Last March, in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic, many Women’s History Month events were cancelled. In response, the National Women’s History Alliance extended the women’s suffrage centennial celebrations through 2021 so we can shine a light on this monumental milestone. It comes as no surprise that the theme for this Women’s History Month is “Valiant Women of the Vote: Refusing to be Silenced.”
There are many ways we can use our voice. We vote. We protest. We create art. We march. We sing. And we empower others to do the same.
If you’re looking for a way to use your voice to help others, consider these 10 ways to empower women of all ages. Following these small suggestions can lead to bigger steps forward toward equality for all.
Jump to the following activities:
- Leadership activity
- How to compliment
- Social media authenticity check
- How to respectfully disagree
- How to actively listen
1. Encourage Leadership Qualities
As of January 2020, women held only 29 (5.8%) of the CEO positions at S&P 500 companies. Many conferences in the fields of science and business are dominated by male speakers and often include all-male panels (aka “manels”). If women aren’t in places of leadership, their voices can’t be heard.
Leadership skills can be encouraged from a young age. Try enrolling kids in extracurricular activities such as sports or community service. In these environments, they will need to learn to collaborate with a team to achieve a common goal. They will also be given the opportunity to take charge and lead.
Leadership skills can also be encouraged in the workplace. Inspire coworkers to speak up and showcase the following leadership skills:
- Communication (spoken and written)
- Active listening
- Ability to inspire others
- Time management
- Strategic thinking
- Project management
- A strong vision
- Ability to assess other people’s strengths and weaknesses
- Leading by example
Help kids and adults identify these qualities in the people around them. First, read through this list of questions. If you’re in a group or a team, write down the members who fit each role. If you’re doing this as a family, write down the names of people in your life who fit each role. Then discuss who you wrote down for each leadership strength and why.
2. Learn How to Compliment
Another way to empower the women in your life is by complimenting them. You may think you know how to compliment, but it’s important to give positive reinforcement that will lift others up for the qualities that matter. To do this, focus on their character and accomplishments rather than their appearance.
3. Discourage Negativity
From unrealistic beauty ideals to the pressure to settle down and have kids, women that veer from the “traditional” path may experience negative self-talk and feel like they don’t measure up.
If you hear others talking down to themselves or personally struggle with negativity, try using positive affirmations to promote authenticity and body positivity. Consider sharing your most authentic self on social media to show others they’re not alone. Place empowering stickers on your mirror or fridge as a reminder to anyone who passes of how strong and capable they are.
Social Media Authenticity Check
- When was the last time you shared an unedited photo?
- When was the last time you shared a personal story?
- Do you only share good moments? Is there a chance others are doing this as well?
- Does what you share align with your morals?
- Are there any accounts that you follow that lead to negative thoughts about yourself or your life? Can you mute or unfollow them?
- Do you support other women by liking and leaving positive comments on their posts?
- Do you feel more positive after spending time on social media?
4. Advocate for Other Women
Another way to empower women is to advocate for them when they aren’t in the room. Give them credit where they deserve it. Remember that acknowledging other people’s achievements won’t diminish your own. Suggest women you know who would fit a role that needs to be filled. Speak highly of others in an authentic way. Be an ally for other women and help lift them up.
5. Learn to Respectfully Disagree
As humans, we don’t always see eye to eye. There will be women that we disagree with. However, it’s important to use language that doesn’t belittle the other person. Your word choices can help you have a productive conversation rather than one that leaves you feeling emotionally drained or hurt.
6. Join a Mentorship Program
If you feel confident in your place in life, you could be a good candidate to be a mentor. Mentors can help other women build their leadership skills and clarify their goals. They can provide a new outlook on obstacles mentees may be facing.
On the other hand, if you are looking for this type of guidance, a mentorship program could be beneficial. You may already have a mentor in mind. If this is the case, reach out to them and set up consistent meetings. Try to bring specific questions to each meeting so you can make the most of your time together.
If you’re on the search for a mentor, one of these programs might connect you:
- Mentoring Her – a platform for women to create meaningful relationships through mentorship.
- Association of Women’s Business Centers – a network to help women succeed in business and entrepreneurship.
- SCORE – a network of volunteer, expert business mentors that help small businesses.
- Revolution Her – a community of women from all walks of life.
- Astia – a mentorship program designed to identify and promote female entrepreneurs.
- Women Who Startup – a global professional network of entrepreneurs and innovators.
- Global Association of Women in Payments – a global mentorship council that creates mentorship pairings with industry leaders.
- Million Women Mentors – a network dedicated to encouraging girls and women around the world to succeed in STEM careers.
- Unlock Her Potential – a mentorship program designed to equip women of color with the wisdom, insight, guidance and constructive criticism needed to advance professionally.
7. Support Women at all Stages of Their Lives
While we often make an effort to support and empower young girls, sometimes we neglect to empower women later in life. When we see a mother with a screaming child in the grocery store, we likely walk in the opposite direction rather than ask if she needs help. When a senior woman is driving slightly under the speed limit, we are quick to honk rather than be patient. Supporting women of all ages with small actions can make a difference. Others will see your response and might consider following your lead.
8. Join Forces
You are not alone in the fight for equality. There are many women and men that have the same passion you do. Joining forces will help empower women and make their voices louder. From taking to the streets in a Women’s March to creating a book club that meets to discuss strong female literary characters, there are many ways you can choose to join forces. Find an outlet that aligns with your personality so that you can learn, grow and teach each other.
Another way to empower women is to listen to them. By actively listening to others, you can prove that their voice and opinions matter. We teach kids how to listen, but later in life, we can sometimes forget the basics. To help refresh your listening skills, here are some tips for active listening.
10. Applaud Vulnerability
Many people associate vulnerability with weakness, but it can actually be your biggest strength. Encourage the women in your life to be vulnerable and open with you. Applaud their bravery and thank them for sharing their truth.
Empowering women means letting them have a voice, listening to them and supporting their journey. Doing this will help you have better relationships with the women in your life and will help the community as a whole. For more tips on empowering yourself, women, and the creatives in your community, check out the Redbubble Blog.