To be clear, this blog post is for everyone. For men, women, misogynists, feminists, Generations X-Z, traditionalists, and millennials. Mothers, fathers, CEOs and interns, dreamers, doers and everyone in between. If you know a woman, if you love a woman, if you spend any waking moment with a woman: read on.
Drop the “For a Girl”
There are few backhanded “compliments” that make me cringe more than this phrase.
“For a woman, she actually controlled that meeting fairly well.”
“She crushed that marathon! She actually finished pretty quickly for a girl.”
“She is a surprisingly strong leader. You know, for a girl.”
What’s being said when you tack on that ending is that it surprised you she was able to do something as well as she did DESPITE her gender. If a woman has done something well, she has simply done it well. She has not done it well solely within the parameters of her sex, and we shouldn’t undermine her accomplishments by implying her gender was ever something that would limit her capabilities.
This Illusion of Perfection Has Got to Go
Guys, if I’m being totally honest with you (and myself), it’s kind of comical how far from “together” I have it some days. My hair is usually on day three of dry shampoo, I rarely have weather-appropriate shoes on, there is all too often a small library of RedBox movies waiting to be returned, and I have ruined more than one comforter with ink stains from falling asleep with a pen in my hand. Sound familiar? In my logical brain, I know this is normal. I know that a lot (if not all) of you replied with a “Yes, that is my life.” But, I can get so disheartened and discouraged when I look online or scroll through social media at this constant portrayal of perfection. Again, I say, sound familiar? As much as I try to fight it, this false portrayal of perfection feeds into this comparison game I try so hard not to give into, and it often breeds insecurities. I can’t help but think women would be better off and feel more supported by relieving this pressure to act like we have it all together. I want to perpetuate endless grace and support for one another in our good days, our mundane days, and the ones that just kick our butts.
Compliment Beyond Her Looks
This one is simple. This one is self-explanatory. This one should be a given. I am constantly surrounded by stunning women, but the most beautiful things about all of them have nothing to do with their image. It’s their intelligence, their confidence, and their quick wit. It’s the way they continue to knock down doors and shatter glass ceilings. It’s the way they love their families and speak with authenticity and kindness. Compliment women beyond their looks - and not because they need your affirmation, but because it’s a beautiful way of saying, “I see you. I see your hard work. I see your effort.” At the end of the day, very few things in life make a woman feel more loved and supported than feeling seen and heard.
Stick Up For Them
Not because they can’t stick up for themselves, but because every voice is needed until we create a culture where women don’t have to defend their actions, their bodies, and their decisions. Every voice matters until we live in a world where women in leadership roles are considered to be just that, leaders, not nagging, bossy women. Until it doesn’t take 150 women to testify against a man who spent years repeatedly assaulting them to receive some kind of justice, though they had spoken up many years before. Until “Me Too” and “Time’s Up” movements are nonexistent and a sick part of our history that women bravely overcame. Stick up for women until the day every one of their voices feel heard.
Collaborate Instead of Compete
As the most instinctively competitive person you will ever meet, this point hits home a little closer than some of the others. This one checks my pride and manhandles my ego. Like many people, I struggle with the mentality that “more for you means less for me.” In reality, more for you should mean more for all of us. Over the past month, I have spent hours in conversation with women who have had great success in my same field- speakers, writers, entrepreneurs, non-profit founders, and I have left each conversation feeling more supported than ever. Why? Because these women, though doing exactly what I am also doing, shared every nugget of wisdom and let me peek into every nook and cranny of their brilliant minds. They didn’t hold their secrets to success close to the chest. Nor did they think to themselves, “I’ll let her figure it out on her own like I had to.” They spent hours pouring into me, warning me of missteps, and finished every conversation with, “You let me know if anything else comes up you want to ask- call me anytime.” We collaborated. We didn’t compete. We weren’t competition, we were teammates. This left me feeling more supported than I could’ve imagined.
Pull Women Into Your Circle
Life can be lonely and isolating, and everyone has gone through seasons of life where they’re trying to find our place in this world. Community is crucial to growth. Community is crucial to your sanity. Community is crucial to feeling supported. Pull women into your circle because she will thrive the very most surrounded by like-minded people. She will grow leaps and bounds within a community that she can bounce ideas off of and brainstorm with. Failure seems so much less scary when you have a safety net of people ready to catch you. Don’t assume she’s got her tribe and always leave a place in yours for another brilliant mind. We should pull women into our circles because they need that kind of support in order to progress, flourish, and succeed.
Raise a Glass and Celebrate Other Women
I sat at The Garden Table on Mass Ave surrounded by a small group of women with their heads down. While we all quietly worked on our respective projects, an audible squeal from one of these strangers broke our focus.
“I’m sorry, I’m sorry. I was just offered a promotion. Gosh, I’ve been wanting this.”
We all offered our genuine congratulations before the waiter asked her if she needed anything other than the check. “Yes,” she replied, “a mimosa. I’m celebrating.”
We all smiled at one another before another woman said, “Make it two. My boss just approved a proposal I’ve been working my ass off on.”
“Make it three.”
“Make it four.”
Mimosas number three and four were women simply celebrating the first two. They hadn’t achieved anything that morning like the first two, but they simply wanted to celebrate with them. We all raised a glass to one another that morning, smiled at the accomplishments of a fellow female, and then put our heads down and got back to work again. Solidarity. Support. This is the kind of girl-on-girl support our world needs more of. Less bashing, gossiping, and behind-the-back whispers. More mimosa toasts with strangers at a breakfast bar.
Set an Example
In my heart of hearts, I truly believe that the practice of each of these points will perpetuate a more supportive culture for the women in your life. But, this is all for not if we aren’t ensuring that the future generations are working towards building the same culture and that they know how to do so. I touched on this point in one of my latest blogs, but setting an example for future generations is crucial to this conversation. I want my future daughter to feel supported, and I also want her to instinctively have the back of others. I want her to know she doesn’t have to pretend like she has it all together and that when she inevitably fails, there will be a community of people there to support her. I want my little girl to know she doesn’t have to compete for her place in this world, and that there is so much value in collaborating instead. I want her to be an upstanding, supportive human being. I want my daughter to put these points into practice every single day.