I’m fresh out of the UN Women Commission on the Status of Women (CSW67) as a UN Women UK delegate, and when it comes to women supporting women my committment is as solid as ever. However, I want to take you back 8-years – to a day when I’d just started on the speaking circuit. I’d arrived at a London university to speak about women in cybersecurity and why they mattered. Before me was another woman, older than I, and during her talk she uttered the words no woman wants to hear, let alone face up to…
Women don’t help other women.
I had to alter my talk and speak about what she said. Today I find myself having to do the same thing, but it’s different to what I said then.
Women are regularly accused of not supporting each other. It pains me, deeply. Whether you’ve found this to be true for you in your industry, only you will know. One thing is firm: there are many ways women can serve as powerful allies in the workplace to help further women’s success. By supporting one another, women can make a tremendous difference in leveling the playing field and allowing women in any field to reach their collective potential. In this blog I’m sharing a few suggestions for women.
#1. Start with Yourself & Treat Yourself How you’d Like to be Treated
- Before you can help others, you must first focus on your own self-development, growth, and wellbeing. Get clear on what you want, and be open to achieving it. By improving yourself professionally and personally, you’ll always be leading by example and becoming an effective and authentic role model.
- Believe in yourself and your capacity to contribute meaningful work to the world right now. Not tomorrow. Know that you have something valuable to offer, no matter what your level of experience is or how long you’ve served in in the industry.
- Banish your scarcity mindset. Chances are you’ve been conditioned to believe that there are not enough opportunities or resources available for you. This is a lie that’s been propagated by the patriarchy. To counter it, raise your voice, work on your inner strength (resilience) and embrace collaboration especially with other women. There’s more than enough for everyone to share and plenty of ways for you to do your work.
- Don’t’ let comparison drag you down. It’s easy to compare yourself to other women as women have been pitted against one another for centuries. If you feel yourself succumbing to the urge to compare, take a step back and think about your own successes. Celebrate the milestones and accomplishments of other women, without diminishing your own. Remember that everyone has their unique strengths and weaknesses, so don’t forget that how you perceive yourself is what matters most.
- Read INSights. It’s my latest book and it’s super short. I wrote it so you could get the answers and shortcuts you need—fast. It’s a curation of my top insights and golden nuggets of wisdom that I’ve gathered along my way as a mother, female tech entrepreneur, and executive working in a male dominated industry. These are the things I would have loved to have known earlier in my career. Things that would have made my life easier and perhaps my impact greater. Many women have reviewed it and I’ve included a few below.
#2. Be Available to Other Women
Make yourself available to other women and be willing to share your knowledge. Build relationships with people who have different experiences and perspectives from yours, as this can help you approach challenges from multiple angles. An effective way to do this is via mentorship or sponsorship, and it’s especially important for women in cybersecurity.
According to research, men often have a greater tendency to mentor other men due to the similarity in their interests. Furthermore, whilst mentoring helps both men and women, it helps men more.
In cybersecurity, the field I work in, the likelihood for this is even greater due to the gender gap. As a woman in cybersecurity or another, you can help bridge this gap by opening yourself up to mentoring other women and helping them succeed, especially if you’re a female leader. This is what we’re doing at The Source, my career development platform for women.
If you’re not a female leader, reach out to women who inspire you and ask them if they’d be willing to mentor you. Download my scripts for how to ask. Connecting with other women professionally is a great way to make sure that each other’s needs are being met. So, don’t be afraid to make the first move.
#3. Hold Each Other Accountable
Women must feel empowered to hold each other accountable for their actions, and this is especially important when it comes to matters of equality and representation in leadership roles. Have tough conversations about difficult topics such as unequal pay, lack of access to resources or opportunities, biased decision-making, as well as career goals and planning.
#4. Pick Each Other Up when you Fail
Failure is an inevitable part of life. It’s how we all progress, but it can be hard to remember this when you’re feeling discouraged. Offer words of support and encouragement to women in times of difficulty and remind each other that there’s always another chance to get back on track, and an opportunity out of the lesson.
#5. Be Respectful & Grateful of One Another
Pay attention to those who help you, even if they are not in a position of power or authority. Thank them for their advice, support, guidance, and help. Showing appreciation will not only make their day, but it also reinforces that you value the contribution they’ve made to your life or career. It’s the right thing to do and shows you value this, which is good for your personal brand.
