The case to increase female leadership is not just about reaching gender equality, it’s also good business. Research shows that “more gender diversity, particularly in corporate settings, can translate to increased productivity, greater innovation, better decision-making, and higher employee retention and satisfaction.”
So, what can you do to help women succeed in leadership?
Believe it or not, it’s easy and no matter where you are in your own journey — just starting in your career, already in the C-suite, man or woman, you can help other women realize their potential by implementing just one of these tips:
1. Become A Mentor, better yet be a sponsor — Especially if you’re a senior-level employee, take on a woman at your organization who has the potential to rise to the top. You can share your personal experience of working your way up and coach your mentee on how to follow her own career path. It’ll be gratifying knowing your efforts helped tip the scales toward gender equality in the workplace.
2. Give Honest Feedback — Of course, you want to inspire and praise other female team members, but they also deserve to know the truth. Be honest if there are improvements they can make to take their career to the next level. You’re doing them a disservice if you’re only telling half the story.
3. Celebrate Your Differences — We’re all women but it doesn’t mean we’re the same. Respect the talents of other women in your company and bolster their reputation within the workplace. Shift your mindset from one of scarcity — by celebrating our uniqueness and empowering each other through feedback and mentorship.
4. Collaborate not separate — Even if you’re in a senior position, show the women on your team that you are relatable by jumping in to help if the need arises. Instead of leading to match the men around you or how you think you should, be genuine to yourself and treat your team the way you’d want to be treated.
5. Refer Other Women — If you see a woman who you believe is capable and who can do the job, refer them. There’s plenty of room for all of us women at the top, so partner with other women to move their career in the right direction.
6. Call out their brilliant ideas — Advocate for another woman by not-so-subtly bragging about the work their are doing. That’s why I interview women on my podcast This Woman Can. I love learning and shouting about their incredible accomplishments!
7. Give them a voice/room — Studies show that women are more likely to get interrupted in meetings compared to men, so use your voice to amplify them. When you’re in a meeting and you hear a good idea from your female colleague that seems to have been overlooked, bring it up again and make sure to give them credit.
Best phrase I’ve heard for this so far is: hepeated. For when a woman suggests an idea and it’s ignored, but then a man says the same thing and everyone thinks it was a stroke of genius
8. Welcome them in — You have the power to make someone feel included and supported in your organization. As new women join the team or if you see someone struggling to integrate into the company culture, make an effort to be there for them.
9. Bring her along — When you do get amazing opportunities for yourself — be it a new project that you’re going to need help on or a choice networking event — see if can bring a plus one.
10. Don’t tolerate the BS — If you see anything untoward happening to one of your female coworkers — anything from a subtly sexist comment all the way up to harassment — step up and be an ally. Approach them and let them know you’re happy to support them if they want to take the matter further. Tell coworkers who make sexist comments that it’s not okay and go to HR if you notice a pattern of it.
The only way to change people’s habits is to not let them get away with it. So, fight the bad while simultaneously raising up the women around you. You’ll be amazed to see what they can achieve.
11. Treat women as professionals — Don’t factor a woman’s personal life into professional decisions — Just as a male colleague’s private life is none of your business, a female colleague’s private life is also none of your business. Don’t pry or assume that you know their “life plans” or use a woman’s personal life to take decisions affecting them. Whether a woman is childless or has five kids, whether she’s single or dating, gay or straight… none of this should ever come into professional decisions.
12. Be on the lookout for opportunities for your female team members — If you’ve gotten to know your female colleagues and know enough about what their doing to admire their efforts, then this is the logical next step. As you’re going through your day-to-day and hear about new projects and initiatives that you think one of your female colleagues would be great for, let them know about it. If they seem interested, offer to recommend them or introduce them to the right people. This can extend outside of work. This requires you to get over the idea that you’re in competition and that helping someone else harms your own career. Not every opportunity is going to be a good fit for you, and by acting as a connector, you’re building your profile and helping your organization achieve more.
13. Don’t pass on gender-based hurdles that you’ve had to go through — Just because you’ve gone through it, doesn’t mean you have to pass it on. It’s not a game of tag! The “I had to deal with it, so why can’t they?” attitude does nothing but pass the same hurdles on to a new generation. Younger women joining the workforce today expect a more level playing field — and they are right to do so. Don’t shrug off their battles because you had it worse. Offer them your help and guidance when you see them facing an unfair situation. Think about how this support would have helped you.
Women occupying leadership positions can be a competitive advantage in business. If you are a CEO, MD or any other acronym in a position of influence, there’s no excuse not to commit to at least one action that would move the needle forward when they are so simple.
Janice Sutherland is an award winning women’s leadership expert and founder of This Woman Can an online community for professional women. She provides coaching and training specializing in helping women and organizations build leadership skills through Executive Mentorship, Leadership Training and Executive Team Facilitation for both corporate executives and entrepreneurs globally. She is a sought after keynote presenter for corporate and nonprofit environments and speaks on issues relating to leadership, women’s advancement, professional success and work/life alignment. For more details, visit www.janicesutherland.com