With more businesses having equality objectives in place as part of Diversity & Inclusion initiatives, we are seeing a positive shift towards women’s equality within many industries. Statistically though, there is still a long way to go before true equality is represented, especially at board level.
Having a corporate agenda is a starting point for change to occur, but the true driving force of change in behaviour comes from empowering the underrepresented group from within, with the right tools.
Sheryl Sandberg, COO at Meta states that "Women need to shift from thinking, I'm not ready to do that, to thinking, I want to do that- and I'll learn by doing it. By flipping this thought process, and providing the right training, a new set of opportunities can open up. For example, the promotion you thought of applying for should never be discounted because you don’t have every skill on the job spec, or you shouldn’t hesitate to raise your hand in that board meeting because you’ve never done it before.
Empowering the women in your team can come in many forms, but developing specific training programmes and networks to nurture and provide support for women is a great way to foster success.
To celebrate International Women's Day, we chatted to our team at So-Media about how they help to empower women in their roles:
What business advice would you give to your younger self?
Be brave and have confidence in yourself. I was the queen of self doubt in my younger years, it took me a long time to realise that everyone is winging it at the beginning. Confidence from others starts with confidence in yourself.
Don’t be impressed by the loudest person in the room. I was often in networking situations and was in awe of those who could hold everyone’s attention… until I realised that what they were saying was rubbish!
I would tell my younger self not to be afraid to try new things, take risks and put herself out there for opportunities. If things don't work out, it doesn’t matter, use the lesson to learn from and move forward.
Don’t put so much pressure on yourself to get it right first time. You will go through different roles before you find where you are supposed to be.
How can men be true allies to women in their teams?
Not all, but many women still suffer imposter syndrome in male dominated sectors (I know I do). This will only change when we all bolster confidence in our female colleagues, empower them and give them proper recognition.
For me, it’s about being aware of possible differences in communication styles. Here are five communications tips:
If a woman hasn’t spoken in a meeting, ask her questions… sometimes it’s hard to interrupt.
Make sure she is credited with her ideas.
Build on her ideas, don’t take over.
Don’t assume that quiet women are shy.
Don’t assume that quiet women don’t have a lot to say or lack confidence.
Listening is key. Men who listen to women’s voices in a way which will inspire trust and
respect will strengthen relationships. The only experts on a women’s experience are women, so allow them to express it if they feel the need. When they do, ensure not to be defensive or interrupt, try to practice empathy and value her willingness to share this with you.
Invite women to the table, don’t expect the women in the group to automatically be the note taker or be the one to tidy up the coffee cups after the meeting (yes this still happens!).
Our team have also shared their suggestions below of what you should read and watch this International Women's Day.
A Guide to Transforming Women's Relationships with Money.
Why we have too few women leaders with Sheryl Sandberg