At the United State of Women Summit earlier this year, Michelle Obama said, “So many of us have gotten ourselves at the table, but we’re still too grateful to be at the table to really shake it up. It’d be nice to have a collective of black women who are opening up spaces for each other, or making strategic moves to raise the visibility of black women within the industry, and not just who’s on the cover of the magazine but behind the scenes too. I don’t think it’s solely white people’s job to do that. There needs to be more of a push from us to stand together.” I couldn’t agree more. Whether you’re a CEO, engineer, scientist, chef, or teacher, you have the power to support and create spaces for women of color.
Supporting other women means you’re being intentional about how you show up in life and business. Showing up means you’re mentally present while listening and speaking up for yourself as well as others. Ready to take the lead? Try the tips below.
1. Bring another woman’s projects, products, services, or accomplishments into a discussion when they’re not in the room. Here are a few examples:
- If you realize a woman wasn’t given proper credit for an idea that she shared during a meeting, speak up for her. For example, during an interview with Politico Magazine, Wendy Sherman, former Undersecretary of State for Political Affairs, recalled an unspoken rule she and her female colleagues demonstrated during meetings. “When any man commented by repeating something that had been said earlier by a woman, one of the other women at the table would jump in. “I’m glad you agree with what _________just said,” or “That builds nicely on the point ______made just before.”
- If you’re attending a high profile event like an awards show or conference, wear an outfit by an up and coming fashion brand or designer. The number of influencers and celebrities who speak about women’s empowerment, but fail to demonstrate their support for other women who are underestimated or underrepresented in an industry always amazes me. Simply put, talk less, act more, and lead by example.
- If you’re in a meeting with someone who’s looking for a new team member, recommend another woman for a project by sharing her accomplishments or experiences.
2. Look beyond numbers. When looking to hire a speaker, business coach, or new employee, there’s still a lot of pressure to have a massive social media following. Unfortunately, follower count often equates to trust and traffic, but this misconception often leads to confusion and missed opportunity. Your number of followers don’t always equate to sales, engagement, or new customers. Instead of focusing on their number of followers on social media, assess their engagement. What’s the value they deliver to their audience? What are their perspectives on challenges and trends in the field?
3. Keep it real by sharing your setbacks, resources, and connections. Go beyond dolling out fluffy advice like “just do it, never give up, or believe in yourself.” Describe the sacrifices that helped you become successful. What are the names of the tools and resources that helped you succeed? As more women keep it real about how they worked through their challenges, it helps to uplift and equip other women with the resources they need to bridge the gender gap in leadership, business, etc.
4. Choose collaboration over competition. Regardless of your role, it starts with you. Bury your ego and insecurities about sharing the spotlight because the truth is we are stronger in numbers. Plus, no one wins in life or business solely by their own efforts.
In the workplace, you can promote an environment of collaboration by asking for another person’s viewpoints. In business, a successful leader recognizes the power of identifying the gaps in their skill set, operating in their zone of genius, and confidently hiring people who can close the gap.