Women must take a special interest in supporting other women in order to help make gender equality in business a reality. Here are a few easy things to try in 2014 to not only support other women, but to support and better yourself as well. What would you add?
- Invest. Ideally, invest in a female-led startup. Even if you start out with just $1,000.00, begin exploring how you can really support and get involved with ensuring that women are more successful as business leaders and entrepreneurs in 2014. Dave McClure of 500 startups wrote a great piece on this a few years ago, and I’ve never forgotten it. He was the spark for me to begin angel investing myself.
- Mentor. Remember what it was like to be 22, fresh out of college, and perhaps in a little bit of shock about what it was like at the bottom rung of your career ladder? For me, it was intimidating, sometimes confusing and definitely frustrating. I found it hard to see how I was going to climb that ladder. Strong, supportive and sincere female mentors helped me to see the path, follow it and learn from their experiences. Mentors are important – and strong, female mentors who give of their time and resources are crucial.
- Share. Social media has made it easier than ever to share what you know. Being a resource to others is easy – share a great article you read with your take on it; write about a challenging experience you’ve had in business and how you overcame it; or simply share some words of wisdom every now and then.
- Learn. There’s nothing that quite chaps me like someone who acts like they know it all. Superiority is not an attractive quality. Being smart enough to know that learning is a neverending process is, quite simply, brilliant. Recognize that you, like everyone, will always have a lot to learn. If you’re a manager, open your ears to that junior executive who you’ve been ignoring. Encourage everyone to bring a new idea to one meeting a month. Listen before judging. Open your mind to new experiences and new people. There are always unchartered lessons out there.
- Jump. This year, try to push your own boundaries. If you’re not a phone person, try making more calls than emails. If you struggle with writing, commit to doing it more. Try something new. Go somewhere you’ve never gone. The only way you can get better at something is to do it. So make the leap – try something new. And then do #3 to tell us about how this experience helped you accomplish #4. Seriously though, staying in your comfort zone makes you stagnant. Life is too short for complacency. New adventures keep us living and growing, not just alive.
- Ask. I have taken this tip to task in the last year. I have pushed myself to ask people for things when I was sure they’d say “no.” 99% of the time, they have said yes. Ask for what you want. Communicate clearly. Believe in what you deserve.
- Give. I should state that #6 is much easier if you are already a giving person who has supported others when you didn’t need something. Remember to give of yourself, your time, your advice and your support to those who ask you – or, even those who don’t ask, but who you know could use it. This could be as simple as “liking” the new profile photo of a friend you know is going through a rough divorce, sharing the URL and giving a shout out for a new female entrepreneur’s venture, or organizing a simple Meet Up to raise money for a friend in need.
- Donate. It could be your time, canned goods, old clothes. Or, volunteer. It’s easy to do and if, like me, you believe in karma, then you understand that giving is receiving. My goal this year is to find something charitable to do – donating my time or money or other resources – with my family once per quarter. Maybe we’ll run a race that raises money and awareness for a cause. Maybe we’ll volunteer at a shelter. Maybe we’ll just take a day to clean out closets and our unused toys, coats, etc., to Rosie’s Place. Whatever it is, it is the least we can do to help others.
- Join. Find local entities that support women in business and tech specifically, and join them. Women need to support each other and give of their time and experiences. As Sheryl Sandberg so eloquently outlined in her book Lean In, our challenges and opportunities continue to be unique to our gender, and although any organization can be great for you, a female-specific one can give you the opportunity to really learn and better navigate your way as a woman in business – hopefully to better days when it won’t matter what our gender is (i.e., equal pay would be a good start).
- Compliment. It sounds simple, doesn’t it? But women need to do this – especially to each other – more. It’s amazing the reaction I get on the street or in a shop when I compliment a stranger on something they’re wearing, or share a tip on a great book to read. Don’t give faux compliments, but try to train your brain to think of something positive to say when you meet someone new, train a new employee or even connect on a social network. Take the two seconds to tell someone why you are interested in them – it can make a world of difference and help you to stand out as well.
- Read. Turn off BravoTV and the “Real Housewives of Wherever” once in a while and pick up a great book (or download one), grab Harvard Business Review or a Sunday paper. Don’t just scan an article – really read them. We’re such a go-go-go society that I swear sometimes nobody actually reads from top to bottom anymore (and bad reality TV is breeding laziness and stupidity, but that’s another topic). Reading can inspire you, get your brain working and excite you to accomplish your own good deeds or career milestones. Someone just shared this great list with me and I’ve already downloaded the ones I hadn’t read yet. Maybe you’ll find them interesting as well.
- Believe. Start with yourself. Believe in your capabilities and worth. We like to think this isn’t still an issue for women but often the reason female colleagues are so nasty to each other is because deep inside, they’re totally insecure and intimidated. I think again, Sheryl Sandberg shocked some people in her book when she talked about how women just assume they can’t get something (without asking), or won’t be able to be Mothers and successful career women. Believe, dream and write down your goals. If Malala Yousafzai can face down the Taliban by believing in – and standing up for – what she knew was her given right, you can certainly do so. And believe in other women, too – show them this through kindness, support and camaraderie.
- Say “Thank You.” Sometimes I think it’s a lost art form to simply say “Thanks.” Thank you for reading this far, and for keeping up with me here and on my social networks. I’m grateful for your time, camaraderie and support.
“Don’t you ever get the feeling that all your life is going by and you’re not taking advantage of it? Do you realize you’ve lived nearly half the time you have to live already?”
― Ernest Hemingway, The Sun Also Rises
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