#6. Celebrate Each Other’s Success
When another woman achieves something great, take the time to celebrate with her! Recognise all of her accomplishments and ensure she feels appreciated for all that she does. Be a cheerleader, providing words of encouragement, praise for achievements, and moral support. Or, plan a celebration or post something on social media.
#7. Watch out for your Ego
Women are often held to higher standards than men. We do this to ourselves and others do it to us, and when this is coupled with competition sometimes it can lead to feelings of envy and insecurity. Envy can drive us to act in ways that are not beneficial to ourselves or our relationships. So, if you recognise these feelings, take a moment to reflect on the situation as it can help you realise that your ego may be preventing you from seeing things objectively. When you recognise where your envy stems from, you can start to make more positive decisions that help you reach your goals without sacrificing your relationships with others. Practicing gratitude and humility also helps keep envy and your ego in check.
#8. Stop Judging and Being so Critical of Each Another
Too often, women put themselves down or judge each other in order to try and make themselves feel better about their own shortcomings. In cybersecurity, sometimes I’ve seen technical women snub women who work on the human side of security or business. This is a destructive habit that does nothing but cause strife and division amongst women. Instead of judging, accept each other’s differences and empower each another. By supporting each other and celebrating our unique strengths, we can create a culture in which every woman feels safe to express herself and prosper without fear of judgment or criticism.
#9. Banish Corporate Feminism
In recent years, women have been pushed to embrace a “corporate feminism” that does little more than focus on individual success, taking up the labour of underpaid and exploited workers and generating wealth for those in charge. This form of neoliberal feminism strips away much of the progress made in terms of fighting systemic inequality and instead serves to widen and reinforce existing power dynamics. It’s time for us as women to move away from this type of feminism and look towards approaches that are more intersectional, inclusive and effective. Working together across different backgrounds and experiences gives us the strength needed to create the lasting change we need to see.
When in Leadership…
#10. Lead with Compassion
Brilliant leaders lead with compassion and are encouraging of each other’s growth. They create High Challenge and High Support environments, fostering a collaborative environment where everyone feels heard and valued, allowing them to use their capabilities and skills to the fullest potential. By working together towards mutual success, they don’t just further their own ambitions but they also have a greater impact on their organisation.
#11. Lead with Integrity
Hold the same standards that you would hold anyone, no matter their gender. Effort and performance should be applauded across the board and bad behaviour called out as an opportunity for learning and growth.
#12. Create Opportunities for Growth
When you move into leadership, help create opportunities for other women to learn and grow. This could include sponsoring a woman’s attendance to a leadership training program (like the ones I offer at The Source), offering mentorship opportunities, connecting them to someone who could be beneficial, or creating a special project for them to work on.
#13. Foster Inclusivity
Women leaders must address any instances of discrimination or bias including those against other women. They need to be aware of toxic behaviours as they can have a detrimental effect on their careers. Queen Bee Syndrome serves as a good example. It’s a phenomenon that occurs when high-achieving women sabotage other women in the workplace to maintain their position of power. It’s believed to be linked to a lack of female role models, and so in cybersecurity with such a shortage, it’s important for women to ensure that they’re fostering an environment that’s inclusive, supportive, and encouraging of other women.
#14. Tell your Story & Show your Vulnerability
Women are often hesitant to share their personal stories as they may feel judged or self-conscious. But it’s important to remember that your story is unique and can be a source of inspiration for others. Vulnerability helps build stronger relationships, so don’t be afraid to open up about the challenges you have faced and how you overcame them. It can be powerful and inspiring for other women to know they’re not alone in their journey. The more women do this the more opportunity we have to access new female role models, and role model them.
If you’re not sure how to do this, take my IN Demand 10X training where we work on things like confidence, power, telling your story, personal branding, voice amplification and influence. Or if you want personal coaching, book a discovery call.
#15. Stand Up for Other Women when they’re Wronged
We must not turn a blind eye when other woman are wronged. As women, we must take every opportunity to speak up for one another and protect each other from unjust treatment in the workplace. Whether it’s offering words of comfort or drawing attention to an unfair decision, strive to stand up for and defend your women colleagues in any ways you can. By doing this, we can ensure that all women are treated equally and with respect – something that we all deserve!
In conclusion, the role of women in the workplace is shifting and it’s becoming even more important for women to come together and support each other. Through collaboration, mentorship, and recognition, there are many ways that women can encourage one another in achieving their goals and overcome hurdles. Together, we can create a more diverse and inclusive environment in cybersecurity, technology, and other male dominated sectors.