I’m not big on New Year’s resolutions and this is why, but I have vowed to make 2017 a year of positive change. As a twenty-something-year-old woman trying to forge a successful career I’ve already experienced some of the inequalities that still exist in our modern world. From having to tolerate sexist ‘banter’ to earning less money than my male peers I‘ve experienced first-hand the impact of working in a male-dominated environment.
While it’s inspiring to see more and more women take up high-profile executive positions recent research suggests that we still have a long way to go. According to a study conducted by European Women on Boards (EWoB), female representation on the boards of Europe’s largest companies shows that the UK has fallen from sixth to eighth place among 12 leading economies since 2011.
And the problem isn’t just prevalent at Board level. Britain has one of the worst records on gender equality at work in general according to a 2016 report that highlighted the high pay gap for working mothers.
A study conducted by Glassdoor Economic Research ranked Britain 11th out of 18 countries – behind the US, France, Spain and Sweden – in a league table that took into account pay, board level representation and the gap between male and female employment, among other factors.
So what can we do as women, to help other women succeed? In order to truly balance the scales both personally and professionally we all need to put our best foot forward and be the change we want to see in the world.
Donate your time
Whether it’s helping someone write a CV, providing career advice over a coffee, or allocating an hour a week to helping someone with their business (filling out a survey, providing critical feedback etc.) your time is valuable and could help give another woman the confidence they need to progress. Be open to the needs of others and, when you can, offer to help them by donating skills, experience and advice.
Promote other women
We’re not all in a position to influence career promotion and salary increases; however we can all highlight the good work done by our female peers. If a colleague has helped with a presentation make sure she gets credit for her portion of the work, put your female peers forward for job opportunities, or write a recommendation on LinkedIn. There are lots of ways in which we can help promote the brilliant work of other women.
Be kind to one another
This really should go without saying, but I frequently witness women criticising one another. From the career decisions they are making to the way they raise their children; from what they’re wearing to the state of their mental health. A little empathy can go a long way to encouraging women to be the best they can be.
If we want to address the reality that young women are now the highest risk group in England for mental health problems, we need to a) dramatically improve the mental health services they use, and b) be more aware personally of the battles others may be facing. Listen to your female peers and provide support and encouragement where you can. If the problem is greater than you can manage alone, seek professional help. Lending an ear could help someone work through an issue that’s been causing her distress for some time; you could make a difference greater than you know.
Provide positive encouragement
Positivity is contagious. From providing feedback on a new business venture, to encouraging a friend to apply for her dream job, we should all cheer each other on. Sometimes a nod of approval can be the confidence boost we need to take the next step.
Share contacts and resources
Often the hardest thing about starting out, be it as a school leaver, as a young mother, or as a businesswomen looking for the next step in her career is getting in front of the right people, or gaining access to the necessary resources. From donating an exhibition pass you no longer require, to introducing a colleague to senior director at the company, by sharing contacts and resources you could provide female peers with the leg up they so desperately require.
Confront gender inequality
Finally, stand up for women and fight against gender inequality. Don’t ignore sexist jibes in the workplace, fight for the pay you believe you deserve and encourage others (both males and female) to do the same. Change is happening, albeit slowly, and we can influence it for the better.