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Achieving Equity in Mental Health
Celebrating Women's History Month - March 2019

Executive Director's Note

"I raise up my voice—not so I can shout, but so that those without a voice can be heard...we cannot succeed when half of us are held back."
―Malala Yousafzai

March is Women’s History Month, a time to both honor the historical contributions of women around the world, as well as to work to increase the standard of living and political rights of women today. While women have ascended to leadership roles throughout society, pervasive trends such as the gender pay gap illustrate how men and women have not yet fully achieved equality. Inequality extends beyond workplace to mental health and emotional well-being, as women experience higher rates of depression and anxiety than their male counterparts.  For women of color, sexism is compounded by racism and xenophobia in everyday life which can further contribute to psychological distress.

The impostor phenomenon which describes an internal experience of feeling like a fraud was first described in high-achieving women, yet affects men and people of all racial groups.  However, the double whammy of being a woman and a person of color grappling with impostor feelings can heighten concerns about not measuring up.  Even former First Lady Michelle Obama has had impostor feelings. Prevailing negative stereotypes about women and people of color can fuel a high level of self-consciousness about how one is being viewed. This, in turn, can trigger a fear of rejection which makes us hesitate to act or express ourselves in anticipation of a negative outcome--be it failure or social rejection. Biologically speaking, rejection feels a lot like physical pain (2011 study), so it's no wonder that we go out of our way to avoid it.

Fear of rejection holds us back and can lead to people-pleasing such as agreeing with others for fear of confrontation. It can cause you to bite your tongue and stop short of advocating for yourself.  Ultimately, acting on these fears will make you frustrated. In fact, studies have shown  how women develop greater fear of career rejection because of gender stereotyping (The Clayman Institute for Gender Research) and lower their own self-assessment and career aspirations as a result (2014 study).  

Here are a few tips to help you deal with your fear of rejection and carve out your own career achievements:

  1. Focus on You. Rather than focusing on what others will think of you when, as a woman, you ask for a raise or take a seat in a male-dominated classroom where you are in the minority as a person of color, look inward. Do you stand by your work? Do you want to be heard? If you can answer affirmatively to these questions, then you can take on whatever challenge comes your way!

  2. Speak Up. Believe in yourself and believe in what you are asking for, and you will project that confidence onto your audience. Once your audience senses your power, they’re more likely to listen. Check out this TedX Talk to get inspired and learn more.

  3. Stay Positive. Instead of thinking about the terrible things that could result, focus instead on the positive possibilities. By thinking optimistically, you not only project more confidence but you navigate your thoughts and actions toward a better outcome.

Regardless of your gender or ancestry, I hope these tips help provide some encouragement and reassurance the next time you are dealing with impostor feelings or fear of failure and rejection.

Be well,

Anuja Khemka
Executive Director

The Steve Fund is proud to be a female led organization. Women are 90% of our staff and 60% of our board.
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Pictured (left to right): Dr. Batsirai Bvunzawabaya (Steve Fund, UPenn's Counseling & Psychological Services), Dr. Meeta Kumar (Steve Fund, UPenn's Counseling & Psychological Services), Dr. Sofia Petruz (JED Foundation), and Dr. Diane Ariza (NADOHE)  
The Steve Fund Presents on Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion at NADOHE in Philadelphia / 3.8.19

The National Association of Diversity Officers in Higher Education (NADOHE) hosted its annual conference, March 6-9, 2019, in Philadelphia. The Steve Fund was honored to participate.
Yale Black Solidarity Conference -
Workshop hosted by The Steve Fund

The Steve Fund, a proud sponsor of Yale's Black Solidarity Conference, hosted a 90-minute workshop with students to create original solutions to improve access to mental health resources for young people of color on campus. Through the lens of design thinking and creating solutions from a place of empathy, over 40 students worked together to understand the challenge itself, the pain points and the bright spots. The students engaged in an illuminating dialogue and worked in teams of 10 to ideate solutions that could be piloted on campus.
MIT Hack for Inclusion - Sponsorship & Mentorship by The Steve Fund

The Steve Fund continued our work to develop solutions for young people of color on campus by sponsoring and serving as mentors to students participating in MIT's Hack for Inclusion. The Steve Fund team shared research on college students as well as insights based on what they had heard directly from students who have struggled. They worked alongside 12 inspiring, creative and motivated students as they brainstormed and ultimately crafted a pitch showcasing their most viable solution for a panel of esteemed judges. Please find the student pitch decks: Nudge and Sentimint.
Why is the Equity in Mental Health Framework needed? Watch this video at to hear what higher education leaders from some of the nation’s leading universities and colleges have to say. New toolkit and website launching soon!


Harvard University & The Steve Fund invite you:
Save the date—April 16, 2019! Mark your calendars for a day-long convening with leading researchers, practitioners, administrators, faculty and students who will come together to understand mental and emotional health experiences of young people of color within Harvard University and how we can better support wellness through policy and practice. Stay tuned for more information.
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The Steve Fund is the nation’s only non-profit organization focused on promoting the mental health and emotional well-being of college and university students of color. It works with colleges and universities, students, non-profits, researchers, practitioners, and with groups serving diverse populations. It aims to stimulate dialogue and to promote effective programs and strategies that build understanding and assistance regarding the mental health and emotional well-being of the nation’s students of color as they enter, matriculate in, and transition from higher education. 
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