8 Ways to Support Women at Work
Men and leaders like you have been asking me how they can support women, in light of continued revelations about toxic work environments and incidents of sexual misconduct.
An environment free of harassment is the most minimal requirement we all have of our workplaces. But that alone is not enough. To thrive your business needs an environment where women feel welcomed, included, encouraged, and have the opportunity to fully contribute. This is an area where 99% of our workplaces can improve.
So, I put together eight daily actions you can take right now to fully support women and create a more vibrant, inclusive, win-win culture that drives business results.
1. Make room at the table
When planning or attending meetings, take a look at the invite list. Are women (plural not singular) included?
It takes a 30% critical mass representation for any group of people to be heard in their own right, rather than merely being a representative of their group.
Here are a couple things you could say to draw attention and change the mix.
“Hey, I noticed we haven’t included Janice in this meeting. I’d like to have her join us. She has some great perspectives on how sales can better work with marketing.”
“I want to us to have a strong discussion, can we get a more diverse pool of thought? I have a few suggestions in mind.”
2. Amplify and support women’s input
In a meetings, emails or other communications, when a woman shares a good idea, amplify her perspective and be vocal in your support.
“Great idea Asha! Can you give us more details on how that would work?”
3. Encourage her participation
If you haven’t heard from women on your team or in a meeting, directly ask for their perspective.
“Amanda, what do you think about Gary’s proposal?”
4. Promote her contributions
Look for and recognize the contributions of your female colleagues in public. Don’t assume others have noticed on their own. Be explicit, use her name, and note the accomplishment.
“Erin, your results this quarter are stellar. I appreciate the creativity you’ve shown in pursuing new clients.”
5. Sponsor her
I’ve talked about sponsorship before, but I cannot emphasize it importance enough. Mentoring is about giving advice and guidance. Sponsoring is about recognizing her potential and providing challenging, visible assignments that give her the opportunity to advance.
6. Network with women
If you want to support women, don’t withdraw or interact less frequently with them during this difficult time. Instead, intentionally build out your professional network with more women in your company, industry, and community. Ensure women feel welcome participating in gatherings by picking activities and locations where they and everyone would be comfortable.
7. Be flexible
When planning projects, executing tasks, or scheduling meetings, take individual needs into consideration. Focus on results in lieu of time in the office. If possible, allow flexible hours, different types of work arrangements, and offsite participation.
8. Shut it down
Have zero tolerance for sexual misconduct. If a coworker speaks down to, describes a woman’s actions demeaningly such as “shrill” or “bossy” or uses derogatory words to refer to her, or worse yet, harasses a woman, step in and convey that the behavior is completely unacceptable. Simply and directly say something like:
“Stop. That is incredibly inappropriate.”
If the action is egregious, reach out to human resources and anyone with the authority to address the behavior.
You can use these eight actions to encourage and create an inclusive environment for all types of people, not just for women, including millennials, minorities, people of different religions, backgrounds, etc.
Don’t be a disengaged bystander. Incorporate these micro inclusions into your daily interactions with women. Be proactive, intentional, and deliberate in how you support women. They, your business, and your clients will thank you.