Women have historically been a group not always welcomed in the workplace. However, these days they make up a significant portion of the workforce, but there are residual challenges left from being underrepresented in this space. While there have been major changes and improvements to the landscape that have helped empower women, there is still a great deal that needs to be done in this space. It is important to consider how we as employees can make space for female employees and empower them within the workplace.

Making Space

Conversations are places where female voices can be drowned out by their male counterparts. Whether due to social or workplace norms, these influences can be extremely harmful as women try to advance their careers and move forward in the business world. Meetings often can serve as a place where women’s voices can be shouted down, so regardless of your gender, use meetings as a chance to show support for women’s ideas and perspectives. By ensuring that female voices are acknowledged and not talked over or passed, you create space for women to voice their opinions, share their perspective and offer them the chance to empower themselves.

Noticing Opportunities Or A Lack Thereof

A major influence in a woman’s ability to grow is the opportunities that are presented at work. However, it has been suggested that women, particularly those who have children are often not provided the same opportunities as their male counterparts. By robbing female employees of the opportunities to take on new projects, grow their skills and expand their professional portfolio, we rob them of the opportunity to progress as a professional. This can leave women feeling stagnated and discontent at work. Consider who you offer opportunities to at the workplace and who you first consider as a candidate. Everyone holds biases, so being conscious of them is the first step in addressing them to improve workplace cultures.

Providing Professional Development

Professional development can be a great step in developing as a professional. It can lead to increased chances for growth and movement, however, without the opportunity to embrace these programs, growth can be stagnated. For women who feel they could use support in navigating the workplace, negotiations training can be a great portfolio builder and provide an opportunity to empower women to address workplace conversations and dynamics.

Addressing Culture Issues

One way in which women often have power ripped away from them is when the environment is one where women are unwelcome. This can be instigated by and perpetuated with negative workplace cultures. It is critical to swiftly and appropriately address microaggressions, concerning comments or jokes and any concerns related to one’s identity. By allowing these to continue, it perpetuates a culture that excludes populations which tears the power away from the employees affected. While it is often a legal necessity, it is often for the common good of the whole organization to not tolerate these negative behaviors.

Mentorship, Sponsorship and Coaching

One way to empower women is through networks of mentors, sponsors and coaches that are appropriately balanced throughout a career. While it seems like there is often no short of mentors, women also need sponsors and coaches in their professional careers. By finding distinct and different people to fill these roles in professional life, there is a wealth of experience and support. Finding a balance of advice, mentorship, accountability and sponsorship in one’s career can be a necessary component of success. When navigating the workplace, it is also important to find folks who will champion wins in the workplace to ensure that the positive progress of women can be recognized and highlighted. It is a major issue when women have their voices drowned out or have their successes pushed to the side, so having someone to highlight the wins can prove to be beneficial.

At the end of the day, it is important to raise women’s voices, notice negative trends and address them and sometimes just get out of their way. Women often present a unique and useful perspective in the workplace, but workplace norms that can stifle their growth and development can still exist. 

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