Whether you want to quote Beyoncé or Gloria Steinem, there is strength, inspiration and support found in the solace of females, especially if they are willing to stand tall for another sister. Author, founder and president of the digital technology firm, McClennan Group, Jeannette McClennan says it is vital for women to raise each other up — from areas in the workplaces where females could use another nudge to the safe harbor of friendships that see them through many tides.
Here, female entrepreneurs who have inched their way to the top with the help of other women share the most effective ways to become a voice and confidence-builder for other ladies, just like you:
Support women-owned businesses.
When describing 2019, entrepreneur Natalia Bednarek of Herla Beauty says it is a remarkable time for women — as we are seeing pretty significant changes happening in our society and culture. Not only in terms of women leading political offices, fighting for policy changes and using their voices to change gender dynamics, but in small business. In fact, it is estimated women start 849 businesses every single day in the United States. And though you may already prioritize shopping small over big box, have you ever wondered if your go-to products, brands and resources are female-led? Consider this your time to step up: “Women understand each other best, and it is our responsibility to raise each other up. We can empathize, we can inspire, and we can lead by example. It’s important for us to support each other and learn from each other in every possible aspect of our lives,” Bednarek says. “Make it a conscious decision and then a habit to shop female-founded companies. There are so many great brands created by women, so do your research.”
Give women opportunities — and let them make mistakes.
If you happen to be in a position of leadership, you have the unique opportunity to propel women to the top. This could be through your C-level LinkedIn title, at the helm of a leadership group or even as the president of the Parent-Teacher Association (PTA). Founder and CEO of INKED by Dani, Dani Egna, explains this doesn’t just mean handing out more dollars or only hiring women merely because they are female, but in the way you develop a culture. This means presenting actual opportunities through growth and promoting education through trial-and-error. “Create an environment where they feel safe making their own decisions, making mistakes and fixing them. Praise them when they step up to the plate and go the extra mile, so they are amped to do it again,” she says. “It’s important for employees of an organization to notice the great work of its female rock stars, especially since many employees tend to focus on their own deadlines, projects and goals.”
Start young and give your time.
Maybe you haven’t quite reached the tenure of your industry where you can speak at conferences. Whether for this reason or another, not feeling like you are the stereotype of a feminist could prevent you from contributing to women’s empowerment. After all, by definition, many women believe you have to attend all of the marches and rallies, proudly proclaim yourself as an all-powerful she-woman to make a difference in the movement. But this is far from the truth, and a lost opportunity based on a misconception. There are many ways to give back without standing on a platform — whether literal, figurative or social. As the CEO and founder of the Beauty Inventor Colour Collective, Kerry E. Yates explains, one effective (and rewarding!) way to raise women up is to mentor youth.
“Young girls start forming ideas of what they want their life to look like when they become adults. Unfortunately, not every young girl has a role model to give them guidance,” she explains. “Become a mentor to a young woman at the middle school level to help offer advice on what they, as young women, can truly accomplish. It amazes [me] to this day that many young women still do not understand the many options available for them. Try to instill the idea nothing [that] is impossible [and] there are ways to work around any problem.”
Push women out of their comfort zone.
Though you can find a plethora of sayings — ‘boss lady’ and ‘the future is female’ to name a few — McClennan says in the spirit of mentoring women, it can’t all be ra-ra. Or in other words, if you are merely giving a colleague advice with endless praise or simply reminding your bestie how awesome she is — you don’t give her the kick she needs to grow. “When you mentor women, encourage them to go where they’re uncomfortable perhaps due to shyness or insecurities that have to do with gender. Help them to see things they might be blind to and give them constructive feedback so they can grow,” she says.
Imagine your younger sister wants to take a leap of faith and start a side hustle. Instead of telling her ‘yeah, you can do it!’ — have her get nitty-gritty about what time and commitment starting another gig will require. Then, help her dig into what she really wants out of the experience, and prepare her with actionable steps. McClennan notes that while this could make her uncomfortable, what you are actually doing is letting her authenticity shine through, rather than focusing on a cookie-cutter standard of perfection.
Start your own group.
For most entrepreneurs, the ‘a-ha’ moment comes from a disappointment or a frustration. This thing or service doesn’t exist, so hey, why not create it and fill the void? The same reasoning can be applied to connecting with other inspiring women. Entrepreneur Nicole Zabal came up with an idea with another friend to start a brainstorming support group of sorts. Meeting once a month with 20 to 30 other work-from-home women, these all-stars discuss projects and share struggles and successes. “Just meeting with these inspiring women once a month gave me a sense of community and really helped to motivate me towards wanting to achieve my goals. I was able to get some great ideas and feedback, and I ended up hiring two of the women I met to help me grow my business,” she says.
Think of a community you want to be part of — maybe it is yogis. Or skincare junkies. Female jet-setters. Whatever the area, start collecting women who share your same ethos or interest, and rally up the troops. The melting of the minds — over wine or nothing at all — will help everyone grow.
Be inclusive — especially outside of your circle.
Your childhood comrades. Your college collective. Your post-graduation soul sisters. Your travel-when-the-mood-strikes partner in airline miles. Your coworkers who make everything — and every client — more bearable. As we age, we grow more and more ‘groups,’ and Maria Halasz, Australian entrepreneur and founder of Evolis Products, says the more you can include others into these circles, the more powerful the female-led force becomes. Whenever you can, invite women to join not only your side, but your network. After all, logic dictates the larger your net, the better experience for everyone, as knowing someone who knows someone always gives up a leg up — no matter if it is matchmaking, finding a new job or trying to get your kid into your top-choice preschool.
“Inviting other women will not only expose them to the thinking and ideas of the profession but will allow them to access contacts they may need for that next opportunity,” she says. “One of the most significant reasons women are held back from leadership roles is their lack of the right network. Be the conduit for expanding these networks for women.”
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