Woman to Woman
Wouldn’t it be nice if we could all get along? I have been in the business world for 30 years and have been witness to (and recipient of) bad behavior inflicted by a woman on another woman. Perhaps it’s simply jealously or maybe it’s fear of losing a coveted position. It could be an unintentional result of an attempt to appear strong and nonemotional.
When I entered the world of finance, advisor and executive positions were dominated by men, with a very small sprinkling of women here and there. After a short time working in a support role, I decided to work toward becoming one of the sprinkles. Current research shows women make up approximately 15-20 percent of financial advisor roles today. We’ve come a long way but we still have a long way to go.
Many corporations have vowed to purposefully consider women for management and executive positions. We can spend a lot of time discussing and debating what that process looks like and how the impact of these actions will be measured – but that’s a topic for a later date.
For now, the focus is on how women can help each other. How can we best support each other along the journey to the destination (wherever your personal and professional destination)? Consider these points:
- Expand your network. Traditional advice has taught us to focus networking efforts on those above you. However, there are at least two challenges with this concept: there are likely to be fewer women above you, and the women below you represent the future and their contribution can be invaluable. Network up, down, and sideways. Building connections on all levels help you, colleagues, and the women who follow.
- Watch out for and avoid coded language. Biased adjective use seems to be more frequent when referring to women. Think about the last time you heard descriptive language, such as “emotional”, “demanding” and “drama queen”; I’m quite sure it was in reference to the behavior of a man. Avoid falling into the trap of conversation (gossip) that denigrates or perpetuates this attitude.
- Give a boost. Sit in on enough workplace meetings and you will likely bear witness to one or more of these scenarios: woman speaks, a man interrupts and keeps talking; woman shares an idea and it is ignored until a man brings it up 10 minutes later and suddenly it’s a great idea – or some combination of the two. This cycle works against women and reinforces the act as acceptable. Next time you witness this happening, repeat the idea, and give credit to its author. Speaking up gives a boost to women at the table (as well as those to follow).
- Sponsor. You have the opportunity to support women in building their careers behind you. Just as you stand on the shoulders of women before you, you provide the shoulders for women behind you. Make a point to build relationships with women with whom you may be in a position to raise.
- Inform your allies of up-and-coming talent. Let’s face it. Men still hold most of the power positions in business. There are men who value the diversity and inclusion factor of having women on their team and they will be your ally! Not only will they help you get a seat at the table, but they will also promote your ideas once you’re in the chair.
You can always tell who the strong women are. They build up other women and know their success helps another woman’s success. Let your actions speak loudly.