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Cultivating Future Female Leaders: How To Elevate Other Women in the Workplace

AJ_Watt / Getty Images
AJ_Watt / Getty Images

Women have made major strides in the workplace — in the U.S., women now represent 47% of the workforce, according to the latest stats from the Bureau of Labor Statistics. Yet, North American women hold just 29% of senior management positions, according to Catalyst.

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One way to change this stat is to make a proactive effort to elevate other women in the workplace. We chatted with female leaders about the best ways that women who have achieved career success can help others do the same.

Be a Role Model

“Women who have already ‘made it’ can serve as role models for other women who are up and coming,” said Marie Swift, president and CEO at Impact Communications. “We can make a point to be kind, approachable and supportive to other women in the workplace, and to encourage others through our demeanor, words and actions.”

Swift credits a female role model for helping her to achieve success in her own career.

“I’ve been working as a marketing professional in the financial services world for 33 years. As you can imagine, it was a bit of a ‘good old boys’ club’ in those early days,” she said. “One of my early mentors, who happened to be my boss’s wife, Melody Reguero, was sweet as can be but also tough as nails. She modeled for me and for all the other women in the firm how to challenge the status quo, to speak up and to stand our ground if and when needed. Her example was invaluable to me as a young manager who later rose through the ranks to director level before heading out to launch my own PR and marketing firm in 1993.”

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Even if you haven’t “made it” yet in terms of achieving a leadership role, you can still serve as a role model or mentor to other women.

“Every woman is a mentor,” said Kirsten Longnecker, VP of communications and B2B content at Kasasa. “Whether your LinkedIn profile shows 15-plus years or you’re new to your career, women can serve as guides, advocates and teachers to each other. Women serve as informal mentors and models for each other when we share credit for great ideas generously with other women and celebrate each other’s successes visibly.”

Give the Underdog a Chance

Statistically, men are more likely to ask for a promotion than women, so you may want to go out of your way to encourage women to apply for higher positions as they open up.

“Now that I have my own firm and make many important decisions about who gets what in the way of opportunities, I will give the underdog the nod, all things otherwise being equal,” Swift said. “Sometimes, the underdog is a woman — and I love seeing other women succeed.”

Encourage Work-Life Balance

“Balance is open to each person’s interpretation, but everyone needs to refill the well, and sometimes personal lives are as demanding as professional,” Longnecker said. “As women, we can ask each other intentionally what we need to recharge the mental and emotional reserves. And we can respond transparently and offer support.”

One way to show support for work-life balance is to model it through your own behavior.

“When women model working long hours, that’s just bad marketing,” Longnecker said. “Demonstrate to your colleagues that you value your own time and mental and emotional wellbeing, and it will positively impact your team, your company culture and your business.”

Partner With Men in Leadership Positions

“A way to reinforce a culture where women can succeed is by building productive partnerships and allyship with men in leadership,” said Nikki Salenetri, VP of people at Gympass. “Highlight how experiences and background differ based on gender, and ways they can contribute by bringing women into conversations and creating a seat at the table for them.”

Offer Flexibility and Child Care Options

Child care responsibilities pose the biggest barrier to women achieving success in the workplace, so one way to help women to thrive is to make it easier for them to manage these responsibilities — both in terms of time and financially.

“With the pandemic ongoing and school back in session, some women with children may need the flexibility to work from home or a flexible schedule,” said Sarah Grimstead, regional VP at Insperity. “The pandemic has proven productivity is possible from home for many job positions, so women who need the flexibility and have positions that allow for a flexible work schedule should be offered the opportunity without their careers being penalized.”

Grimstead also believes that female leaders should push for employers to offer child care benefits.

“A major hurdle for some working women is reentering the workforce after having a child,” she said. “Children can sometimes put career growth on hold, so businesses may consider expanding child care benefits so women can easily continue their career growth. Businesses may consider child care subsidies by providing free or discounted child care to employees with children, or even offer onsite child care.”

Hold Leadership Workshops

Empower women to apply for — and get — leadership positions by teaching them the skills necessary to hold these roles.

“I hold a Women’s Leadership Workshop every quarter at my company to help develop the next generation of women leaders,” said Miriam Washington Kendall, chief marketing officer at MakeSpace. “Topics vary from personal branding to goal setting and building confidence. We always end these meetings with a list of action items and ways that we can help hold each other accountable for our progress.”

Amplify Other Women’s Voices in Meetings

“The concept of amplification is simple — when two women are in a meeting together, they amplify each other’s thoughts, ideas or suggestions in the meeting,” said Denise Nichols, chief HR officer for Voya Health and Wealth Solutions. “Sometimes a woman may voice an idea and people may nod their heads and move on. Then, a man mentions the same idea and everyone says, ‘Bob, that’s a great idea!’ In order for that idea to be more attributable to the woman in the room, a senior woman in the room will amplify the thought or suggestion and attribute it to the other woman who came up with it. At its core, amplification is women helping other women be recognized. We can all stand on our own two feet and do great work, but sometimes we need other people to help shine a light on that, and I’m extremely passionate about women doing that for other women.”

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This article originally appeared on Cultivating Future Female Leaders: How To Elevate Other Women in the Workplace