To celebrate International Women’s Day on 8th March, HuffPost UK is considering the practical habits you can adopt to support women in your everyday life.
Empowered women empower women, so this International Women’s Day, pledge to champion other women in your life – an act that can be as simple as giving a colleague a compliment, or as involved as mentoring a young woman looking for a sense of direction.
You can begin by supporting women with whom you spend time daily and already have a close personal relationship - friends, colleagues, mums, sisters and aunties. Celebrate their successes. “We all need genuine encouragement and you can do so much good by pumping the positive to the women in your life,” says Relate counsellor, Barbara Bloomfield. “Never pass up an opportunity to make an appreciative comment by noticing the many ways in which your friends and relatives enrich and support your life, and the lives of others.”
Professionally, empowering women around you is also important. At HuffPost UK, I’m part of a female-only online group at work built solely for the purpose of sharing and championing each other’s work. It really makes a difference.
Karen Kwong, a business coach and director of consulting business Renoc, encourages women to collaborate with female colleagues, “Use their strengths, and share yours when they need them,” she suggests. “We aren’t and can’t be good at everything, but by sharing skills, we can achieve great things and meet our goals.”
Kwong also argues that managers should challenge women who work for them. “It’s how we are going to get to the top,” she says. “Challenging women allows us to not only find solutions, but to push ourselves and find our strengths and go beyond our limits.”
Beyond working with your peers, consider reaching younger women through mentoring schemes which aim to boost girls’ self-esteem and give them role models to aspire to. “We see shy girls find their voice,” explains Jane Kenyon, founder of Girls Out Loud, a mentoring scheme based in Manchester. “We see newly-confident girls standing up for themselves, moving into new peer groups and excited about their future.”
Girls Out Loud runs a ‘Big Sister Programme’, where they train and support women who want to be involved via a peer mentoring process. “This is a very unique and emotional relationship,” explains Kenyon. “The Big Sister is likely to be the only adult in this young girl’s life without an agenda. Their relationship is rich, multi-faceted and most importantly without judgement. The girls feel validated and that they matter and start to get a sense of their identity and potential. The women go on a similar journey in terms of feeling empowered and fulfilled.”
In London the Girl’s Network, aims to inspire girls aged 14-
If you can’t find a mentoring scheme in your local area, it may be worth approaching schools and youth groups to see if they’d be up for creating a similar-style programme.
And remember, mentoring schemes work both ways. Don’t be afraid to seek out one-on-one support in your career by seeing what your workplace may offer, or heading to career networking events for women - do a quick search on meetup.com for women’s business networking near you.