Growing up, I absorbed the message that women should help each other succeed. And now that I’m leading a company, I consider women’s advancement one of my main missions.
After all, as the CEO of hint, I make decisions on how to champion and support hundreds of employees. I’m proud that more than half of these employees are women. Our San Francisco office is predominantly female, which is almost unheard of in the Bay Area. I have a wide-reaching platform that I can use to share what I’ve learned and empower women in the workplace. But I didn’t get here alone. I was aided by the support of so many other women (and men). They understood the value of making sure an ambitious woman is given as many opportunities to succeed as possible.
No matter if you’re just starting in your career or are already in the C-suite, you can help other women realize their potential. Here are a few ways to raise up the women in your workplace.
1. Recruit and hire women.
One of the best ways to support women in your organization is to make sure they’re getting hired in the first place. If you’re in a position to recruit, start there.
Now, I’m not saying you have to only hire women or that you should hire an unqualified woman. After all, I believe, first and foremost, in hiring the smartest people. But if your company has virtually no women (or other diversity), something about your hiring process is broken. Women make up more than half of the workforce. It’s simply not possible that your company can’t find any great ones. And businesses have an incentive to hire diverse teams: Companies in the top quartile for gender diversity are 15 percent more likely to have financial returns above their respective national industry medians, according to a McKinsey & Company study.
One easy way companies can attract more female applicants is to take a look at how they write job postings. Research has shown that women tend to shy away from jobs that are advertised with masculine-coded language (think: “rock star,” “ninja,” “assertive,” “analytical”), but they are drawn to other descriptors (i.e., “dedicated,” “conscientious,” “responsible”). The same study also showed that men aren’t turned off by these so-called “feminine” words. Run your job description through the Gender Decoder app to see where you can tweak the language to make the role sound exciting for men and women.
2. Welcome and mentor women.
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.
If you’re on the same team, in the department or somewhere up the ladder from their position, you can step in as a mentor to help guide their career success. Even if you’re on a totally different project or at the same level, you can be a work friend who helps them navigate office politics, cheers them on when they’ve landed a big new endeavour, and lets them vent when they’ve had a bad day.
3. Call out their brilliant ideas.
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. Try something like: “I really loved [co-worker’s name] idea to [summary of idea]. Maybe we could explore that more?”
Another way to do this is to not-so-subtly brag about the work your female coworkers are doing. That’s why I primarily interview female founders on my podcast Unstoppable. I love shouting about their incredible accomplishments on the audio rooftops!
4. Be on the lookout for opportunities for your female team members.
If you’ve gotten to know your female colleagues (tip #2) and know enough about what their working on to sing their praises (tip #3), 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 excited, offer to recommend them for it or introduce them to the right people. This even extends outside the company if you hear of a speaking gig, award or even new job that would be perfect for them.
This requires getting over the idea that work is a competition and that helping someone else harms your own career. Not every opportunity is going to be a good fit for you, and by being a connector in this way, you’re helping everyone at the organization achieve more. In fact, a study published in the Journal of Applied Psychology shows that building and maintaining a strong network boosts your own salary and helps you feel satisfied in your career.
5. 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.
I get honored at many female entrepreneur events and when I do, I use it as an excuse to include other women from my company. For International Women’s Day, I was invited to speak at an event with Accenture and all the women of hint attended. It was a fun way to get out of the office and get to know each other, hear about things they’re working on, chat about challenges they’re facing and how to overcome them, and bond more than we had been able to in the office.
6. Advocate for better company trainings and policies.
If you’re in a position where you can do this yourself, go for it. If not, figure out who can make this happen. Talk to them about things like implicit bias trainings, diversity, and inclusion trainings, parental leave, flexible work policies and equal pay. Volunteer to be on committees that organize such programs or suggest organizations your company might be able to bring in to help.
Implementing these types of policies will help you recruit more women and help them do their best, while also making sure your other colleagues understand how their actions could be squashing the potential of their female teammates.
7. Don’t tolerate 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 go with them to HR to have a conversation, or even offer to go on their behalf. 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.