Women at Work: How to Offer and Receive Support

Running a business is hard. And I would argue that running a business as a woman is even harder.

According to the World Economic Forum’s World Gender Gap Report, women work on average 50 more minutes a day or 39 more days a year than our male counterparts. And women still carry the bulk of unpaid work — including chores and childcare — on top of their day jobs.

How do women find better ways to support each other? How are we able to overcome the guise of competition and instead work to lift each other up? How can men in the workplace become better allies to women in business? How can we as female small business owners find inspiration from the female success is around us? I hope this article offers some answers.

Women are less likely to position themselves as thought leaders

Let’s start by talking a bit about the problem. In order to be promoted within a company or to promote our small businesses, first we must learn to promote ourselves. As a journalist, I find it harder to find women willing to participate in interviews, that will in turn position them as thought leaders and emphasize their brands. I’ve heard this repeatedly echoed by event organizers who are concerned with the diversity of speakers and attendees. And anyone I know who hosts a podcast complains how much harder it is for them to get female guests.

This is often blamed on “imposter syndrome” — feeling fraudulent, never feeling like an expert or thought leader in your field. Now, according to the International Journal of Behavioral Sciences, not only is this imposter phenomenon equally distributed between genders, but it may be a sign of success. A sense of self-doubt might actually be linked to greatness, as you focus more on personal growth and development.

Then why is it more difficult to get female sources? Well, for one, we do work harder and have second (household/parenting) and third shifts (emotional.) As Brigid Schulte first pointed out in this Washington Post piece eight years ago, particularly working mothers are more than overwhelmed. Of course, access to good childcare and parental leave is the strongest way to level that playing field, but even with that, we simply don’t have any time left in the day. (And let’s face it, if we are running our own small business, idle time is usually a worrying sign.)

So, we have some of the reasons, but what can we do to support fellow human beings who identify as female?

How can we help them achieve success in the workplace? To gain the notoriety they have earned?

The Atlantic’s Ed Yong shared with me how he was able to strike balance between male and female sources by tracking it all — as the best way to solve a business problem is often to start by measuring it. He learned that to get one quote for a piece, he has to contact 1.3 men and 1.6 women. This isn’t necessarily fun for him to have more work, but as an ally, he is committed to parity in coverage.

I’m doing something similar, by just taking men out of the equation completely. I’ve begun hosting a webinar series talking to just women of influence in their fields. Called WIT: Women in Touch for the women who have their finger on the pulse of their respective industries, I am hoping to also attract more female-identifying guests and listeners of all kinds by keeping it casual and low pressure, focusing wording on conversations with cuppas, not formal interviews. I will also always have at least a few women on the call at a time because a lot of my accomplished guests are frankly uncomfortable being acknowledged for their said accomplishments.

The first webinar focused on breastfeeding and the working mom — because nursing is the hardest thing I’ve ever done and juggling with it while running my micro-business or (I think even harder) a more traditional job becomes both extremely expensive and nearly impossible. It’s a conversation most of my mommy friends avoid except in commiserating with other mothers. The modern workplace may try to accept women, but they don’t accept mothers — over time these women earn 60 percent of what their childless counterparts do. I chose this as the first topic because it needs to be talked about more and it is everyone’s responsibility. After all, we all work alongside working moms and they are essential to the future of every sector — including humanity!

Other topics include: personal branding, flexible work, mentoring and being mentored, designing a career you love, and an engaging discussion for Black Women’s Equal Pay Day on diversity and overcoming pay gaps. Each topic transcends gender, but purposely highlights women who have a lot to contribute to the space and can get a lot from connecting over conversation with like-minded (female) professionals.

But you don’t have to be a journalist or to develop a podcast in order to participate in the conversation.

I suggest that you start by asking questions of how women feel at work — the #metoo movement highlights a lot of issues, but so much of our struggles go unspoken. Then, seek to elevate more female thought leaders in your area — seek them out because they have a lot of wisdom to share! And join in this conversation. Share your experiences with one or many women — and if your experience is important to womankind, then consider sharing it with the world! Have you lived through an experience that others could learn from? Think about writing a blog, starting a conversation in a Twitter thread, giving a talk at a local Meetup, or putting yourself up as open to mentoring. Not only does this help others, but it’ll build up your own personal brand.

Just don’t be afraid to not only offer help, but to ask for it too!

from – Score.org – by Jennifer Riggins

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