Women experience gender discrimination from the moment they are born. From the way we talk to toddlers to the way we treat women in positions of power, we have the opportunity to take control of the empowerment of women and promote gender equality. Women supporting women is the best way at closing gender gaps in the economic and social sectors.
We get closer to achieving gender equality when we give women equal access to opportunities presented to men. Even if we don’t have the power to change the systemic forms of discrimination on our own, we can control the way we interact with women and girls in our own lives. Empowering women begins when we empower the women around us.
In the Workplace
Depending on your industry, there may be significantly fewer women in your workplace than men. If that’s the case, you both will have to work twice as hard for your voices to be heard. In a now-famous study, Barbara and Gene Eakins recorded multiple university faculty meetings and found that the longest comment by a woman was still shorter than the shortest comment made by a man. Even though popular public perception leads people to believe that women can’t stop talking, in professional spaces, women can’t seem to get a word in edgewise.
When another woman speaks up in a group setting, make sure people hear her. If someone talks over her, stand up for her and say, “I think she was trying to speak. What was that point you were making, Denice?” and recognize when she speaks by commenting on her perspective. If a male makes the same point she made further on in the meeting, say “I think Maggie made that point a few minutes ago.” It’s hard to speak up for yourself without sounding self-centered and defensive, so when you speak up for her, you show that she has the support of other people in the meeting.
The most important part of working with women is recognizing that she is not your competition; she is your ally. There’s this misconception that women in the workplace need to compete with each other to earn a seat at the table. However, if the women in the office work together, they’ll have a much better chance at success.
At Home and With Your Family
If there are young girls in your household or in your family, you have a significant opportunity to help shape their self-perception early on in life.
Young girls frequently get compliments on their looks. While the boys are told they are smart, girls are told they are adorable. This signals to them that in order to continue receiving praise, they need to continue being cute. Make intelligence and kindness their priority by complimenting them on those traits instead. Instead of saying, “you look so cute today in that dress!”, say:
- “I noticed how you shared that toy with your friend. That was very kind of you!”
- “I hear you’re doing really well in school. That’s so awesome! What’s your favorite subject?”
- “Did you make this painting? It’s so creative! You’re going to be quite the artist someday.”
These compliments take a bit more work to construct, as you need to notice things about their personality and individuality. That’s exactly why they’re important; show young girls that you see them as individuals with brains, not adorable dolls to praise.
If young girls live in your home, make sure that they are only as responsible for chores as the young boys in their house. Sometimes when siblings of the opposite sex live together, the female is made to care for the male and the male isn’t held culpable for his actions. For example, if the male makes a mess, don’t make the female help him clean it up. He needs to learn to clean up after himself so he doesn’t assume that all females will continue to do his work for him in the future.
You hear a lot about the power of buying local, but do you know the impact of buying from a woman-owned business?
When you buy from a local, woman-owned business, you’re supporting her passions, her creativity, her intelligence, and her business savvy.
Here are some facts and statistics on the power of supporting women-owned businesses.
- Shopping local creates the most jobs. The majority of jobs in the labor market are created by local businesses. Women-owned businesses are responsible for employing 7.7 million people. That’s 40% more than those employed by the three largest employers – McDonald’s, IMB, and Walmart – combined. If that business is owned by a woman, there’s a better chance that she’ll create more opportunities for local women by hiring them.
- When you shop with someone, you’re supporting the causes they support. With the profits a business makes, their owner will then make choices of their own as to where that money goes next. When you support a small, woman-owned business, that money can stay in the community to support her children’s school if she has kids or to support any other woman-owned business she chooses to shop with.
- Women-owned businesses grow the fastest. Over the past 15 years, revenue increased for women-owned businesses by 58%, which exceeds the combined market cap of GE, Google, Sony, Microsoft, and Apple.
Most importantly, voting with your dollar can overcome gender inequalities present in the current system. Women have to fight harder to get funding from the bank and combat stigmas about women in power. Statistically, women receive 80% less first-year funding than men. They are less likely to have access to generational wealth, and when it’s more difficult to get funding from the bank, it’s harder to get the business off the ground. By supporting a woman-owned business, you’re fighting against the system that bets that women won’t succeed. You’re proving that women can run successful businesses and that equal opportunities should be afforded to them when they’re getting their start.
It’s Our Job to Be Women Supporting Women
As individuals, we can’t change the entire health care system, remove the gender gaps in pay on a universal scale, or make sure girls around the world don’t experience gender-based violence.
What we can do is achieve gender equality in our own small circles. We can support local, women-owned businesses in our community. We can make sure the other women in our places of work are heard and respected.
And we can teach girls at a young age that they are much more than beautiful; they are smart, kind, and capable of greatness.
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