In March, one can find many articles and blogs honoring International Women's Month. Most aim to help women empower themselves, take the reins and see their dreams through. There is no shortage of books advising women to Lean In (a great book by the way) and take control of their destinies.
As a woman myself, I can tell you we get it. Women know what they want and what it takes to make their dreams a reality. Many studies show girls tend to study harder. They grow into women who work harder and have audacious goals. The problem is not with women, it is external with those around them but do not believe in them.
This blog is dedicated to all those surrounded by great and brave women. This March, we offer four simple tips to help better understand the amazing women around you.
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 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. Use your ears to hear their words. Use your eyes to observe how they speak. Check your body language to make sure you are creating a comfortable space for them to express themselves.
Resist temptation to interrupt, to tell them what they should do or use the word “but”. Whenever you catch yourself doing one of these three things, stop, be quiet and listen.
#2 Assumptions & Stereotyping
Assumptions can be blinding. That is not to say you cannot make assumptions at all. But rather, validate your assumptions and be flexible enough to correct your position accordingly.
For instance, don’t assume a married female Sales Representative will not welcome a promotion because she might want to start a family! If she is qualified for the job, offer it to her and allow her to make her own decision to accept or decline the offer.
Stereotyping on the other hand, is very damaging. Not only to the person stereotyped, but also to the person with the stereotype belief. Humans are complicated. Just because we share the same gender, race or culture does not automatically mean our experiences and desires match.
Treat every person as their own rightful individual.
Unfortunately, some women feel they are not “seen” in their workplace. They experience an imposter syndrome or don't feel encouraged to share their voice.
Even worse, some have their ideas stolen from them right in front of their eyes! This happened to me personally. A long time ago, during a team meeting, I made a recommendation only for my male colleague to claim it and build it up as his own! Luckily, I had an amazing manager who put a stop to it there and then and recognized me for my idea.
When a woman comes up with an idea, when she does a great job or overachieves a goal, tell her. Don’t think it will go over her head, I promise you, it won’t. When a little girl shows you pride in something she had accomplished, maybe a drawing she completed, toys she organized or sparkles on her painted nails, tell her she is amazing, don’t feel you need to ground her!
#4 Pave the Way
Potential is potential. When you see someone with the ability to do amazing things, and has potential to be great, pave the way for them. Everyone deserves a chance to succeed, especially those often overlooked.
Unfortunately, the toxic and sometimes hostile work cultures, have caused some women to subdue their skills and capabilities. Some choose to stay away by building a defensive wall to protect themselves.
For this reason, leaders need to keep an open eye for high potential women around them and help them succeed.
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 on separate planets. Obviously, the universe has a better vision for us, so let’s work towards it.