Women can be a powerful force when they work to strengthen one another.
What does it take for women to support each other to reach their full potential? More to the point—why is it important? Simply put, when women help other women, it benefits all women.
Put aside the idea of competition—that helping someone else whether male or female—somehow diminishes your chances for success. The reality is that one woman’s success is another woman’s success.
There are several ways women can challenge themselves to be better partners with other professional women, rather than compete for opportunities, and open doors for all women to succeed.
Mentor Another Woman
Put the idea of competition aside. One woman’s success is another woman’s success. Offering to mentor is an easy, high-impact way to make a difference. You can lend your ear, offer advice, share the wisdom you’ve gained through your own experiences and offer general support. That’s the easy stuff.
The real challenge is holding each other accountable when you see someone making a bad decision, not thinking clearly or behaving poorly. Those are things that can damage companies and reputations. Everyone has heard the adage “bad behavior is bad for business.”
Be a mentor that speaks honestly. Don’t be concerned about being considered aggressive, unemotional or too competitive. The day has come that those stereotyped leadership traits—traditionally viewed as masculine—are shifting among women entrepreneurs.
Women should be doing everything possible to encourage each other and to help women in general to put their best foot forward. Sometimes it does more harm than good if we choose to keep quiet instead of voicing concerns. This is not the same as thinking that everyone has a right to their own opinion about their business. Nothing is less helpful than receiving advice from someone who suddenly knows everything about everything just by looking at you. What it does mean is that you just must be brave enough to give negative feedback if when it is the right thing to do.
To be a true, supportive mentor of other businesswoman business, you must be honest. It can be uncomfortable to speak up about unethical or bad behavior, but pretending it isn’t happening means you choose to support the wrong thing.
You don’t have to build a campaign around continually finds flaws and faults, but when you choose to remain silent when you know something is wrong, you make yourself part of the problem. That is not support.
When you find yourself face-to-face with more difficult decisions, ask yourself what it really means to support the women in your network.
Speak Out Against Gender Bias
Yes, gender bias exists. Yes, it’s a hot button item. It’s not always because others are malicious, bias is part of human nature. It is also something that can easily be overlooked. You can be watchful and aware – and be brave enough to speak out when you see it happening. Remind yourself to give the other person the benefit of the doubt.
“Believe in the best of the person across the table from you, assume that they are good people, and give them a respectful interpretation,” says Sallie Krawcheck, author of Own It: The Power of Women at Work.
Pull someone aside to discuss what you heard or witnessed in whatever way works best for you. But don’t let it just slip by. Sometimes that means recognizing women biased against other women. When historically chasing the single seat for a woman at the table, it can be hard for some to change perspectives.
Whatever you decide about gender bias in your workplace, don’t do nothing. Speaking out breaks patterns of bias and helps to create healthier and more collaborative environments.
Help Other Women Be Heard
Sit front and center. Women tend to gravitate away from positions that convey status, and they get fewer opportunities to speak in group discussions.
Don’t let a testosterone-filled room drown out a great idea presented by a woman. When you hear a woman colleague state an idea, share a report or have an opinion, help her be heard. When the man next to her makes a poor decision and puts his hand on her arm to silence her, ask her a question about what she said. Have her repeat what she said. Recognize her hard work. Always turn the focus back and allow her to finish her thoughts respectfully.
By now, you have heard the story about President Obama’s female staffer’s strategy to make sure their voices were heard. Much of the president’s senior staff were men who had worked on his campaign and subsequently filled his cabinet. The women had a “tough circle to break into,” according to Anita Dunn, who served as the White House communications director at the time.
They women on staff adopted a meeting strategy they called “amplification.” When a woman made a key point, other women would repeat it, giving credit to its author. It forced the men in the room to recognize the contribution and denied them the chance to claim the idea as their own.
It didn’t go unnoticed by the president. The women started to be called on more often, including the junior aides.
When women stay quiet, status suffers. Women who speak less in group discussions are seen as having less influence.
Necessity Is the Mother of Invention
Today, extraordinary organizations are helping and celebrating women in all industries and walks of life. They cover an embarrassing number of issues women continue to face – from domestic violence, veteran care and human rights to economic independence, entrepreneurship and the wage gap. These organizations are powerful, and they are changing the game for women and for the future of girls.
Several of these organizations were founded to pierce male-dominated fields and provide women more opportunities to break into industries such as finance, tech and politics. Most were born out of the desire to embrace feminism and offer equal opportunities to all women. It’s not a secret that opportunities for women often come from other women, especially in male-dominated fields.
Supporting and encouraging each other isn’t just about creating a better workplace for women, it’s about inspiring leaders that continue to empower others to reach their full potential.
 “Christopher Karpowitz, Tali Mendelberg, and Lee Shaker, “Gender Inequality in Deliberative Participation,” http://journals.cambridge.org/abstract_S0003055412000329; Kieran Snyder, “How to Get Ahead as a Woman in Tech: Interrupt Men,” Slate, July 23, 2014, http://www.slate.com/blogs/lexicon_valley/2014/07/23/study_men_interrupt_women_more_in_tech_workplaces_but_high_ranking_women.html; Joan C. Williams and Rachel Dempsey, What Works for Women at Work: Four Patterns Working Women Need to Know
 Christopher F. Karpowitz, Tali Mendelberg, Lee Shaker, “Gender Inequality in Deliberative Participation,” American Political Science Review 106, no. 3 (2012): 533–47