From Theory to Practice: How to Empower Women in Business
As a female entrepreneur, headhunter, and recruitment startup founder, I empower myself, my team, our clients and our candidates, many of whom are women, to achieve the life and career they envision.
Oftentimes, I meet well-meaning people who are trying to jump on this #trending bandwagon of being a female advocate. While many I’m sure are doing something in their own way to help women achieve success, many are using this term insincerely, ignorantly, arrogantly, self-servingly, or aimlessly, with no real process, outcome, or genuine interest.
Here’s how you can empower women beyond just theory (this applies to both men and women who want to help other women):
#1. Learn about the women’s movement and what everyone’s all up in arms about.
Not sure why the wage gap exists or how it came to be (think it’s fake news)? Similar to how I’m ignorant of certain social and historical issues, I read to learn more about topics I’m not familiar with. That’s the best way to get up to speed on others’ perspectives, without disregarding others’ opinions, ignoring the issue, or acting like you already know what’s happening when you haven’t done the homework before you hit the streets.
Read Lean In by Sheryl Sandberg to learn more about some of the contemporary professional and personal issues facing women today.
You’ll learn about the wage gap, social perspectives, data, and history from personal, professional, and evidence-backed research about a different reality women face. As a women who was relatively ignorant about gender issues, my mind was blown away by the information in Sandberg’s concise rundown of many aspects of life I didn’t even think about due to certain aspects of the privileges I was exposed to in my own blissful ignorance.
#2. Exert self-discipline in your treatment and thoughts regarding women.
Many people who claim to empower women disregard, downplay, and egotistically compete, abuse, and devalue women’s capabilities in the workplace. If you find yourself thinking sexist or mean-spirited thoughts, evaluate where that is coming from. Are you intimidated, jealous, or thinking inappropriate thoughts (sexual or otherwise) that impact your treatment of women subliminally or viscerally?
A simple but not so simple fix: STOP objectifying women for your primary business and personal needs. Women are a lot more than just the physical! It’s astounding how many businesses still choose to operate under the premise of “sex sells” as their primary marketing strategy promoting one-sided work cultures. It’s shallow, subversive, one-dimensional, arguably ineffective, discriminatory, and ultimately, goes against the whole theme of respecting women for their brains, not bodies.
There is a hypocrisy here: you aren’t empowering women when you use their bodies and youth to your commercial gain as your primary business strategy, then dump them when they move into future stages of life. Furthermore, you certainly can’t on the one hand ’empower’ women while abusing them in other ways, whether subversively or overtly.
#3. Identify moments of unconscious bias, micro-aggressions, and attributing a woman’s actions to their gender.
Only when we create self-awareness within ourselves (sometimes something very uncomfortable to acknowledge), we can move forward as improved humans and better-functioning, more positively impactful members of society.
For both men and women, next time you behave in a certain way that results in a negative interaction with a woman/women, take a step back to evaluate how warranted your behavior was towards the individual versus leveraging your ability to exert more force than necessary or required.
Ask yourself “had this person been a 6 foot ivy-league-educated white male, would I have treated them as such?”
If your answer is no, you have to fix your character flaw of abusing conventional race and gender dynamics. While you certainly can get away with it, it’s hardly the right thing to do.
#4. Consistently vocalize your stance during meetings and interactions, both in the open and behind closed doors.
Similar to points 1-3, you can’t really be a strong ally for women when you silently watch while others are victimized in any way*. If you’re uncomfortable with a situation, use your words to highlight the issue. The more power someone has, the more responsibility you naturally have to be a moral vanguard of your success and ability to influence others. Again, if one a sunny day, you’re female-friendly, but whenever the winds shift you change gears, that doesn’t make you a true advocate.
When you fight for a cause, you must live the values, walk the walk, in addition to talking the talk. I.e. You can’t be an animal activist while wearing fur.
*Unfortunately, for many people who are in junior positions witnessing sexual harassment and inappropriate behavior from senior levels, your choices and ability to influence are severely limited. You can risk whistleblowing, reaching out to the media, or lawsuits, which would require you to gather evidence to support your case. Alternatively, you can choose to exit the company and find a less toxic environment.
Everyone has a lot of conditioning we must work on to start dismantling the learned behaviors, habits, and mentalities we have towards ourselves, our role in society, our own relationship with our gender, and our perceived entitlement of certain actions appropriate for people “like us”.
When you allow “people like us” to do “things like this” without any fair reason or moral compass, that’s when everyone gets hurt through the process and social issues fester. If you can change something that isn’t fair or right, why wouldn’t you?
Dandan is always looking to connect top-billers, recruitment leaders, and go-getters who want to work within agency recruitment as a career. Reach firstname.lastname@example.org for more information.