Women Leading Us Through

In a year that tested all of us, women found ways to lead, ways to nurture and ways to help those who needed it most. So this Women’s History Month, we’re paying homage to five women who supported thousands in their communities and around the world. They saw people struggling with the challenges of the COVID-19 pandemic and made it their mission to do something about it. Across our apps, they fostered communities, shared resources and got creative to get things done. From bringing COVID-19 testing to underserved communities to helping parents cope with the stress of quarantine, they showed up for those in need.

Dr. Ala Stanford | Black Doctors COVID-19 Consortium

Bringing testing to underserved communities

After learning that African Americans in Philadelphia were disproportionately dying from COVID-19, Dr. Ala Stanford founded Black Doctors COVID-19 Consortium. In the early weeks of the pandemic, she rented a van and made house calls to administer COVID-19 nasal swab tests.

Using Facebook and Instagram, the group grew with Black nurses and doctors joining the cause to bring testing to underserved communities in Philadelphia. They share important information about COVID-19 testing and vaccines, and together, they’ve administered thousands of free COVID-19 tests to the Black community in Southeastern Pennsylvania. Now, they’re vaccinating about 4,000 people each week.

“Seeing the disproportionate death and infected rates the coronavirus was having on African Americans, I could not idly stand by.”

Maria Gregorio | Giving Fruits

Supporting farmers and nourishing a community

When the pandemic forced the Bay Area into lockdown, Maria Gregorio wanted to help. With restaurants closed, local farmers lost business from their biggest buyers, so many were killing off crops they couldn’t afford to tend. At the same time, others in her community were battling COVID-19 on the front lines, working long hours with short breaks. So she got creative and started a WhatsApp group to source produce orders for her community. With bulk ordering, Maria coordinated the sale of 300 boxes of cherries to support local farmers and used a portion of the sales to fund over 200 nutritious meals for frontline workers. She and her son then organized a contactless pickup system in a library parking lot to safely deliver fruit to hundreds of families.

As interest in the farm-to-parking-lot produce grew, Maria started the Giving Fruits Facebook group connecting hundreds in her local community to share upcoming produce availability, gather feedback on specific items people were interested in and raise awareness of those in need.

As the pandemic has evolved, she’s helped others in the area, bringing fresh fruits to nursing homes hit hard by COVID-19 and providing fruits and vegetables to local shelters, food pantries and people who lost their jobs and can’t afford fresh produce.

“I was able to create a group of people who want to help, and it’s helping multiple layers of our community — because we wanted to help frontline workers, we were able to help farmers and at the same time we’re helping the community eat better.”

Maggie Hellman | Parenting Under Quarantine

Helping parents cope with quarantine

When her kids’ school closed last March, Maggie Hellman’s WhatsApp and Facebook groups were filled with people panicking. “How am I going to teach my kids, manage my work obligations from home and keep my family safe?” As a social worker, Maggie recognized the fear and anxiety caused by uncertainty and wanted to help. She created the Parenting under Quarantine Facebook group to give parents a space to share their highs and lows, and offer resources, support and laughs.

The community has grown to over 27,000 parents around the world sharing their experiences and helping each other through the daily struggles. Maggie encourages the group to share openly and honestly — not just the school projects, but the mess that comes along with them — cultivating a culture of camaraderie and creating a space for parents to discuss topics they may otherwise have kept to themselves. She’s also added therapists and mental health professionals to the group to offer resources and tips for managing anxiety and well-being during this challenging time.

“Sometimes it feels like the experiences and challenges we have with our families are ours alone, and it can be really difficult to talk about them. Parenting under Quarantine has allowed many to discuss topics they would otherwise have kept to themselves — we realize others are on the same journey, and we are all in this together.”

Women took the lead on creating supportive communities during the COVID-19 pandemic. On Facebook, women created 2.7X more COVID-19 groups than men with 4X more members.

Tiffany Yu | Diversability

Addressing isolation in the disabled community

In 2009, Tiffany Yu started Diversability to give disabled people and non-disabled allies a space to tackle disability bias, share experiences and find support. With over 20,000 members, she quickly realized that feeling isolated or excluded were common experiences for many in the disabled community. And during the COVID-19 pandemic, this isolation has been magnified. So Tiffany partnered with mental health nonprofits to offer support and used the Diversability Facebook Page as a place for people to check in with each other and continue to build social connections while physically apart.

As mask-wearing has become common, she’s working to address inequities for people who are deaf or hard of hearing and need to be able to see facial expressions or read lips to communicate. Through #Masks4Disability Tiffany is helping to distribute masks with a clear plastic window at no cost to those in need.

“After I became disabled at the age of nine, I didn't know anyone who looked like me. I’m just so proud that so many people who join Diversability are finding community for the first time.”

Dr. Hala Sabry | Physician Moms Group

Sharing COVID-19 insights in real time

Striving to be the best mom and physician she could be, Dr. Hala Sabry started the Physician Moms Group on Facebook back in 2014 to crowdsource support and advice from other physicians who are also mothers. What started as a group of 20 has grown into a network of over 115,000 physicians. When the group’s discussion became inundated with questions and concerns about COVID-19, Dr. Sabry was determined not to lose momentum on the group’s discussions of women’s rights, equitable work practices and challenges moms face. So she created the Physician Moms COVID-19 Subgroup.

Through the group, physicians were able to share clinical information about COVID-19 that hadn’t yet been published in medical journals such as oxygen requirements, ventilator settings, proning (having patients lay on their stomachs to improve breathing) and more. The findings and insights shared by physicians in COVID-19 hotspots helped others around the world know what to expect and be prepared when patients presented with similar symptoms. With physicians in over 100 countries, there’s always someone online to answer questions.

“Before the pandemic, I used to think being a woman leader meant doing something grand or holding the highest position possible. Now I know a true leader makes more leaders. My goal is to coach and mentor as many women in male-dominated fields as possible in hopes to increase the equity of women around the world.”

Photo Credits

Cover Photo

The Philadelphia Inquirer. © 2020 Philadelphia Inquirer, LLC. All rights reserved. Used under license.

Dr. Ala Stanford, Photo 1

Reuters / Hannah Beier - stock.adobe.com

Dr. Hala Sabry, Photo 1

Melissa Patrick, Melissa Patrick Photography

Maggie Hellman

Abbie Adamit, Abbie Sophia Photography