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See It, Be It: 5 Ways to Lift Up Women Leaders

Gloria Steinem and Dorothy Pitman Hughes, October 1971. (Flickr)

You may have heard Gloria Steinem’s famous phrase, “If we can’t see it, we can’t be it.” In thinking about a potential education or career path, many women need to be able to visualize themselves in a role in order to develop the confidence to take the necessary steps to get there.

AAUW’s 2016 research reports that when women are in top leadership positions, women are more likely to be promoted to leadership. That’s why mentoring and sponsorship programs at companies can be crucial to women’s professional leadership growth. Research has shown, however, that there is often a gender bias involved in mentoring prospects. One study found that science faculty members were less willing to mentor women candidates than male ones — even when the candidates had identical résumés.

Studies indicate that when college women interact frequently with strong women role models, their self-concepts of their leadership abilities and career ambitions improve. The scarcity of top positions for women sometimes makes women believe they need to compete more with each other than with their male colleagues for projects and promotions. But if we’re ever going to achieve parity in the workplace, it’s time to reject structures that encourage women to compete with each other for a few slots and instead take active steps to help more women succeed.

Here are a few things that you can do today to support other women.

  1. Connect a woman you know with a new professional contact or potential mentor. Even a simple email introduction saying, “I think you two have a lot in common and should connect!” can go a long way in helping another peer make a meaningful connection.
  2. Consider sharing your vulnerabilities with other women. I guarantee there are others who face similar obstacles to yours. Discussing leadership strategies is an excellent tool in not only combating imposter syndrome but in supporting good work from women around you. Sharing salary information among friends can help you determine if you are being paid fairly. And sign up for an AAUW Start Smart salary negotiation workshop at your local campus or at the National Conference for College Women Student Leaders (NCCWSL) to ensure you’re best prepared to negotiate your salary when the time comes!
  3. Find opportunities to brag about other women. Having someone boast on your behalf to a professor, during meetings, or at happy hour with the boss is an effective tool in affirming and highlighting women’s contributions.
  4. Help amplify marginalized voices. If you have a platform, use it to uplift and support others. Sometimes this means stepping back and allowing someone else’s voice to be heard other than your own.
  5. Register today for NCCWSL! Hundreds of women attend NCCWSL each year to develop and strengthen their voices, skill sets, and mindset for leadership. Learn how, why, and when to take action to be a change agent and own your identity and role in increasing and supporting diverse voices.

Want more leadership tips? For more than 30 years, NCCWSL has provided a transformative experience for the next generation of leaders. Join us from May 30 through June 2, 2018.

Register Now

This blog was written by NCCWSL steering committee member Melissa Robertson.


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