A few days ago, award-winning journalist Barkha Dutt wrote an open letter to India’s former Human Resources Development Minister Smriti Irani about not being openly supportive of women and only becoming vocal on women’s issues when she felt she was slighted. In contrast, this month in the UK, Angela Leadson had to step down from her Prime Ministerial bid after a damaging interview where she said that Theresa May was not suitably qualified to be the PM as she was not a mother and didn’t have children.
These two incidents serve to highlight that whilst women in public life — and otherwise — are held to a different standard and their actions and words are scrutinised to an extent that their male colleagues are not subjected to, there is still a great need for women to band together and help each other out.
We owe it to ourselves and our kind. As we are painfully aware, we still do not have equal representation of women at the top in any country, be it boardrooms, corporate and political decision bodies and seats of power. This, unfortunately, won’t change on it its own or only with support from men. It definitely requires the support of all women.
I have been fortunate enough to be a mentee in the U.S. Department of State’s Fortune Program where I met several women leaders ranging from businesswomen, entrepreneurs, politicians, bureaucrats and influencers. There was a sense of camaraderie and genuine concern to not only raise the status of women but also to mentor emerging women leaders to achieve their potential.
Here are 10 tips which would help women be a support to each other:
- Find common ground. Look for the similarities rather than the differences. Build on it. Celebrate the best in people.
- Never judge someone permanently for what they have done. Time and circumstances change and there could have been a context in which a particular action, word or deed was done
- Be inclusive and encourage diversity. Surround yourself with people who complement your skills but are not necessarily like you. Try to have a mix of different people on your team from different walks of life, colour, region and gender.
- Women are natural collaborators. Remember to focus on your strength and partner with likeminded people or organisations.
- Give voice and power to empower others. Don’t let one voice be louder than others and make sure that all voices are heard. Use language that is inclusive and does not shut others out.
- Share what you learn. Talk to others. Give people courage to move on with their lives.
- Always play fair; don’t make others look bad
- Have a kind word for women. Give yourself and others a break. Try not to be hard about holding yourself to a gold standard.
- Constantly ask yourself, “The women who worked under my leadership, where are they now?”
- All through your life, look at life as a ladder and reach for the stars. But reach back and help someone else make it to the next rung, especially women.
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