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Looking for the Helpers: Women Leading the Way

5 min read
Apr 16, 2020

A whopping 70% of healthcare workers around the world are women. In China, 90% of nurses are. That’s a lot of women putting their health at risk and risking their lives in order to help others. 

Like they have throughout history, women are currently making a tremendous difference as the novel coronavirus sweeps over the world. Here are but a few examples in the business world of the impact they’re having.

Spanx CEO donates dress, $5 million and feeds families, health workers

Spanx, a woman’s apparel company, has joined the fight against COVID-19 in a variety of ways. CEO Sara Blakely recently announced that she would be donating $5 million to assist female entrepreneurs that need help. Blakely founded Spanx 20 years ago and wants to help others that are staring their business like she did.

“I am a business owner. I’ve been one for the past 20 years. I understand what it feels like and so I’m going to be giving 1,000 different female-owned businesses $5,000 each,” Blakely said on NBC’s Today Show. “And I actually started Spanx with $5,000, 20 years ago and I’m just very excited to be able to offer a hand and help women who have bet on themselves, and now I find it a right time to bet on them.”

The Atlanta-based CEO has also made significant contributions to those that are in need of food. Blakely has helped fund meals for hundreds of food-insecure families in Atlanta, while also helping to feed emergency room doctors. By doing so, the Atlanta restaurant community has also benefited.

“We have been feeding the ER doctors at the hospitals here in Atlanta by ordering takeout for lunch and dinner from local restaurants in the last three weeks,” Blakely said. “Every lunch and every dinner we’ve been delivering to the hospitals. We see this as a win-win because we’re supporting the local restaurants and giving them some income, as well as feeding the front line folks that are making a really big difference.”

Finally, on Instagram, Blakely offered to loan out her wedding dress to any future brides who had to postpone their wedding due to the pandemic. Blakely said 31 women accepted the offer and can expect to wear her dress on their special day. Additionally, another 72 women commented on the post offering up their wedding dress to those that need it.

Inspiring posters for an ICU

Preeminent artists Elizabeth Peyton and Amy Sillman are two of 85 artists that are designing inspiring and motivational posters to be hung in the Lennox Hill Hospital’s Intensive Care Unit. The hospital is located in Manhattan. The idea was conceived by Catherine (Cady) Chaplin, a nurse at the hospital, and her friend, Elizabeth Jaeger, a sculptor. Jaeger also designed the first poster. Other artists donating to the project include Aidan Koch, Emma Kohlman, KK Gile, Amy Sillman, Pam Lins, Halsey Rodman, and Karen Cunnigham. The posters have been such a hit that they are now available to download.

“Cady is doing most all of the physical legwork,” Jaeger recently told hyperallergic.com. “I bring her the adhesive posters that Wallpaper Projects has printed and she carries them to the hospital and installs them in her time off. We are also FaceTiming on her days off picking which posters to reprint, as nurses from adjacent ICU’s are asking for posters for their own break rooms.”

Hot startup the Wing donates space for governments, health systems

CEO Audrey Gelman of the Wing, a woman-focused coworking space and club with offices in seven cities, has donated the use of its New York City office space to help with the fight against COVID-19. Founded by Gelman and Lauren Kassan in 2016, the Wing has 70,000 square feet of office space, complete with showers and kitchens, available in New Your City. The space has been made available to government and nonprofit organizations, and healthcare systems.

“While our spaces are closed, we hope they can be of assistance to those fighting COVID on the front lines,” the company posted on Instagram. “The Wing has many empty spaces where we might provide help for communities. For governments, nonprofits, and healthcare entities, let us know how we can help.”

According to a tweet from Gelman, the space is available for a variety of uses, “If it’s a space for relief workers, at-risk women, homeless families–anything.”

This news article is part of a set inspired by the late Fred Rogers, the iconic host of the child-friendly educational TV show Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood. While it was intended to offer comfort to children, it’s something that can serve all of us well right now.

“When I was a boy and I would see scary things in the news, my mother would say to me, ‘Look for the helpers. You will always find people who are helping’.”

So I’ve been looking for the helpers. Of course, they’re easy to find in our healthcare workers, delivery drivers, postal service employees, and grocery store clerks. Employees in those fields have stepped up in a way that soothes the soul and offers faith and optimism in humanity. They’re true heroes.

It’s happening in the business world, too. This week, I’ll be looking at a few of those people, both well known and not, that are making important contributions.