It’s an understatement to say that women have faced tremendous challenges over the past year. Due to pandemic-related fallout (like increased domestic workloads and job losses in female-dominated industries) more than two million women left the workforce in 2020. Women all over the globe who are facing epic levels of burnout and stress, we see you.
Women’s History Month is a celebration of female contributions to history, culture, and society and has been observed each year in the U.S. since 1987. As we shine a spotlight on female leaders who have made historic contributions to the mental health space over the past several centuries, we also want to look for ways we can all continue to advocate for equality and inclusivity now and going forward.
FEMALE TRAILBLAZERS: PAST AND PRESENT
Not surprisingly, women had to break down numerous barriers to make their mark on the formerly male-dominated field of psychology. Sure, you’ve probably read all about male mental health superstars like Sigmund Freud and B.F. Skinner, but we’re here to talk about the women who have paved the way for the future of mental health research, support, and solutions.
From being denied academic degrees to being overshadowed by their male counterparts, these women have faced tremendous adversity and continue to serve as reminders of what is possible when tenacious females are at the helm.
- Mary Ainsworth, developmental psychologist, demonstrated the importance of healthy childhood attachments. Her groundbreaking work paved the way for what we now know about attachment styles.
- Dr. Joy Harden Bradford is a licensed psychologist, speaker and the host of the Therapy for Black Girls podcast. Her work focuses on making mental health topics more relevant and accessible for Black women.
- Mary Whiton Calkins, a philosopher and psychologist, was the first woman to serve as both the president of the American Psychological Association and the American Philosophical Association. A student at Harvard University, Calkins passed all the requirements for a Ph.D. with distinction, but was denied her doctoral degree because she was a woman.
- Nina Chaubal and Greta Gustava Martela are trans-right activists and founders of Trans Lifeline, the first first transgender suicide hotline to exist in the U.S.
- Mamie Phipps Clark, a social psychologist and community health pioneer, was the first Black woman to receive a doctorate in psychology from Columbia University in 1943. Her work played a key role in the Brown v. Board of Education case in 1951 and her research was used to make racial segregation unconstitutional in American public schools. Clark led the way for future research on racial identity and discrimination.
- Jennifer Eberhardt is a social psychologist and professor in the Department of Psychology at Stanford University. In 2014, she received a MacArthur Foundation award for her groundbreaking research work to raise awareness about stereotypes in the criminal justice system and in education.
- Anna Freud, daughter of famous psychoanalyst Sigmund Freud, helped to develop the field of child psychotherapy and expanded upon her father’s revolutionary ideas.
- Christine Ladd-Franklin was a leader in psychology and an outspoken advocate for women’s rights in academia. She published her doctoral thesis in 1882, but did not receive her doctorate degree until 44 years later because she was a woman.
WAYS TO SUPPORT THE WOMEN IN YOUR LIFE
From juggling deadlines, child care, and the stresses of life, a lot of women are simply spent right now. It’s OK to wipe the polite “everything is just fine” smile off your face and get real about the impossible expectations that you and/or the women in your life may be bumping up against. We’re all about lowering expectations and advocating for extra support and here’s how you can do the same.
- Validate feelings. Despite what we’ve been told, women should not be expected to be nice, happy, and calm at all times. Bottling up stress, anxiety, and depression are things that we all can be a little too good at. Women deserve space, empathy, and understanding so that they can feel free experiencing and expressing a full range of emotions.
- Share domestic and caregiving responsibilities. Household domestic duties, including everything from caring for children to doing laundry, are more likely to fall on female members of the household. To avoid giving into these antiquated roles, allocate domestic responsibilities equally among household members and ask for outside support from your community if possible.
- Promote women to positions of power. Ensuring that women, especially women of color, have a seat at both real and metaphorical tables will lead to a more equitable society. Challenge your company to support working parents and to be transparent in their goals when it comes to representation and leadership.
- Encourage women to prioritize their mental health. Women experience higher rates of depression and anxiety than their male counterparts, so it’s especially important during challenging times that they feel liberated to seek out mental health support. From therapy to mental health tools, Sanvello can be a great place to start.
As we use this month to recognize all of the brilliant women who have come before us, let’s also make a commitment to continually lift up the women around us. The pandemic has hit women disproportionately hard, so we have a lot of work to do in the months to come to ensure that they are compensated, supported, and celebrated at every turn.
By Katie Nave, Copywriter at Sanvello
Katie Nave is a writer and mental health advocate living in Brooklyn, New York. Her work has been featured in publications including Glamour, Business Insider, and Motherly. She has served as a producer for the National Women’s March and worked with organizations like Girls Inc. and CancerCare. She is currently the Copywriter at Sanvello and you can follow her on Instagram: @kathryn.e.nave