There is still a commonly held assumption that “if women want the opportunities, they will apply,” without considering the barriers to entry that they face across industries, writes Rania H. Anderson in her book WE: Men, Women, and the Decisive Formula for Winning at Work. The executive business coach and international keynote speaker suggests ways in WE in which both women and men already in positions of power can create an environment that will “support, advise, and encourage” women to pursue opportunities in the workplace. Here are a few:
Proactively mentor women. In a short survey Anderson conducted involving 35 women from 12 countries, mentoring was the most common response to a question about what they appreciated most about their male colleagues who positively impacted their careers. Other similar answers included, “He believed in me,” and “He gave me feedback and told me the truth.”
Ensure that women and their contributions are heard and acknowledged. “One of the most frequent universal complaints and frustrations of women around the world is how they are regularly interrupted in meetings,” Anderson writes. “They also tell me how many times what they say in a meeting is not acknowledged, and yet will be repeated a few minutes later by a man.” The solution, Anderson said, is to amplify women’s contributions in meetings in a few different ways:
- The meeting leader can verbally acknowledge what someone said by saying something like, “[Blank] just made an important point,” or “That was really helpful — did everyone key in on what [Blank] just said?”
- If a woman is interrupted, the meeting leader can either stop the interrupter or circle back once the interruption is over.
- If a man makes a point that a woman has already made, the meeting leader can say something like, “Thank you for bringing [Blank’s] good idea back up,” Anderson writes.
- If anyone in the meeting isn’t speaking up, it is important for the meeting leader to ask them if they have anything to add.
Make women and their insights, achievements, and aspirations more visible. In addition to regularly communicating the achievements of female colleagues’ contributions, leadership, and results to senior leaders, Anderson also suggests making high-performing women more visible inside the organization and externally by having them lead an important initiative when appropriate. “Seeing female role models is encouraging and motivating to other women, especially young women,” Anderson said, “and a factor they consider when deciding where to work.”