Making your way to the top is tough for anyone, but especially for women. Just over 4 percent of Fortune 500s are run by women, despite research that shows that companies rich in gender diversity are 15 percent more likely to deliver better financial returns.
Happening in parallel, women at all levels of their career struggle to get bumped up the ladder. One study found that women are 15 percent less likely than men to get promoted; and there’s just simply fewer women that aim for the top in the first place. And, for the women who do move up in their career, many eventually wind up in staff roles. This has a cyclical impact, as these women are less likely to feed up to senior leadership.
Many women have been asking themselves how they can help other women advance. Here’s a few ways women at all levels can support one another and band together in the workplace.
Mentor another woman.
Put any idea of competition behind you. One woman’s success is another woman’s success. Offering to mentor another woman is an easy, high-impact way to make a difference. This is an opportunity for you to lend your ear to another woman, offer advice, share your wisdom and offer general support. While some companies may have formal mentoring programs, don’t feel like you must go through such a channel. Let more junior women know that you’re happy and available to help them in any way.
Sponsor another woman.
Sponsoring goes a level deeper than mentorship. When you sponsor another woman, you’re explicitly backing her career ambitions. You’re essentially vouching for her, getting her a coveted interview, making sure she’s in the right meetings or on the right projects. If you have a job opening or know a colleague who is looking for a new hire, your sponsorship goes a long way to getting another woman in the door. This could make or break their career.
Sponsorships are enormously important in our careers. But they can be harder to come by since they require such a personal commitment on behalf of the sponsor.
Speak out against gender bias.
Gender bias exists everywhere, and it’s not necessarily because others are malicious. Bias is part of human nature. But you can be observant and aware—and speak out if you see it happening. You can do this in a tactful way, or pull someone aside to discuss it as you see fit. Find what works for you – a retort, a joke, a direct conversation, etc. But don’t let it slip past. Speaking out breaks the pattern of bias and works to create a healthy, collaborative environment.
Help other women be heard.
Don’t let a room full of men drown out a great idea presented by a woman. If you hear a woman have an opinion, state an idea, share a report—whatever—help her be heard. Repeat it. Ask her a question about it in a meeting. Thank her for her hard work. And if she gets interrupted, return the focus back to her and allow her to finish her thought.
These are just a few small, but impactful ways that women can help other women. What’s been your experience at work? How have you received help when you’ve needed it?