How to Support Women at Work


In my last article, I shared some findings from the Women in the Workplace 2018 study, conducted by McKinsey & Company in partnership with The study found that women are still underrepresented in top business leadership and that we need to do more to develop a pipeline of talented women leaders.

Some of that involves companies taking a hard look at their policies and programs. But change will also come from steps that we can all take every day. Here are a few ideas for ways to boost women in 2019.

Take on Interrupters

Did you know that men are more likely to interrupt women than other men? Researchers have found that this is true even among justices on the U.S. Supreme Court! The next time you're in a meeting and you notice that a woman is struggling with being interrupted or trying to join the conversation, help her voice be heard. You don't have to make a big scene. A statement as simple as "I think Jane has been trying to say something" helps a lot.

Divide the Emotional Labor

There's been growing attention recently on how women pick up more than their share of the "emotional labor," both at home and at work. At work, inequity in emotional labor can take a variety of forms. For example, everyone might assume that women will plan the staff celebrations, clean the office fridge or take notes in meetings. Women may also face greater expectations to "cushion their responses, manage the emotions of their peers and make their workplace 'pleasant,'" according to Gemma Hartley, author of "Fed Up: Emotional Labor, Women, and the Way Forward." How does emotional labor get divided at your office? If there are different expectations for women, what can you do to start a cultural shift?

Pay Attention to Language

In some offices, female team members get referred to as "the girls" or "the ladies" — or even refer to themselves this way. (Witness the rise of the term "girlboss.") Even if you're a woman who feels OK with these terms, it's enlightening to check out some analyses on the impact of this kind of language. You might discover some points you hadn't considered.

Give Credit Where It's Due

Studies have found that women get less credit for their ideas, and that men get more credit than women even when they express similar ideas. When you see this happening, speak up. You can do this tactfully but firmly with statements like "That's a great point, and it builds on what Jane said."

Correct Misinformation

Sometimes a woman getting promoted brings out the worst in other people. If you hear someone saying that a female colleague automatically got a plum role or assignment just because she's a woman, be ready to counter them with facts about how the decision was really made. ("Actually, I know that five other people were interviewed were for that job.")

Deliver Better Feedback

Research shows that women that women get less specific feedback than men do, and that this vague feedback hurts their careers. As a leader, you can do something about this. Give all of your team members prompt feedback (whether positive or negative) that helps them see the relationship between their behaviors and business results.

Develop Yourself and Others

If you're a female leader yourself, remember the power of investing in your own potential and encouraging other women to do the same. Newberry Executive Solutions has a variety of options, including corporate programs, executive coaching and publications, that you can explore.

As you look toward 2019, I encourage you to try one or more of these ways to support women in your workplace. You never know what ripple effect the small steps you take now might have!