The world of work has changed significantly. I remember a time in my professional sports broadcasting career when, in order to fit in, I had to be “one of the guys.” I also remember the women I worked with not helping each other but being highly competitive for the coveted “woman spot”—that place within the male ranks that we all desired but rarely got. At the time, I didn’t realize how toxic that environment really was. In hindsight, I see there was a lot of misogyny.
As I got older, I found my voice and realized that women could be the best support systems out there to help each other thrive at work. Many women know what it’s like to balance family, financial inequality and a demanding career, as well as navigate missing rungs in the corporate ladder. Imagine what would happen if more women supported one another in their roles and stepped into their voices. We would be a force to reckon with.
Why is it important to have women in the room?
First, let’s discuss why hiring women is important in the first place. According to the ”Women in the Workplace 2022” report published by McKinsey & Company and LeanIn.org, very few women are in corporate leadership positions: Less than 30% of white women and less than 15% of women of color hold managerial (27% and 14%), senior managerial (26% and 10%), vice presidential (24% and 8%), senior vice presidential (23% and 6%) or C-suite (21% and 5%) roles. And the broken rung? Well, that lies right between the entry-level and managerial positions where men significantly outnumber women.
Gender diversity offers many business benefits. In every industry, women bring a unique point of view from their life experiences. They tell different stories and have different lived experiences to draw from. However, many women experience the world of work through the lens of being left out. So what can these women do not only to protect themselves and their jobs, but to be a voice in their industries?
How women can thrive at work
Here are some valuable steps you can take to thrive in your career if you find yourself struggling as the only woman in the room.
1. Find a mentor and a mentee.
After you read this, you need to find a woman you can lift up. Don’t compete. Rather, challenge yourself to help a woman-owned startup, a co-worker or someone in business that could use your advice and mentorship. According to McKinsey & Company and LeanIn.org’s “Women in the Workplace” study, “only 40% of women say their manager helps them manage their workload, and only 44% say their manager regularly shows interest in their career.”
Find someone in your company to support. Be proud of them when they succeed, and help them celebrate even the littlest milestones. Be the change in their life by noticing them and helping them grow.
Just as it is beneficial to help other women grow and thrive at work, find someone in your industry to help you grow. Look to co-workers who are a little ahead of you in their careers or women you know who have paved paths for others in their industries. Ask them for coffee, and see if they would be willing to talk with you regularly about their experiences and help guide you through your own.
2. Create your own opportunities.
I decided long ago that I wanted to be a director. No, Hollywood does not just say, “Welcome, fine lady. Here’s Star Wars!” (I know, shocking.) But I will say that this industry does allow you to carve your own path if you are willing to put in the effort.
I decided to start my own company, find my own path and create the company culture that I wanted. It was filled with huge ups and downs, but it all came to life when I realized that I could make things happen. You can, too!
3. Take the initiative to get to know ALL your colleagues.
While women in male-dominated industries may brush off small microaggressions, like not being invited somewhere with the men, as “guy time,” it all adds up. Instead, make the party! Invite your co-workers to a meeting to learn more about them. Take time to get to know all of your colleagues, and allow them to get to know you. Proactively reach out to your co-workers to begin building a sense of community.
Things have changed for women in the workplace, and those women want more from their employers. But while there is a plethora of information and education available regarding topics like sexual harassment and discrimination, as well as policies in place to protect women, we need to continue to break ground in establishing voices for all women. Until we have more gender representation in all industries, we will always be missing valuable insight and a deeper connection to others. Step into your voice and thrive at work with the support of other women who have gone before you. You got this!
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