Support women in leadership ~ Be Brave!
No one is an instant leader. But for women, the journey to more responsibility can seem more arduous than most.
Women represent more than half of the world’s population but still lag behind in leadership roles, from local businesses all the way up to national politics and global organizations. For decades, private and public entities have been studying the problem and investing in solutions — all of which seem to fall short.
Women have been told to lean in and speak up (even if we are interrupted more). Our nations have focused millions on programs to help women break into traditionally male-dominated fields. And yet, the percentage of women in leadership or senior management roles or worldwide is still only 30%.
What are we missing?
I’ve been a serial entrepreneur throughout my adult life. I’ve been an owner or a co-owner of a number of companies. I didn’t experience many of the horror stories I’ve heard from women who were blocked by their male counterparts.
But I did have to overcome my own fears and feelings of unworthiness. I’ve used the lessons I’ve learned in my own life to help elevate other women, and I’m often asked what others can do to help women feel more secure in their abilities. On this International Women’s Day, I encourage people who want to support women to be BRAVE.
It’s natural to look at other people’s strengths in the workplace and see them as a threat to our own — after all, business is competitive. One of the best talents you can develop is the ability to see women as they could be and fully believe in their potential. Many women don’t envision themselves taking on greater responsibilities until someone encourages them.
Invite women into decision-making roles and promote them through your words and actions. If you’re brainstorming how to fill a seat on a board, think of the professional women you know. If you have an excellent coworker, suggest that she apply for a promotion. We have a collective responsibility to open our imaginations and welcome women to the table.
It can be difficult for women to be heard in groups. Studies have shown that women are perceived differently when they speak up than men are. We can combat this problem by lifting up women’s speech and thoughts at the board table. Instead of thinking or nodding your assent, vocalize it. When women contribute ideas, recognize them. Amplify women’s voices to ensure they are considered.
Take time to mentor and validate women. Your contribution can be as simple as sending an encouraging note about a creative solution to a problem or recognizing a special skill, or as involved as serving as a mentor. Whatever you can do to help a woman grow and develop her leadership potential will ripple out into a positive difference in the world.
Encourage and Elevate
The growth process doesn’t end when a woman attains a seat at a board. It’s a career-long — or even lifelong — commitment to shunning comfort and embracing challenge. Encourage women to make the jump to the next level of achievement. Let them know that you will support them as they make the leap.
It takes time to build bravery. I often tell clients that it’s like driving a car: At first, everything seems foreign. You might not know where the turn signal is or when to shift gears. In time, though, driving becomes second-nature and you’re driving hundreds of miles without an ounce of apprehension.
Women have an enormous capacity for bravery when they believe in their own abilities. As co-workers, colleagues, mentors, sisters, brothers, and loved ones, we have a responsibility to foster women’s confidence and empower them to reach their full potential. Encouraging women to be brave starts when they are young girls in school. Check out this inspiring Ted Talk by Reshma Saujani.
The world is a better place when women rise up. This year, let’s commit to lifting them.