Is it time to become a pioneer for women?
As a woman in the corporate and business world, you will find yourself facing barriers on a daily basis. These barriers may be there as a result of the boys club, other women or even yourself.
There are endless reasons why women find it harder to succeed. But if we spend all our time focusing on the barriers placed on the road to success, we ourselves may end up just roadkill.
There is also pressure on women to become pioneers for the current -- or even the next -- generation, whether it is standing up for women's rights, starting a petition or simply being vocal about injustice in the workplace.
However, such pioneering moves are often associated with risk. There is a chance of losing business, being fired or (unfortunately) being seen as an irritating sermoniser -- by both men and women -- for speaking up when no-one else would.
Furthermore, not all women have the same personality types or are even in positions of power to take the stand that is needed to help other women. It is definitely not a 'one size fits all' scenario.
So how can women make a difference for other women without putting themselves in a precarious position? Here are some tips on how to pioneer for women regardless of where you are in the business hierarchy.
1. If you don't have something nice to say, don't say anything at all
When it comes to supporting women, whether it is something you know or not, keep your comments positive or keep quiet. You need to be aware that a negative comment on your part can have a ripple affect for other women in your business and networks... in fact, everywhere. If you find yourself in a position, whether it is in business or your career, where you're asked what you think of someone, don't jump on the bitch bandwagon and let it rip. Stay professional and objective.
2. Stop pretending
If you are guilty of pretending life is wonderful and everything is fine, stop. Now. Be real with other women. Share your experiences with them. How hard it has been for you... and how you managed to get through the tough times. These practical, real-life examples are invaluable and are exactly what women need to succeed.
3. Mentor other women
Allocate time in your week, month or year to mentor (for free) women who you believe need it. Go with your gut on this one. Spend an hour on the phone and answer the questions you wish someone answered for you when you were climbing the never-ending ladder to success. Be honest and tell them what they need to hear.
4. Don't hate on men
If women want to break down the barriers caused by men, we need to show other women how to work 'with them' or even how to manage the ones we have in our professional lives rather than dismissing them as the 'problem'. Both men and women have their unique abilities, but when it comes down to the crunch, a man's ego is one of the most delicate of things you will ever encounter. So be strategic and respectful when dealing with men.
If you are being blocked by one, it will either be a case of you are more successful or smarter than them, or they simply hate women. If it is the first one then all you need to do is find out what they want out of the situation and help them reach it (while also getting exactly what you want). If it is the latter, just avoid them.
5. Support free choice
A big issue with women supporting other women is their inability to support a woman's choice whether they agree with it or not. Support shouldn't have conditions attached to it. Accept the very simple concept to 'agree to disagree' rather than bringing another woman to her knees or to tears purely because she doesn't agree with you. Support free choice and you will be encouraging women to be themselves, too.
Supporting other women and pioneering for change doesn't mean you need to dedicate your life to it. It simply means having a different outlook on how you do business while at the same time showing women around you that it is the small things and actions that can have a big impact over time. Especially if we all did it.