Last week I had the pleasure of attending the Diversity Women’s Business Leadership Conference. The Theme of the event was “No More Glass Ceilings: Dispelling Myths, Removing Organizational Barriers, & Equipping Women with Executive Traits to Ensure Leadership Success.” That is a tall order and while we’ve definitely made headway there is certainly more work to be done. I can think of no group more empowered and capable of getting it done than the women present at this event.
The event featured some very impressive speakers. Incredible women from the likes of the Honorable President Joyce Banda, Tena Clark, Dr. Gloria B. Herndon and Patti Austin shared inspirational messages of empowerment and drive. We had the opportunity to share best practices, develop our skills and chart new courses. Still, most importantly we shared a space, a common vision and a commitment to support one another throughout our journeys. The most important take-away was not the skills and tools but the consistent message that it is not enough for just one of us to succeed. In order to truly remove glass ceilings women have to invest in the development of other women, to advocate, sponsor and promote those beside and behind us.
At the conference we learned that this can be more difficult than it sounds. More often than not women have a very tough rise to the top and therefore often feel protective of their positions. For women the opportunities are fewer, which can breed unnecessary competitiveness. Workplace biases also make it difficult for women to advocate for one another without the fear of negative repercussions. To create a support network similar to that enjoyed by men, women need to make an active decision to be purposeful and courageous and support the success of their women counterparts.
Collaborate and share ideas with other woman so you take them with you on your climb. Take a page from the playbook of the women on Obama’s staff and utilize the amplification strategy – repeat and credit women for ideas shared in meetings forcing men to acknowledge their contributions. Mentor other women, or better yet sponsor. Have courageous conversations and call out non-inclusive behavior when observed. Lead by example and do your very best at all times. And most importantly, leverage our male champions where ever and whenever possible. I left this event with a renewed energy and drive. One thing I know for sure is that when we put our minds to it, women can be an empowering force for change. We can shatter those glass ceilings and can uplift and support each other. And when women lead and succeed, everyone wins!