In a study by the University of Notre Dame & Northwestern University, female executives increase their likelihood of professional success if their closest network layer is female-dominant. The researchers found that three-quarters of high ranking executive women have an inner circle of other high achieving women with whom they actively interact. In contrast, women whose networks were mixed gender or mostly male were more likely to be lower on the career ladder. The research further suggests that women who support other women are more successful and upwardly mobile. If there’s ever been an inspiration for female executives to work on building one’s network and lift up other women, it’s this. Here are some ways to connect, reach out a hand, and lend an ear:
Be the woman you needed or need:
Start by supporting women near you now in the workplace. Lead by behavioral example: be available, hold space, don’t gossip, talk up accomplishments, give credit and shout outs. Be the change in your organization that you want to see among the women who work there. Seek out opportunities to mentor a young woman coming up behind you. Women need to see other women in the roles to which they aspire.
Join and actively support women’s professional organizations:
Support women outside of your organization by joining female-friendly networking and non-profit groups. Not only will membership expand your network, but the events sponsored by these groups are also great forums for sharing your experience with others. Whether it’s detailing how to navigate discriminatory situations or exchanging insider information about job cultures at particular employers, gender-relevant knowledge empowers.
Volunteer at a local university or college career center:
Reach just-launching female professionals and prepare them for the workplace with your experience and knowledge, by volunteering at a local university or your alumni chapter.
Seek out opportunities to showcase your experiences and guidance:
As you climb higher up the career ladder, you inevitably have collected a mother lode of information that will help those around and below you navigate their own journey. Look to platforms like LinkedIn or Medium to post on career topics. Attend conferences for women where you might participate on a career-focused panel to impart gender-specific advice. Don’t keep your light under a bushel; shine it on the path for other women to see. There’s strength in numbers, and women need to stick together to gain critical mass. When there are just a few rising women bumping up against the glass ceiling, it’s going to take longer to bust through it. But with a massive network of ascending women pushing on it, there’s only one inevitable outcome.
Check out our Leading Ladies resource here.