Disparity between genders in the workplace takes various shapes. In the United States, women make about 80 cents to every man’s dollar, and more than 90% of Fortune 500 CEOs are men. Often, the sexism even spreads to women themselves, leading them to doubt their capabilities and judge their female colleagues. The gender-equality nonprofit Lean In offers concrete suggestions for women to empower one another and themselves at work. Although Lean In wrote this piece for women, both male and female workers at all career stages will find its suggestions applicable.
- Female colleagues can fight gender inequality and lift up one another at work in many ways.
- Enable female co-workers to voice their valuable input by speaking up when they’re interrupted or struggling to join a conversation.
- Challenge people – including yourself – who label women as “bossy” or “shrill” to consider whether they’d assign the same attributes to a man.
- Credit women for their accomplishments and push them to continue succeeding.
- Offer women specific and constructive feedback in the moment, and provide mentoring as a means of supporting them.
Women can stick up for one another to fight prejudice at work. These solutions will help women fight disparity and empower female colleagues as well as themselves:
- “Make sure women’s ideas are heard” – Participants in meetings interrupt women more frequently than men. Guide conversations so that women can join in and finish voicing their thoughts. If the wrong person receives credit for a valuable input, respond with a friendly acknowledgement of the idea and a reminder of who surfaced it. As a woman, lead by example: During meetings, sit in a central location and speak up to establish your status.
- “Challenge the likability penalty” – While people often celebrate men’s assertiveness, they harshly judge direct women. If people label a woman “bossy” or “shrill,” ask them to cite specific behavior and inquire whether they would say the same about a male colleague. Apply this to yourself as well.
- “Celebrate women’s accomplishments” – People tend to focus more on women’s failures than accomplishments. Women themselves harbor more self-doubt and can downplay their own successes. Don’t allow colleagues to blame women for mistakes they didn’t make or to label them as “self-promoting.” Share female colleagues’ qualifications when introducing them, and point out their accomplishments.
- “Encourage women to go for it” – Women often refrain from pursuing new assignments unless they feel perfectly qualified for them. Encourage female colleagues to take on new challenges. Mention past successes if they’re questioning their capabilities and offer to support them until they feel comfortable in their new roles.
- “Give women direct feedback” – People give men more constructive feedback about their work, while women receive vague, more general input. Offer prompt and specific tips to female colleagues, and ask for concrete feedback yourself.
- “Mentor and sponsor other women” – Mentoring relationships can be powerful career drivers. Unfortunately, women are less likely to have such support at the workplace. Back other women by sharing your experiences and helping them create opportunities for themselves. Even if you’re new in your career, you will have sound advice to offer.
About the Author
Lean In is a nonprofit founded by Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg that pushes women to succeed in their careers.
This document is restricted to personal use only.