The #womensupportingwomen movement filled our social media feeds during the summer of 2020 while our global society is enduring a pandemic and processing our history of racial inequality.
If there is one thing that is certain during this unsettling time, it is that women must support women.
Long before the days of hashtags and social media, women have been lifting each other up and joining together for a common cause. Camaraderie among women paved the way for a woman’s right to vote and the passage of the 19th amendment, which we celebrate today on Women’s Equality Day. The women’s suffragist campaign was rooted in women banding together to make their voices heard, resulting in the 19th amendment that secured women’s voting rights. The historic turning point represents the single largest bump in one-time voters in our nation’s history.
In honor of the 100th anniversary of the ratification of the 19th amendment, here are five practical tips on how women can continue to support each other in today’s modern workforce.
- Create an open dialogue to connect with women – You may find yourself being the only woman in the room, especially if you are in male-dominated field and as you continue to move up into leadership roles. Take the initiative to develop a support network with women. Each of us problem solves challenges in different ways, and it is valuable to have the perspectives of women at various stages in your careers and diverse backgrounds as a sounding board. If you are a woman in a leadership position, help shape an environment where women can talk to other women and tailor mentorship to the mentee’s needs by asking, “How can I help?” Leaning on each other will foster a unique support system in which women feel comfortable to seek and offer help to one another.
- Amplify a range of women’s stories – Increase your exposure to diverse women’s stories beyond those who mirror your background or shared experiences. We tend to hit the “like” or “share” button on news articles we come across when it relates to our personal organizations, such as from our alumni circles. Broaden the channels you follow that highlight the accomplishments of women outside of your immediate field and community. By sharing a diverse variety of stories, we expand the reach of stories that may otherwise not be told.
- Be open to possibilities – From the recent graduate to the mid-level professional, we need to broaden our horizons and reimagine the “art of the possible.” At every step in our career, we need to be intentional in our path while being open to alternatives. An opportunity might not seem like a logical step in your chosen career path, but conversely, it could prove to be a valuable learning experience. When presented with an assignment, we can’t fall prey to the “Impostor Syndrome” — that inner voice leading to self-doubt and insecurity. Women often worry if they are enough, if they are ready, if they are worthy. While organizations are working to change the culture to address those systemic barriers, we have to work on that inner voice. It is okay to stretch yourself into uncomfortable territory with a new opportunity. Focus on how to find support to be successful instead of negative self-talk that can hinder progress towards your goals.
- Find sponsors, not just mentors – Along with amplifying other women’s stories and embracing possibilities, don’t be afraid to seek help and support from non-traditional sources, such as through sponsors. First, understand the difference between mentors and sponsors and how to effectively maintain those relationships to support your career growth. Sponsorship is an overlooked approach that results in recognition and promotion in management-level discussions. As a Forbes article describes, a majority of women and multicultural professionals benefit from this type of support to succeed in the workplace. However, they do not receive it as frequently as men. By seeking sponsorship or actively sponsoring others, we will help elevate each other. Together, we can achieve so much more than we can alone.
- Pay it forward – Simply put, we must support each other. As we look at current events, allyship and advocacy are crucial. Women should consider paying it forward, and reach out to pull other women up. We can’t view each other as competition. If we ever plan to win the gender parity battle, then it is critical that we support each other on this journey. This isn’t just about personal success, this is about achieving greater success for all women.
We have seen time and again the tangible results of women supporting women. Each one of us has the opportunity to impact change through our daily interactions. The improvements we need to make are multi-faceted and require that we all think differently about how we can break through barriers and help women reach their full potential.