As a woman, there are many benefits to building a strong network, especially of fellow females. Here are three reasons that I have learnt from my experience.
1. Supporting a Sister Goes a Long Way.
Women face many of the same issues, in and out of the workplace. When I filled a position at a male-dominated office, I took comfort in knowing the few women at the company supported me in my endeavors and would understand any issues I faced with male co-workers. This was especially helpful in times when advice was needed. Sometimes shared or similar experiences led to co-workers knowing how to maneuver through certain situations.
2. There are More Seats at the Table.
There is a phenomenon where senior-level women don’t support female members in their company because they think there is “only room for one woman at the top.” A recent study from The Leadership Quarterly, showed that this phenomenon is not the cause of inequality at the top levels of a company, but instead, is a response. Women feel their positions and performance evaluations will be jeopardized due to championing a junior female employee, so supporting someone they view as a rival isn’t on the top of their to-do list. By building a network and actively aiming to help your fellow female out, you are an active part of dismantling this phenomenon and demonstrating that women can lend a hand rather than fear repercussions of advocating for women.
3. More Support, More Representation.
When women build each other up, there is a positive effect. Especially in politics, women need senior women and men to champion them. Without the mentorship that is offered by senior leaders, lower-down employees are missing out on the skills and tools they can develop to become leaders themselves. This also plays into the Queen Bee phenomenon, but contrary to the fears of those supporting the Queen Bee phenomenon, higher up women supporting women in achieving will actually aid in raise more women to senior-ranking jobs. There can be more than one woman in the boardroom, and women supporting each other can make this happen!
What if I’m not a woman?
If you aren’t a woman, there are reasons to support a female-oriented network as well. Not only are you being a good Samaritan, but there are also many professional benefits. Since the 1990’s the percentage of females in the workforce has been steadily increasing. With more women in the labor force, their challenges are more freely voiced. My advice to an ally of women is to listen, ask questions to understand (we all need to learn from somewhere), and show support! Listening is your greatest asset in being an ally and taking the first step in understanding women’s issues.
Jenna Kachur, YWiB USask President