Today is International Women’s Day (IWD) and the theme is #BeBoldForChange. It pays close attention to the ways we can empower women to achieve success. According to the World Economic Forum predicts the gender gap won’t close entirely until 2186. This year, IWD is encouraging us all to take bold action to shorten that time frame and start making changes right now.
The empowering of women starts with women, so, as Athena Coaching’s Director, Linda Murray says, “Be like Rapunzel and let down your hair.”
You probably know the story of Rapunzel, but just in case, here is a quick summary. Rapunzel was a young girl, imprisoned in a tall tower which had no stairs or ladder. The only way anyone could reach Rapunzel was by way of her very long hair which she would let down through the window. Visitors climbed up her hair to get to her room.
It’s easy to draw parallels between the story of Rapunzel and a woman’s climb up the ladder of success. Sometimes the ladder is there for easy access and sometimes it’s not. This year, why not let IWD motivate you to empower and pull another woman up the ladder with you? Women are natural collaborators so let’s make use of that trait.
These three things will help you to empower other women.
Do you think climbing Rapunzel’s hair was easy? It would have been slippery, hard to get hold of and the height terrifying. Many women experience those feelings as they build their careers, climbing one step at a time. Training other women in the skills and knowledge needed to progress further up the ladder is one of the best things you can do. If, based on your experience, you can see a need for training, speak up. You might present the training or have input into the course design; by sharing your experience, you are empowering women to climb the ladder behind you.
Whether you set up a formal arrangement or you make yourself available informally as needed, mentoring is one of the most powerful ways of helping someone get a good firm grip on the next rung of the ladder. When you can say “I’ve been there, too, and I know what it’s like” you are clearing the rungs on that ladders. There are few things more empowering than open, honest and non-judgemental conversation. Talk about fear, challenges, strength, demands on you…. With mentoring, there is nothing that cannot be discussed between supportive people.
Ask for the ladder to be sent down
We all know about the existence of ladder lifters. These are the women who climb the rungs, and believe they’ve worked hard to get there, so everyone else should too. They lift the ladder up behind them, stopping any other woman from climbing up too. It’s not always a deliberate action; often it’s what they were taught to do. They may not have stopped to consider the implications. We have two options when the ladder has been lifted. We can stand at the bottom and wail, or we can ask for the ladder to be sent back down. In most cases, that ladder will be back down before you know it, so don’t hesitate to ask for what you want. The more women asking for the ladder, the stronger the ladder will be when it’s firmly planted in place.
IWD isn’t the only day women should be empowering women, but it works as an excellent reminder for us all to review our own behaviour. Are we doing everything we can to help the women following behind us? And no matter what your level, you will have followers.
What are you doing to empower women and help them up the ladder behind you? Leave us a comment below and let’s chat about how we can really make a difference.