Strategies for Keeping Each Other Sane and Connected
A recent Workplace Study by McKinsey & Company revealed that 25% of women are considering downshifting their careers or leaving the workforce completely because of the pandemic. That’s an alarming number, especially when women are outnumbered by men in many industries. Nothing against the guys here, but women supporting other women at work is one way to protect gender equity and help women deal with growing challenges.
Many female employees are facing financial insecurity, along with trying to care for and educate their children, and in some cases, caring for elderly parents, as well. Without additional support, it’s easy to burn out.
Now, more than ever, it’s important for women to support each other. Below are some strategies that are practical and have a significant impact.
A study by the Harvard Business Review found that both male and female executives were likely to have a diverse network of well connected peers. However, women seeking greater authority and higher pay also needed an inner circle of close female contacts.
Keep these suggestions in mind:
1. Focus on giving. Professional networks and personal friendships depend on helping others. Reach out and share your time and expertise. Performing random acts of kindness goes a long way in building mutual support.
2. Be selective. The quality of your friendships matters more than the quantity. You will find other women who share your values and interests. If someone consistently turns down your invitations to get together or fails to respect your boundaries, move on.
3. Pace yourself. Healthy reciprocal relationships take time to blossom. Be patient and get to know new acquaintances gradually. Remember that some of us are more introverted than others. Reach out but, don’t be pushy.
4. Have fun! Friends see each other outside of the office and talk about things besides spreadsheets and the boss. Find ways to connect outside of work and just hang out.
Encourage Work-Life Balance
Women continue to bear responsibility for the majority of work at home. The American Psychological Association warns that this causes stress and other health issues, as well as making it harder to be productive. If you’ve ever been in this situation, you know exactly what I’m talking about.
Some suggestions to enhance work-life balance:
1. Flexible hours. One upside of the pandemic has been the increase in the of remote work. Your manager may be willing to experiment with alternative schedules as long as you’re doing your work, attending required meetings, and not missing deadlines.
2. Benefits. Most employers offer perks. The questions becomes if they matter to you and the other women in your office. Maybe you’d rather have gym memberships than bean bag chairs and ping pong tables. It never hurts to ask!
3. Review workloads. Are your performance reviews based on realistic expectations? While everybody needs to pull their weight, it’s worth a conversation with your manager if you’re feeling overloaded. In some cases, deadlines are overly aggressive and merit a second look.
4. Take time off. Excessive overtime and unused vacation days actually lower productivity. A recent study showed that the average workday has increased 48 minutes a day. That’s an additional four hours a week, which may not sound like a big deal, but it adds up. Stop working at a reasonable hour and taking advantage of your PTO. Many companies have stopped rolling days over to the next year, and hardly any pay out unused days. You earned it, use it!
It’s Lonely at The Top
Women in top level positions are struggling, too. The same McKinsey report defines the concept of “Onlys”: women who are the only, or one of the only, women at their level in the workplace. They’re more likely to feel pressure to work longer hours and face a variety of microaggressions. (As a reminder, microaggressions are subtle comments and/or actions that reflect an unconscious bias against others in the minority.)
In the case of women in top leadership roles, in many companies, they fall in that group. To be fair, we all have unconscious biases. If you’re interested in discovering yours, Harvard has a free, anonymous assessment that’s quite revealing. You can find it at implicit.harvard.edu.
Supporting women in top roles:
1. Get involved in mentoring. Depending on the stage of your career, you can look for a mentor or become one yourself. You might even do both. These relationships provide guidance, build community, and are immensely gratifying for both parties.
2. Advocate for others. Unfortunately, there’s some truth in The Devil Wears Prada kind of stereotypes. Have the courage and compassion to provide constructive feedback and help other women advance in their careers.
3. Network with women. There are a multitude of excellent professional groups for women and a search on LinkedIn or Facebook will show you plenty of options. Mingle with other women when you attend conferences and follow up with the women you connect with.
4. Connect each other. One of my personal favorites is making introductions and giving referrals. It’s not difficult to do and it gives women you know the opportunity to find new partnerships, clients, and friends.
One woman’s success benefits us all. Creating an environment that maximizes and celebrates each other’s accomplishments goes a long way in keeping each other motivated during tough
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