"Empowered women empower women."
This is a quote I found, and pinned to the top of my Twitter account over a year ago. I'll keep it there too as my life motto, until Twitter either becomes the new obsolete social media channel (R.I.P. MySpace, Vine, FourSquare, etc.) or they do away with the 'pinned tweet' feature (R.I.P. 'Favorites'), but you get the idea--I really love the quote.
I think it captures the very essence of what I've learned about championing and encouraging other women. It also represents a certain amount of maturity and grace that I admire and strive for. The point is this: If you are comfortable and confident with who you are as a woman, you'll feel driven to help other women feel more comfortable and confident as well. You'll want them to reach their full potential. Your actions and words will exhibit support, empathy, guidance and comradery.
Furthermore, you'll fight the urge to fall victim to the societal pressure to envy, condemn and berate other women with criticism and judgement.
This tendency, in my opinion, seems to exhibit itself more prominently among females than it does males, largely from centuries of patriarchy-instilled and internalized misogyny.
In other words: The world has historically and fundamentally made women feel like sh*t, so we're more inclined to view ourselves and other women like sh*t. We then compare ourselves, find some source of jealously/superiority, put other women down and make them (and ourselves) again, feel like sh*t. Sound familiar?--Painfully familiar, I'm sure.
It doesn't have to be that way. Maybe it did in high school, but now we have the opportunity to become more than that. We can make a real difference.
Below are several ways we can all actively support our fellow women personally and professionally. Many of these items can apply to how we should all strive to treat others, regardless of gender. However, for the purposes of this audience, consisting mostly of young women, it applies directly to the pressures we all feel to tear each other down, instead of bring each other up. It's an effort to lift up women of all ages, backgrounds and lifestyles to not only make the individual lives we touch better, but life better for all women in the future.
1. Shut down unnecessary negativity and gossip from the start.
Change the subject when major girl-bashing starts taking place around you. First of all, you'll probably end up having better conversion. Second of all, you'll feel better afterwards, and be less likely to ever run the risk of association with hurtful comments that you've at some point in your life been the victim of too. Be the bigger person, and the entire mood of the room will start to shift along with you.
2. Go out of your way to help other women when they're encountering a personal or professional hardship.
Be proactive and reach out to other women that are struggling with life's many challenges. Between an entire social media following and an extended circle of friends, there has to be another woman that has been through a similar difficulty. Heartbreak, disappointment, a new city, a massive career change, professional setbacks, family trouble, financial struggles and more smack us all down at some point in life. It makes all the difference just to try to help out with anything from a career introduction to a listening ear.
3. Share your stories. Be candid about your life, and let other women find solace in your honesty.
We feel isolated and imperfect when comparing ourselves to other women because of the facades we all are guilty of putting up. We can demonstrate unrealistic presentations of ourselves, our lives, our careers, our families and anything that we may be fearful or unwilling to show vulnerability about. We don't ever want to find ourselves at the other end of that nasty girl-gossip I mentioned earlier.
The truth is, we're all tremendously imperfect, and in a way that's the perfect remedy to all of the complexities of human life. We aren't alone. Sharing your stories for other women to cry with you, rejoice with you and feel comfort in their own struggles and short-comings is a surprisingly simple way to make a real impact. You can do this for a mass audience, like writing for Her Track or other blogs, or just in your daily life. Be who you are, and by doing so you'll make other women feel like they can be who they are too.
4. Fight for the women you work with, not against them.
This one is really important in terms of female professional empowerment. The workforce is competitive for everyone, but women specifically still fight against the gender wage gap and encounter more difficulty advancing into management positions than men. Women can also have more trouble gaining traction in male-dominated fields like STEM careers.
For this reason, it's more important than ever to fight for each other. Advocate for your female colleagues. If you're a manager, you set the stage for all future managers and an entire team of growing professionals. Encourage them to aid in the success of other women.
You can make an impact though at any level for your female colleagues. Help them find their strengths and passions. Push them towards promotion. Let them know it's OK to ask for the compensation, benefits and recognition they deserve. Give them constructive feedback. Resist the urge to personally criticize other women or put them down for the sake of your own professional gain. Don't let the challenges of the above societal disadvantages make you brutally competitive, selfish and vindictive to female co-workers. Stand up for yourself, but be helpful and collaborative. The rewarding feeling of being a mentor and a friend far out-matches any advantages of stepping on other women to get to the top.
5. Encourage other women to make difficult decisions, present new ideas and step outside their comfort zones.
Push your female friends, colleagues, family and peers to achieve their very best. Listen to their new ideas. Give them strength. Tell them it's OK to walk away from negative situations, even if it's scary or painful. Encourage them to take a leap of faith for what they want in life. Help them through the intimidating next steps, and let them know they deserve what's on the other side. Sometimes you have to hold a fellow lady when she's down, and other times you need her to give you a shove in the right direction when the rest of the world tries to hold her back.
6. Lead by example.
One of the best ways to empower other women is to empower yourself. Lead by example. Be everything that you would want your little sisters and cousins to be. Show them it's fun, beautiful and exciting to be genuinely yourself. Don't accept less than you deserve from anyone at work or at home. Be tough. Be independent. Be honest. Be understanding. Be mature. Be authentic. Be kind. Show others that you are what you preach, and each day is one more step towards a better world for all women.