I can list about a dozen powerhouse women who have been instrumental in my life. They have buoyed me through tough times and cheered me on through my successes.
As a female entrepreneur who once faced down death after a medical emergency, I have often found myself surrounded by strong women. Perhaps I innately knew that having other women around humanizes the journey to success. After all, my grandmother and mother were unapologetic activists and businesswomen who opened my eyes to political and social change movements.
Yet even with so many women around me, I have not always been supported in my career. There have been the doubters and those who failed to recognize my potential.
The Road Is Not Always Smooth
Men have their own way of bolstering one another. They go out for after-work wings and beer, head to a ballgame or go on some other outing. There never seems to be any doubt of innate support. This approach has allowed many men to catapult their careers. However, those same men do not always offer a helping hand to the women in their professional circles.
Case in point: When I worked at a well-known agency more than 20 years ago, my male senior boss did not like his phone fonts, so he turned to me to fix them. I still remember my male counterpart laughing that our boss was using my brainpower for this task. It was a disturbing insight into my perceived value.
Another time, when I was a senior account manager, I struggled to close a key account. I had pulled out all the stops, but nothing worked. Then, I headed to my male director’s office. He simply picked up the phone and asked the client what we needed to do to earn his business. The deal closed — just like that. I was left deflated, as if my efforts had been negated.
To be sure, many men in the workplace are fantastic working partners for strong women. But plenty of male executives fall short. I suppose they will have to learn to negotiate. After all, the day has arrived when women no longer accept the idea that they have to work harder to get less.
How to Find Your Own Circle
What does it take for women to grow inner strength that can be seen from the outside? In my experience, empowered women are surrounded by other empowered women. Here’s how you can find and choose your inner circle:
1. Reach out to successful women in your city on social media and meet with them.
Social media can be a great way to find women in your city who you can connect with. Prepare a list of questions to ask about how they achieved their level of success.
I always ask successful women I meet what else they would be doing if their current profession was not an option. This lends insight into some of their other interests.
Also, identify what attributes you most admire in successful women so you know which ones to seek out. The powerhouse women in my inner circle, for instance, must be determined to make an impact, know their value in the world and have a positive outlook on their future.
2. Go where successful women congregate.
It’s not always easy to find where powerful and insightful women meet, but it helps to know where they go to find inspiration.
Successful people have things in common: They typically want to learn from other successful people, and they are avid readers. So find local events featuring movers and shakers who are coming to speak in your area.
Universities and book stores are a great place to start. Both places often host speakers who have recently published a book and are on a promotional tour. Plus, there are numerous business associations and groups that sponsor speakers in your area. Connect with these groups or follow them on social media so you know about upcoming events. These events often offer chances to mingle with others in attendance before or after. So don’t be shy to strike up conversations with the people around you.
3. Ask women you admire to mentor you.
Many women simply fail to ask for what they want and are surprised when an interaction with someone they admire doesn’t go anywhere. Follow up a meeting with a sincere handwritten note describing what you gained from the conversation. And then ask whether that woman would be willing to spend some time serving as a mentor.
When Diane Elizabeth, founder of Skin Care Ox, reached out to a woman for mentorship, she quickly learned that it was a two-way street. Her mentor wanted to know how Elizabeth would be adding to her day and what thoughts and insights she would be bringing to the table. She brings up a great point. Make sure you have researched the woman you want as a mentor, and let her know that you’re willing to share what you know as well.
I’m fortunate that the list of supportive women in my life is long. But anyone can tap into the network around them. Find strong female colleagues, family members and friends, and challenge one another. You will be amazed at how far you can travel when strong women have your back.