform documentarian, Guggenheim Fellow, Pulitzer Prize nominee and a TIME Magazine award-winning photojournalist.  Leading the first session of the morning, Kenneally offered an in-depth presentation examining the local history of poverty to present day needs.   Kenneally brought to the conversation more than thirty years of work that has produced visceral portraits of disadvantaged children, women, and families in America.

Two panel discussions followed Kenneally’s presentation.  One included local families, as well as individuals Kenneally has worked with in documentaries.  Each shared a stark voice of reality, describing their daily struggles to make ends living at the threshold of poverty.  A member of the audience said; “This segment overwhelmed me. It gave the local data real faces and stories – we cannot continue as we are!”   The second panel, composed of community leaders, was a straight talk round table highlighting the initiatives underway to tackle substandard housing and poverty in our neighborhoods.

The Symposium wrapped up with attendees discussing how they personally, and through their organizations, could better work together to unite community efforts to eliminate substandard housing.  Now, follow up sessions are being launched to coordinate efforts with projects underway. Keynote Brenda Kenneally will be holding an open door “nuts and bolts’ conversation later in May at Schenectady Habitat.

Shaming people who live in poverty is an old reflex in America. Kenneally reminds us that the fault lines of capitalism are everywhere within our nation, running through the very foundation we keep building upon. Her excavations blast through any attempt to deny it. In her book’s opening essay, she refers to her photographs as “new fossils.” With taking pictures, Kenneally writes, “comes the power to manufacture a record that future generations will consider fact.” Whether we choose to look or not, these images are facts.

You May Be Eligible for NO COST Breast, Cervical and Colorectal Screening

From the desk of Susan McAvoy, Public Education & Community Outreach of the Cancer Services Program of the Greater Capital Region.


The Cancer Services Program of the Greater Capital Region would like to remind you about getting screened for breast, cervical and colorectal cancers and share some important information:

  • About 1 in 8 women will be diagnosed with breast cancer in her life.

  • Breast cancer is most often found in women ages 50 and older.

  • Breast cancer may not cause symptoms, especially in early stages. Symptoms of breast cancer can include a lump in the breast or armpit, breast swelling or change of shape, dimples in the skin, itching or redness of the skin or nipple, breast or nipple pain, and discharge other than breast milk.

With regular screening, breast cancer is more likely to be found at an earlier stage when treatment may be most successful.  Simply stated, early detection saves lives and regular screening is the key to early detection.

Women ages 50 to 64 who are not high risk due to personal or family history are likely to be screened every two years.  Women at high risk should discuss with their doctor about risk factors and screening.

Most insurance plans cover the cost of a mammogram—for women who are uninsured the Cancer Services Program provides life-saving mammograms at no-cost to women age 40 + who meet eligibility requirements.   This program can also help eligible women that receive treatment if cancer is found.

Although the Cancer Services Program mission is to help uninsured women get free breast exams, pap/pelvic and mammograms. We encourage men and women 50+ to get colorectal screening and we cover the cost for the uninsured.  Individuals with a personal or family history for colon polyps, colorectal cancer, or a personal history of inflammatory bowel disease, are at a higher risk for developing colorectal cancer and should speak to their doctor about when to begin screening.  The Cancer Services Program offers a free at home screening test for colorectal cancer (FIT Kit), for people of average risk.

If any woman of any age is symptomatic for breast, cervical or colorectal and needs help, call the Cancer Services Program of the Greater Capital Region at 518-525-8680.