Earlier this year, the World Economic Forum reported that we are more than 200 years away from achieving gender parity. An unfortunate outcome considering women have already been fighting for equality for more than a 100 years.
With all that’s happened in the past year with movements like #MeToo #TimesUp, #PressforProgress and more, women are more empowered than ever to advocate, activate and support women.
Yet, still, too often, we are taken down by mean girl crappiness (or relational aggression as psychologists term it). I don’t believe girls and women are inherently mean. It’s a result of a patriarchy that has led women (and men) to believe there is only one spot at the table for women. So we compete and sometimes things get uncivilized in the most passive aggressive of ways.
We need a new way forward.
And, this past 12 to 18 months we’ve seen countless women rise up and take a public stand against the systemic issues and ideas that continue to hold women back. But, such a public role isn’t right for everyone. We all can’t walk away from our jobs when we discover a gender pay gap. And, standing at the podium, rallying others to take action may not be your thing, either.
But, there’s plenty more we can do that can create an equally profound impact.
If you’re looking for some fresh ideas – I’ve got 6 of them for you. Each of them are relatively easy to do, requiring little time and effort. But, all can go a long way in recognizing, advocating and supporting the women in your life. And, here’s a bonus: all of them can be done all year long!
Use your voice
We all have a responsibility to stop bad behavior dead in its tracks. It’s equally important to prevent the more subtle forms of bias. And, the best way to do that is to call it out and counter it with facts.
Here are some examples: if you hear someone questioning a new working mom’s commitment to her job, give an example of how she’s already proven her loyalty. If someone a more senior colleague tries to take credit for a young woman’s idea; call out the poor manners and give her back the floor. Whatever the situation may be, you need to speak up.
You may not think your actions have much impact, but they do. Providing an alternative perspective can help neutralize biased thinking and put others on notice that such discouraging comments are unacceptable.
Just as it’s important for you to find a mentor or a model, you need to find ways to mentor others. It doesn’t always have to be a time-consuming commitment. If you have the time to take on a formal mentoring relationship, then please go for it.
But, if you don’t, you can still mentor someone. All it takes is asking a question, sharing your experience or offering words of encouragement.
Need inspiration, then consider: looking for that young woman that shows you something special. Or find that newly pregnant mama in your group. Then, begin a conversation. Ask them about a specific project they’re working on or if they’ve figured out their plan to transition their work before maternity leave. Or you can share a piece of advice or offer a resource to help them with a specific task.
Whatever you choose, the aim here is to start a supportive conversation and signal to the other woman that they have an ally in you.
Boost a friend’s career
With a little help from our friends we can progress our careers farther and faster than we could alone. That’s why we all need friends at work. They’re there to cheer you on and inspire you to go after new opportunities. They provide a sympathetic ear when we need it and they can offer hard-hitting feedback even when we don’t.
Be that friend. Commonly, women don’t get much airtime in meetings and when they do speak many times their voices are drowned out. Stand up for your colleagues, giving them the airtime and credit they deserve. And, since women generally aren’t very good at promoting their good works, do your friend a solid and publicly acknowledge her successes.
Shifting the load at home
Be it the physical load we carry or the mental load that consumes too much of our brain capacity, women – at least the majority of us – take on too much at home. We are also lead parents to our children, making key decisions for their health and welfare.
It’s a lot. Too much, actually. And, for too many working moms, we are limited in our ability to do the things that truly matter and fulfill us.
It’s time to shift the load to our partners. Sure, it doesn’t quite make sense that we have to be responsible for yet another thing. Sadly, like most things related to striving for equality, if we don’t take the actions today very little will change tomorrow. For more inspiration on how to make the shift, check out this post, and this one.
Striving for equality at home can have far reaching impact. You and your partner will be a model for your children. Plus, your partner will take his new habits at home to the workplace that will benefit the women they work with, too.
Preparing the next generation
Here’s the reality: a father is rarely, if ever, asked how he balances work with his family. It’s because the idea that daddy works and mommy stays home to care for the family and home remains an assumption in our society that continues to make its way into the minds of our children.
So, it’s up to us to talk about why we work. Yes, the paycheck provides for our family, but we also do it for other reasons. We need to openly talk about the work we do, the joy we get from working, the example it sets for them, and how it helps us be better moms. Dads can do this, too.
The more you talk, the more normal it will be – for your family and for the family your little one may grow to have one day.
Support an issue
There are countless issues at play in creating a more equal world today and for the next generation. This means there are countless ways you can get involved. These can be the big issues like pay equity or reproductive rights.
Or it can be more niche. Like working moms. This has been a passion area of mine for some time. And, my hope is through these pages and engaging in conversations, I’m helping to break down the stigma that still surrounds women who chose to be more than a mom, and providing the information and insights they need to make their choices work.
So, how will you support the women in your life? Tell me in the comments below.