There’s a common stereotype that women don’t support other women, but it’s just not true. In reality, women do help each other, and we go further faster when we do. (But don’t just take my word for it. Read “The Myth of Catty Women” and “Why Women (Sometimes) Don't Help Other Women.”)
Today LeanIn.Org launched “Together Women Can,” a campaign celebrating the power of women supporting each other. So many amazing women have lent their voice to this campaign – including Kerry Washington, Emma Watson, Megyn Kelly, Serena Williams, Lena Dunham, and our own Sheryl Sandberg – because they’ve benefited first-hand from the support of other women and know what a difference it makes.
In reality, women do help each other, and we go further faster when we do.
A huge number of women are already doing this, and all women can and should. Here are four things you can do today – and every day – to support the women you work with (and scroll down to the bottom of this post for all of our tips for supporting women and girls):
(1) Introduce women like it matters – because it does. People tend to overestimate men’s accomplishments and underestimate women’s. As a result, women need to work harder to get noticed and prove we’re capable. One way to combat this is to highlight women’s credentials and accomplishments when you introduce them. Instead of defaulting to “Katie works in marketing,” opt for an intro with gravitas like, “Katie was in charge of our biggest public awareness campaign of the year, and we blew past our goals” (I hope you’re reading this, Katie Miserany.) A good introduction can go a long way toward elevating a woman’s status.
(2) Use your proverbial pom-poms. Sadly, women are more prone to intense self-doubt than men, and it is not because we’re missing some elusive confidence gene.Women face more challenges in the workplace and a steeper path to leadership.Although there’s no quick fix for wavering confidence, your words of encouragement can go a long way. Don’t underestimate the benefits of a telling a female team-member she writes beautifully (Nola Barackman, I’m talking to you) or makes your job easier because she’s so good at hers (Hannah Kay Herdlinger).
Although there’s no quick fix for wavering confidence, your words of encouragement can go a long way.
(3) Don’t let women undermine themselves. It starts when we’re young. Girls often use verbal crutches like beginning a statement with a disclaimer (“I’m not sure this is a good idea but...”) or using upspeak so statements sound like questions. A surprising number of women still fall into these traps, and too often women sit at the edges of the room in meetings, away from high-status seats. Speak confidently, and encourage other women to do the same—it’s not just what we say that matters; it’s how we say it, too. And when you see a woman heading for the edge of the room, offer her the seat next to yours (you, of course, will be sitting front-and-center).
(4) Celebrate women’s accomplishments, and make sure the boss hears. Women tend to get less credit for our achievements and face pushback when we toot our own horns. But we can celebrate each other’s accomplishments loudly and proudly. Even better, we can form a posse at work and look for opportunities to promote each other’s successes. It’s not just a nice thing to do; it’s a smart thing to do. When you speak up for other women, your status often goes up, too. (Note to Sheryl: the Lean In partnerships and web teams are killing it!)
Women can celebrate each other’s accomplishments loudly and proudly.
If you need a little extra inspiration, watch Kerry, Emma, Megyn, Serena, and the other women who’ve teamed up with us thank the women who’ve inspired and helped them. (Hat tip to the incredibly talented ladies at AOL’s MAKERS for exec producing the video).
But I suspect you need to look no further than the amazing women in your own life. I only need to look to Sheryl, Ashley Finch, and the rest of the women on the Lean In team to see what’s possible when women encourage you, lift you up, and push you to be your best self. Women don’t have to support other women, but so many of us choose to because we know we’re better together.
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