At a dinner in Nashville, our group of girlfriends got to talking about women’s roles in each of our work places. Amongst us, we cover a wide variety of positions and company types. We have small companies where women make up the majority of the staff, to larger companies where there is no female representation in leadership. Of course, with this comes many different experiences and ways of being treated.
One thing I found especially interesting was the importance of good female role models. Someone that women can not only look to for advice, direction or to model themselves after, but also to vouch for them and call attention to their successes. It didn’t matter how big the company was, or what percent of the staff was female, if we didn’t feel we had a woman to look up to in our day to day, our experiences suffered.
Of course, we might have many amazing male mentors who offer great advice and insight. But it’s difficult to utilize them in mapping our futures. It’s often harder to look to them to compare how they handled balancing their career with other responsibilities, particularly ones that tend to fall on women. And, although I’m fully in support of more cross-gender mentorships (thanks, Sheryl!), it can be uncomfortable to ask them some of these questions. With this realization, I felt a spark inside of me, a determination to lead as an example, and serve as a mentor and champion to the ladies in my life.
This need starts so young. I can still vividly remember my favorite babysitter, camp counselor, and the “much older” 5th grader who walked me home, and the effect that they had on my life. My friend who works with children also spoke about the impact that the different counselors have on the kids, and how the girls look up to the female counselors so much. So, let’s be there for them, as strong role models, mentors and “much older” friends.
Throughout this conversation, we also talked about recognition and the importance of calling others out for their good ideas, input and work. I read this article a few months ago that talks about vouching for fellow females and it really resonated with me. So often I’ve heard my ideas repeated louder by others, for them to ultimately receive credit. It’s uncomfortable and incredibly frustrating. At work, I’ve made the pact inspired by the article with a few of my colleagues. We find opportunities to call out and reiterate the great ideas originally proposed by one another.
But, I think this principle can be applied more broadly, so let’s be there for each other. Speak up for your girlfriends and their work and ideas. Go out of your way to support women-led initiatives and businesses. We saw a great example of this at the Bottles and Brushes event we went to last week. All of the vendors at the event were women-owned and the proceeds went to Dress for Success, a foundation that works towards helping women get back on their feet. The pride and determination shone from each woman leader, founder, and supporter. It was so inspirational and made our desire that much greater to see more of this type of support and encouragement.
So ladies, it’s time to stand up and speak up. Are you with us?