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5 Ways to Support Women and Rise Together

During the Month of March for Women’s History Month we acknowledge the accomplishments of Women from the past, today I’d like you to consider what you’re currently doing to support the women around you.

In my personal rise to a Senior Leadership level, I felt the change in how other women responded to me as a result of my changing behavior. I worked very hard to stay as authentic to myself as I could, but in a highly male-dominated environment, I unfortunately found myself mirroring the behaviors of my male counterparts.

When women adopt more masculine behaviors as they rise they essentially create the same type of relationship with the women who are direct reports as their male counterparts do, thus promoting a continual feeling of inequality amongst the “junior” woman, instead of giving them a champion at the senior level.

Why was it necessary for me to adopt more masculine behaviors? I felt that if I didn’t, I wouldn’t be heard.

At a recent dinner with other women, it was discussed that we find ourselves becoming more aggressive so that we can be heard. We might speak louder and use words that we don’t normally use. Once we’ve acquired the seat at the table, we still need to work hard to acquire a voice. It is not one sex’s responsibility over another – it’s been ingrained in how we operate as a society. It’s been the natural order of things.

How do we shift the tide where women don’t feel they have to be someone other than themselves to be seen as equal and have an equal voice? My recommendation is that we intentionally work to equally support and lift women up so that we ALL win as we rise together.

Once you agree that you want to be intentional, you must next decide how you are going to support the women around you.

1. Get in the Know

How many businesses do you do business with? Consider options of exploring who you can partner with to meet your needs both personally and professionally. Most of us use a variety of services and hire professionals. List them out – how many of them are women or women-owned or led?

If you find that you're only partnering with women for a typically Woman-dominated industry, or only engaging men for support from a typically Male-dominated Industry, intentionally mix it up. The next time you’re looking for a new Insurance Broker, Accountant, Attorney, Investment Advisor, Doctor, Architect, Landscaper, or Home Improvement Contractor, get in the know about everyone who offers those services.

2. Seek Opinions & Ideas

Because women in general have more of a challenge finding an equal voice, look for opportunities to engage them for their opinions and ideas. In my experience, men in general don’t hesitate to offer an opinion or an idea, even if not directly solicited. This is accepted and often times encouraged.

Unfortunately, I’ve seen many women receive and have received myself the direction to wait until requested or told that we speak too much if we don’t obey the rules dictated to us in elementary school. The best way to ensure you have collected everyone’s thoughts on a particular topic is to intentionally seek out the opinions or ideas of Everyone that can contribute, this is especially true at work. Who’s on your team or at meetings you facilitate?

Before the meeting share your intention that you want everyone’s ideas, because more than likely there will be someone in the group that is not expecting to be asked to contribute. Calling on them in a group may only produce a negative result if they aren’t informed of your intentions.

3. Provide an Opportunity

If you practice a “round robin” format of collecting ideas or seeking opinions, ensure you don’t overlook or skip anyone at the table. There’s nothing worse than being the only person that wasn’t called on.

If as a leader you have work to distribute or delegate, consider what and how you’re dividing the work. This is another area where women many times are assigned the party/event planning types of projects and men get handed the big client that brings in lots of revenue for the organization. Be conscious of how you’re sharing coveted opportunities, remove stereotypes and share the wealth of opportunities.

4. Give Credit Where Credit is Due

Some of the worst experiences I’ve had as I rose in my career, were related to when I would work on a project, have an idea or create something valuable for the team or organization and in the space where I could be given the credit and endorsed to executive leadership, the opportunity was missed by my direct leader.

Whether this was unintentional or intentional, it hurts all the same when someone takes your work as their own and doesn’t “Give Credit Where Credit is Due”.

As a woman taking initiative to prove her value, it happened to me, and it’s happened to others. Be sure that you give credit to the architect when building on the foundation of another’s idea!

5. Be a Champion for a Peer

Many times, we rely on those “in charge” or the leaders within an organization to champion the women on the team that are doing great things. Stop waiting for those that should be the champions and offer to be one yourself.

If you see someone’s work getting overlooked, draw attention. If you hear your leader or another giving credit where it’s not due, politely correct and champion the architect of the idea. If you know someone has a great idea or skill that can help, be the champion and tell someone about their talent and capabilities!

It really doesn’t take much effort to be a champion for a peer – you just need to be willing to do it and when possible look for opportunities to intentionally do so.

As this is one of my last blogs this quarter where my theme is speaking truth, I would be remiss if I didn’t add some hard truth to this topic. For the women reading this – I implore you to take the lead. Women so easily become jealous of another’s rise and forget that when we celebrate and lift each other up we all Rise! Former Secretary of State, Madeleine Albright famously said, "There is a special place in hell for women who don't help other women." – Be The Woman that Supports Other Women!

Your intentional actions today are key in helping the women of today be those we celebrate tomorrow. Practice these 5 actions consistently and not only will the recipients of your efforts be rewarded, you will too, because you’ll rise together.

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