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5 ways women can help each other get ahead at work

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Women don’t often lean in on each other but there’s no reason why they shouldn’t. Facebook chief operating officer Sheryl Sandberg has enlisted A-list celebrities to help her put across the message that female co-workers don’t have to become enemies in order to excel in the workplace. The video, which features Serena Williams, Eva Longoria, Selena Gomez, Kerry Washington and Megyn Kelly, urges women to “lean in together”, to become allies, not rivals.

That stands true at most workplaces today where women don’t realize the importance of showing solidarity. By treating a woman colleague as an ally rather than opponent, you can only ensure your own growth and success in the organization.

Here are five suggestions on how women can help other women get ahead and, in the process, pave the way for their own success:

1. Try to mentor, not compete

In organizations where women are a minority, it is likely they will compete with one another. But it’s important to remember that one person’s success does not mean another person’s failure. You need to recognize that your female colleague plays as important a role in your success as your male colleague. So try mentoring. If you’re a team leader, take a junior woman colleague under your wing. If you’re a junior, ask to shadow a senior woman manager. A good mentor can provide counsel in stressful times, share career advice and offer support when required. 

2. Pay attention to women peers

While it may appear easier to be a mentor or mentee for women below or above you, you may find it more challenging to have a relationship with another woman who has the same role. But try and build trust and respect instead of fretting over whether your colleague is doing a better job than you. Have an open and honest conversation regarding the work you have been assigned. You may realize your individual strengths can combine and result in higher and better output.  

3. Stand up for second-generation bias

Second-generation gender bias is making its way into the dictionary of women’s workplace issues as a subtle, and perhaps unintentional, fact that affects her potential. These unseen barriers are often difficult to spot as they are revealed at varied points, from the wording of a job description to rules about maternity leave. It is important for women to educate themselves and spread awareness. You can do so by coming together, talking about experiences in the workplace and speaking up as a group if company policies and practices need to be changed.

4. Sponsor and promote women

While mentorship can be very helpful, the key to helping another woman is by sponsoring her at the workplace. Sponsoring means you suggest a deserving female colleague’s name for a new project or cast your vote for her if a promotion is being considered. A woman in a senior position should keep an eye out for a younger female employee who shows promise and may make a good protégé. Younger employees can network with women in senior positions and ask for career advice. 

5. Respect hard-won battles and have realistic expectations

There is often a generational divide between women who have made it to the top and women who have just started out. This may result in unrealistic expectations. The junior employee may have high expectations from a senior because of their experience and position. The senior may expect a junior to be more energetic and keen to learn, or may expect her to go through the same challenges that they did. It is crucial for women to cut each other some slack to get ahead.

Top tips for women to help other women get ahead

• Senior women can advocate for policies and procedures that benefit women. They can educate men in the organization to help.
• Recommend an official mentoring program for women be instituted in your organization.
• Don’t try to put a woman colleague down in order to pull yourself up.

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