I’ve Got Your Back – Supporting Other Women at Work
By Shari Steinbach, MS RDN, RDBA Contributing Editor
You may have heard it said that women don’t support each other in the workplace. However, this is typically not true. Women can be powerful allies for each other, and by performing simple, daily actions, we can advocate for and celebrate our female coworkers. To help level the corporate playing field and to advance all women in the workplace, you can express your support in the following ways.
Ensure Women’s Ideas are Heard – During important meetings, encourage women to gravitate to the front and center seats. During meetings, look for ways to shape the conversation. For example, when a woman is interrupted, speak up and say you’d like to hear them finish. If someone tries to hijack a woman’s idea, remind the other who originated it. Specifically ask other women their points of view during meetings or calls so they have a chance to provide input. When women speak up in group discussions they are seen as more influential.
Don’t Accept the Likeability Penalty – Some coworkers may not even be aware of the expectations they place on women in the workplace. While men are congratulated for being assertive and confident, women are often expected to be collaborative and nurturing. When women do express assertiveness, they may be called aggressive and too abrasive. If you hear a woman being called bossy or shrill, ask for a specific example of what they did and challenge the comment if applicable. Inquire if the same reaction would be applied to a man in that situation.
Celebrate the Accomplishments of Women – Seek out opportunities for celebrating women’s successes and point out their skills that made it happen. When possible, gather with a group of women to regularly celebrate one another’s accomplishments. Women need to “toot their own horn” and those of others. One way to do this is by introducing a female worker to coworkers by highlighting their credentials or achievements. For instance, you might say, “Sarah launched a new educational program this year that has resulted in significant products sales for our private brands.”
Provide Encouragement – It’s a fact that women are more prone to self-doubt and it is often because they are underestimated and undervalued. When the workplace is hard on women and we are hard on ourselves, confidence is eroded. Look for opportunities to boost other women’s confidence and encourage them to move forward. Remind other women about the qualities and skills they possess to go for that promotion, raise or new project.
Mentor Other Women – Commit your time and energy to mentoring other women and providing them with direct feedback to help them grow. Provide comments on their performance that is linked to specific business outcomes and are therefore actionable. If you are just starting out, don’t underestimate the value of your input and advice, and if you are already a strong female leader, mentoring other women is a great way to help others who are just beginning their careers.