Empowering women starts with you and it starts with me. We have to remind girls often, from a young age and all through their lives, that they are strong, intelligent, beautiful and valued. Because, unfortunately, they will see and hear much in the world to contradict those messages. Whether you identify as a man or a woman, we all must empower our daughters and our wives, our co-workers, and our friends.
As a society, we want to recruit and nurture talented female leaders. We want to educate all women, especially the underprivileged without access to as many resources. We want to support survivors of sexual and domestic abuse. The best thing we can do, then, is create a supportive environment that actively empowers women. The following are five suggestions of how we can support the women in our lives.
To embrace someone is to willingly and enthusiastically accept and support them just as they are. We need to embrace the women who wish to work full time, the women who choose to raise a family and the women who balance both lives. We need to embrace the inevitable mistakes women will make and foster an environment where they’re emboldened to take risks.
We as women also need to embrace ourselves. We can embrace ourselves by setting an example of positivity and healthy behaviors for our daughters, nieces, and peers. This means no body shaming, no unhealthy eating habits and no negative words against other women.
Listen and Learn:
Empowering women starts right in our families and workplaces. We must hear their opinions, passions, and worries – listening without judging or telling them to calm down.
When we truly listen to women, we then have to follow up with action. In the workplace, this may materialize in hiring them for leadership roles. When women adopt leadership roles, they contribute a unique set of skills, ideas, and life experiences that can broaden the entire company’s insight, strategies, and bottom line. In everyday life, maybe you support your female friends by picking up coffee for the new mom in your office or telling your sister how much you appreciate her boldness or persistence.
To invest means to endow someone with power, responsibility, and opportunity. You can invest in women in a number of ways, beginning with establishing strong friendships.
You can also invest in women by building job skills. This starts with simply ensuring women, at home and around the world, have access to education. However, you can go further by financially investing in a female entrepreneur or small business. Connect with hardworking women entrepreneurs who are waiting to realize their dream. Consider offering a small loan, or if money is an issue, simply offering advice and personal connections can assist them in their journey.
Part of empowering women is ensuring they are strong and independent, which begins with teaching them a variety of practical skills. Throw gender stereotypes out the window and make sure the young girls in your life not only learn how to cook and clean but also how to change a tire and fix a clogged sink.
We also should provide women with necessary health information. From information on planning a family to reproductive rights to domestic violence, let’s make sure we empower women with the information they need to care for their bodies.
Finally, one of the best ways we can empower women is by encouraging them. Encouragement can occur through collaboration. Reach out and influence the life of a young girl in your community by volunteering as a tutor or mentor. One way to establish a mentorship is through Big Brothers, Big Sisters.
Additionally, foster a safe space where women feel comfortable vocalizing their ideas and opinions. Listen to them and encourage them to talk often and openly – whether in the workplace, in the home or in school.
We’ll end with a piece of advice from Sheryl Sandberg, COO of Facebook and author of Lean In: "We need women at all levels, including the top, to change the dynamic, reshape the conversation, to make sure women's voices are heard and heeded, not overlooked and ignored."