In 2016 former US Secretary of State Madeleine Albright told the world "There is a special place in hell for women who don't support other women". Whilst I don't think anyone should be forced to support others I do think something special happens when women come together in support of each other. That's when we see #progressnotpromises.
At a recent Ginger Game Changers Women in Leadership dinner I felt this with absolute certainty. Women were making amazing new connections, opening up about the challenges they face, and generally accepting that in order for any one of us to rise we all need to provide a scaffold to support such progress.
In practice, what can women do each and every day (particularly senior women) to help other women rise?
1. Change our team hiring practices to minimize team homogeneity. I don't mean positive discrimination but rather ensure that we advocate for best practice when it comes to inclusive hiring, both in our own teams and in the wider organisation. This can be achieved by directly challenging existing hiring practices or support the work of affinity groups such as your Balance, Parents and Women's Network that may already be advocating on this issue.
2. Actively sponsor other women. While the vast majority of mentors and sponsors remain men, due to workplace structural inequalities, the impact of activating opportunities for a fellow female is one of the most powerful things you can do for another woman. This can be as simple as helping them understand their workplace vision and values, working with them to identify promotion opportunities or even giving them honest constructive feedback. You can also provide a safe place for women to reflect on difficult decisions and step out of their comfort zone.
3. Be a visible real model of organisational diversity. Be a source of support, empathy and guidance in a workplace that is not fit for purpose. Be willing to be candid about your lived experiences in relation to your career journey. Show other women, especially those who may be experiencing a mid-career stall due to parenting, that while perfection is a myth progress is still possible. A great way to do this is to reach out to your company affinity groups and offer to talk about your career story. Another way is to offer to mentor other colleagues, both below and above you.
4. Actively encourage others, especially those currently benefiting from the existing workplace structures, to join you in ground up allyship. This is especially important in relation to the treacle-like middle layers of organisations, where diversity and inclusion programs are often left languishing before they die.Activating the interest of often male middle managers towards ground up allyship is a powerful tool of cultural change.
5. Lead by example and actively call out inappropriate behaviour. This is especially important if the person experiencing the behaviour has less power in the organisation that you do. Be willing to take a risk to encourage the development of a new set of workplace norms.
All opinions are solely my own and do not express the views or opinions of my employer.