Why & How to Support Women in Business
The Bureau of Labor Statistics monthly jobs report shows the US economy lost 140,000 net jobs in December 2020. While men gained 16,000 jobs, women accounted for all of the 156,000 losses. 44% of the over 22.1 million jobs lost in March and April due to COVID-19 have not returned. The time to support women in business has never been more important to close the workforce gender divide.
A product of a patriarchal society, long ago men were positioned as money-makers and women as caregivers. But times have changed. More women have entered to workforce embodying both rolls. Yet many female leaders and entrepreneurs seem compelled to gather as much knowledge and experience as possible before starting a new venture. In contrast, some men seem to jump in with both feet as their biological imperative. Neither of these extremes are good. Women aren’t empowered to take risk and men, although empowered, are crushed by the expectation to provide or otherwise feel less of a man.
Supporting women in business is supporting everyone and creating balance. While making space for female leaders, space is freed for males to embody the characteristics that are often associated with the feminine: compassion, deference, empathy, gentility, nurturance, sensitivity, and tolerance. It’s a statement that no one has to be either-or. All are free to be anything that they want to be.
Beyond words, here are some ways to support women in the workplace.
Check Your Bias: Men and women, everyone makes judgements and often draws conclusions with limited information. Take a moment to check your assumptions and explore the source of your feelings or beliefs before taking action. Is an assertive woman seen as being pushy? Direct, as being cold or rude?
Watch Your Micro-aggressions: Before making that off-the-cuff comment consider if it’s something you would say to a Jeff Bezos, Elon Musk, or any of the male entrepreneurs we can raddle off while struggling to name females.
Support First, Critique Second: Suggestions are always welcome but, use the T.H.I.N.K. mnemonic. Is it…
(T)rue? can you support the suggestion with data
(H)elpful? or are you trying to demonstrate your own expertise
(I)nspiring? will your delivery encourage change
(N)ecessary? is your opinion welcomed or needed
(K)ind? no one likes mean people
Hire Women, Buy Their Products, Use Their Services: Money speaks louder than words, show your support by making a purchase and telling others to purchase.
Create Flexible Work Environments: Work-life balance is a challenge for everyone. Be understanding and create an environment that supports working mothers… and working fathers AND people without children who still have families.