How to Champion Other Women In The WorkplaceOct 30, 2023
By Dakota Murphey, Guest Contributor
The facts speak for themselves: women still face major roadblocks to reaching gender parity at work. Leadership roles, competitive salaries, unbiased hiring practices...these continue to elude far too many women in business. Consider that a measly 8.2% of S&P 500 company CEOs are female as of 2023. The tech industry tells a similar story, with women sadly representing just over a quarter of all computing jobs in big tech. The data highlights how far we still need to go to achieve true equality and inclusivity across all industries and positions.
With intentional support from one another, women can slowly chip away at systemic biases and barriers. However, it takes a concerted effort among women across all levels and roles to enact positive change. Here’s what businesses and women on an individual basis can do to champion other women and break down stereotypes.
Address unconscious bias
Addressing unconscious bias is critical to creating a more equitable workplace for women. We all exhibit these based on our upbringings and societal conditioning but it’s vital we reflect on and acknowledge our own biases in a workplace context.
It's also important to speak up when we observe biased language or behavior in meetings — staying silent only allows it to perpetuate. In meetings, all staff can pay attention to who is being interrupted or talked over, and make an effort to create space for those voices to be fully heard. Leaders should also take a critical look at performance ratings and feedback women receive. Is constructive feedback delivered positively? Are achievements being praised? Addressing unconscious bias requires continual diligence, but is necessary to create a workplace culture of inclusion.
The importance of mentorship
Mentorship and sponsorship are critical for the success of women in business. Formally pairing a junior employee with a more experienced mentor provides invaluable guidance on navigating the workplace.
It also provides them with a strong role model, something Kat Mitchell, Co-Founder and Chief Revenue Officer at MPB, believes is incredibly important: “As we all know, representation at the highest levels and in the boardroom is still sadly lagging behind — especially across FTSE companies. I think it is hugely important that we see significantly increased representation in these roles, so that young women have the role models and the aspiration to see these paths in their future“. Mentors give advice on developing skills, managing challenges and charting a career path. Confiding in a mentor helps women early on in their careers to build confidence, while the mentor gains insights into the barriers faced by women today.
Sponsorship takes the relationship beyond mentoring. A sponsor actively advocates for the woman, connects her to senior leaders, and endorses her for key assignments and promotions. Unlike a mentor, a sponsor taps into their influence and networks to help the woman get ahead. With the backing of sponsors, women gain access to career opportunities they are often otherwise excluded from.
Spotlight achievements and celebrate
Making sure women's accomplishments are visible is key to advancement. When a woman on your team leads a successful project, make sure to highlight her contributions in team meetings and to leadership. Give her public recognition either verbally or through an email announcement; share the results of her work broadly so others take note. Likewise, celebrate successes like promotions, service anniversaries and professional development.
Celebration shows you take pride in her success and value her work. It also inspires and motivates other women to strive for achievement and advancement. But arguably most importantly, it normalizes women being in leadership roles. The more women's accomplishments are spotlighted, the more it combats unconscious bias about women deserving and belonging in senior positions. Uplifting each other empowers more women to reach their potential.
Fostering collaboration and community among women co-workers creates a support network that leads to greater success. There are many ways to encourage collaborative teamwork between women across departments and levels of seniority.
Start by building connections through networking events, employee resource groups and mentoring programs specifically for women. This allows relationships to form in an inclusive environment. It’s also worthwhile teaming up on projects with women with complementary skills or knowledge bases. Collaboration expands perspectives and builds camaraderie.
Advocate for collaborative multi-department projects versus siloed workstreams. A diversity of thought produces stronger solutions, and greater profits for businesses, while also creating a rising tide that lifts all boats for women across all sectors. Businesses should bring together women with different strengths across strategy, operations, product development and design, and move away from competitiveness between colleagues.
The responsibility lies with organizations to make industry-wide changes. But in addition to organizations making changes, individuals can advocate for themselves in various ways too. This may look like building strong networks both inside and outside your organization, joining women's groups, seeking out mentors and sponsors, and nurturing peer relationships. Broad connections provide support and opportunities.
Women can also invest in their own learning through training, online courses and conferences to continuously build skills. Stay on top of industry trends or look for growth opportunities within your company. Owning your career trajectory and investing in your own growth helps you to show up as a more empowered colleague and leader, and encourage other women to do the same. Betting on yourself prepares you to pass the benefits on to others.
By building connections, amplifying voices and addressing biases, women can uplift one another professionally. With women championing one another at all levels, we collectively chip away at systemic barriers and create a more equitable environment. This enables women to thrive, not just in tech but across other industries too.
The power of connection cannot be underestimated. When women connect with and support fellow women, they create a vital network for sharing opportunities, resources and advice. These connections provide a launchpad for women to excel in their careers. Amplifying each other's voices also gives more exposure to women's ideas and perspectives, combating their frequent minimization in many professional spheres.