I often think about where we are in the world; I think about the privileges we have in comparison to those who came before us, but I also think about the work that is yet to be done.
As a millennial woman of color, I think about women in the workplace and I think about the current disparities. I don’t need to tell you all the statistics about women in the workplace. I don’t need to tell you about pay disparities and that white women make 79 cents for every dollar a man makes, and that black women only make 63 cents, 57 for Native American women, and 54 cents for Latina women. Fifty-four cents! And don’t even get me started on the lack of women in leadership roles in various industries throughout the country (even though we are incredibly well educated).
So what is there to do about it? Well a lot. But here I want to talk about what we can do in our own workplaces. Regardless of your leadership level in your role at work, you can positively impact women in your workplace and elevate your co-workers.
5 Ways To Lift Women Up At Work:
1. Have each other’s backs.
I don’t know about you, but I feel like I am in all.the.meetings at work and in my volunteer life. Meetings can be great, but they can also be a time when women get overlooked, spoken over, and undermined.
When you go to your next meeting, start to pay attention to the interpersonal dynamics happening at that table and act accordingly. If you see a woman make a point that gets overlooked, you make that point too. Or if someone tries to take credit for something a woman said, diplomatically refer back to her when you talk about it so that she ‘gets credit’ for her important thoughts and ideas.
It is important to have more than one diverse person at the table (whether that be women of color, women, employees with disabilities) so that the one person doesn’t get overlooked. Let’s have each other’s back in meetings. When we support each other, it raises us all to a higher standard by not letting this behavior slide under the table.
2. Make a few work allies.
Now I don’t expect you to be friends with everyone in the office, but what I would love is if you can find a few allies at work.
This does a few things. First, it allows you to have a person to vent to when necessary. It also allows you to have someone who you can say “hey, I have an idea I am going to mention at this meeting, can you back me up?”
You can also ask this person for advice. You know that they’re on your side and have your best interest at heart. There’s no passive aggressive tone, no self interest, and no jealousy. And your feelings are reciprocal. For all of these things, you can give it in return to help elevate each other.
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3. Try to reserve judgment for other women.
It is no secret that women have a harder time in the workplace. We are seen as aggressive when we speak up (and this is particularly true if you are a black woman) and we are expected to be subdued without strong opinions. Women are judged more harshly for our clothing choices and actions.
We can, either consciously or unconsciously, judge women in our office for similar reasons. I would encourage you to check your thoughts and see what is the cause when you’re having negative thoughts about women. Sometimes you may not like them for different reasons, but try to make sure you aren’t doing a little judging and expecting them to fit into a stereotype.
4. Be a mentor.
We talk a lot here about finding mentors, but find mentees! Do you have an employee who is a recent graduate? Or new to the company? What about an intern? Find someone and ask them if you can help them get acquainted with the office.
If you have employee resource groups at work, join the women’s group or create one if there isn’t. An employee resource group allows groups of employees to come together to learn from each other, develop leadership skills and help advance each other in the workplace.
5. Advocate for women.
Try to advocate for women at work when you can. If you have input in who gets project assignments and you know a woman who would be great, say it! If your boss asks you about fellow employees, talk about the women you know who are doing a good job.
Don’t try to just throw out random names because (1) that won’t be authentic and (2) could put your judgment in question. But if you know something about a female colleague, try to share it with the decision-makers in your office.
Make sure you are focusing on your personal and professional development as well. Part of elevating women at work is elevating yourself in the workplace and in your industry. How can you be the best employee you can be to help have more influence in your workplace?
I’d love to get to a place where we can have women on par with men, and my hope is that the tips above will help us get there. What other tips do you have?