Since August is Women’s Equality Month, I dedicate this blog to the powerful women and those in their company.
There is no shortage of books advising women to Lean In (a great book by the way) and take control of their destiny. But I truly believe women get it! We know what we want and what it takes.
Women are ready to take the reins and see their dreams through. The problem is not with them, it is external with those surrounding them but not supporting them or believing in them.
Multiple studies show girls already study harder and grow into women with audacious goals who work harder. If you happen to believe in these studies and want to support the amazing women around you, here are four simple tips to help you become a true equality ally.
#1 Listen Intentionally
There is wisdom in the saying “seek to understand before being understood” (The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People). Hearing someone and listening to them are two different things. True listening is a skill that requires self-control, patience, empathy and a desire to understand.
When a female colleague, a friend or family member approaches you with a concern or story to tell, practice true listening by using: your ears, your eyes and your entire body. Your ears hear the words she chooses to convey her message. Your eyes observe what she is doing while conversing; and your own body language creates a comfortable space for her to freely express herself.
Control your temptation to interrupt. Resist the urge to tell her what she needs to do, especially when unwarranted. Do not shift the conversation to your own experiences. True listening needs to be intentional, that is why special skills are taught to do it correctly.
#2 Dismiss Assumptions & Stereotyping
Assumptions can be blinding. That is not to say we should not make assumptions at all, but rather, we need to validate our assumptions along the way and be flexible enough to correct our positions accordingly.
For instance, do not automatically assume a newly married female Sales Rep will not welcome a promotion just because she might want to start a family! (a true story). If she is qualified and deserves the promotion, offer it to her and allow her to make her own decision as to accept or decline the offer.
Stereotyping on the other hand is very dangerous. It carries negative implications to the person stereotyping and can be potentially harmful to the person being stereotyped. Humans are complicated creatures, just because we share the same gender, race or culture does not automatically mean our experiences and desires are the same.
Treat every person as their own rightful individual.
#3 Recognize the Source of Ideas
Unfortunately, some women feel “not seen” in their workplace. They are not encouraged to share their voice. Some have their ideas publicly hijacked right in front of their eyes! This last example happened to me personally. A long time ago, I made a process suggestion during a team meeting only for my male colleague to claim it and build it up as his own suggestion! Luckily, I had an amazing manager who put a stop to it there and then. He called it out on the spot and recognized me for my idea.
Great leaders do not only encourage diverse ideas, they seek them out and recognize the core source for the idea.
#4 Pave the Way
Potential is potential. When we see someone who can do amazing things and has potential to be great, we need to pave the way for them. Man or woman, but especially woman.
Unfortunately, toxic and hostile work environments have caused some women to subdue their skills and capabilities. For this reason, leaders must keep an open eye for high potential women in the organization and pave the way for them to succeed.
In order to live in a better world, we need men and women working together, side by side, elevating one another to success. It is not rocket science.
If we were meant to evolve independently, we would have been living in separate planets. Obviously, the universe has a better vision for us, so let’s work towards it.