Being a woman in the modern world has always had its unique challenges. Despite the huge advancements in workplace equality and women’s rights over the last 60 years, there are still blatant inequalities that plague everyday society and are painfully apparent for women.

Since the #MeToo movement brought equality in the workplace and the wider treatment of women under increased scrutiny, conversations around women’s rights and gender inequality have never been more prevalent. According to data for the US Census Bureau, the average gender pay gap in the United States in 2018 was around 18.9%. A 2018 study also found that harassment in the workplace and gender gap are directly linked. 

Living in a world where this is your reality can be isolating for women who don’t have a reliable support network. For years women have been fed with unhelpful stereotypes that other women are catty, jealous and all out to one-up each other, when in reality, they are the most valuable support system there is. Research published last year by the Harvard Business Review found that women who have an inner circle of close female friends are more likely to land executive jobs with higher pay.

“Networking” is a corporate phrase that can bring a shiver down the spine of any introvert, but the days of awkward mingling have moved from dingy cocktail bars and corporate conventions to Instagram and other social media sites. Forming online communities among small businesses owners across different industries has become the norm. Whether it’s beauty, fashion, or art, expressing support for fellow female businesses through likes, shares and comments has become common practice. Not only does this boost engagement and help brand owners and businesses with favorable algorithms, but it’s a genuine show of solidarity and support.

It’s a well known fact that social media “likes” release endorphins to give a temporary high, something many have criticised as a negative of the various platforms. However the genuine long-lasting benefits of organic support and digital networking are huge. New York based artist and owner of Cheery Designs Elyssa Dorf was a founding member of Skidmore Women in Business, a club for women of all disciplines to support each other. This is something she’s kept with her in her professional life, as she recently reached out to her favorite women-owned small businesses on Instagram to create a gift guide

Spotlighting the businesses who could be seen as her competitors, she wanted to recognize the women who were on the same path as her. “We are all thankful for someone who has given us a chance,” she says. “Now, it is our turn to take chances on someone who needs it.” Social media is becoming a much kinder place than it was even three years ago, with many accounts, including Thrive Global, emphasizing the importance of wellness in work and combating the myth that burnout is the price for success. It’s not only become a place for businesses to thrive, but a place for women to support and encourage each other along the way. 

Women may still have a long way to go to equality, but showing support among small communities and recognizing each other’s wins is part of a common goal to see more successful women thriving. “We have to remember that there is room for all of us at the top,” Dorf says.