In 2019, the oldest “Millennials” will turn 37 — and even those born in 1989 will hit thirty. Many of us are now at the age and experience level where we’re earning leadership roles, starting successful companies and imposing our generational values into our workplaces.
It’s our era to shine, take over, and change the way things are done. Powerful social movements and sweeping catalysts for change starting new conversations about gender and equality means it’s a really cool time to make a difference.
Using our challenging or negative experiences as a reason to serve others is one of the keys to living a happy, fulfilling life. Throughout my time in a leadership role, I’ve used the less-than-stellar moments I experienced early in my career to fuel my passion for mentoring young women on the teams I’ve lead and helping them grow into the best professionals they can be. My hope is that I can provide to them the type of strong, encouraging female leadership that I wished for many times during my journey.
So, for any of you lady bosses out there who feel the same way I do and want to become the best possible leader and mentor for the next generation of women, I’ve put together a short list of ways that we can move the world forward. Hopefully, you can find something in this list that inspires you and helps create better woman-to-woman connections within your team.
When I was rising through the ranks, I listened to a lot of leaders claim that their “office door was always open.” Company culture, however, taught me that this claim was often far from true. Many of these leaders gave the impression that their schedules were too packed to be disturbed when problems arose, and that their time was too valuable to be taken up by “trivial” staff concerns.
Pay attention to your interactions with your young female employees. Could your interactions by described as two-way conversations? Are you taking time to listen to their concerns on a regular basis? Do you get the sense that they feel like they can come to you when a problem arises? Are you taking time from your busy schedule to check in with them and make sure they’re happy in their roles?
If they feel that they can’t speak openly to you when the little things happen, they’re not going to some to you when the big things happen either. There were many times, especially with the serious stuff, that I was forced to navigate difficult situations on my own or worse, switch jobs, because an open conversation on the things that affected my ability to do my best work simply wasn’t possible.
This one seems silly to have to write, but the best way to fight pay inequality is to have a zero-tolerance policy for it in your own office. While Australia currently has a smaller pay gap than, say, the States — there isn’t any fair or logical reason for a pay gap to exist at all.
Even if you aren’t the person in charge of handling the “money stuff” when chasing new talent, be diligent about knowing what your opening offers are for each of your employees. If you see a disparity between what your company is offering male and female candidates, call it out. Make sure your bids are based on merit and the value each employee gives to your organization, with no wishy-washy room for gender-based differences in pay.
According to the linguistic research I mentioned in my previous article, women are far less likely to claim credit for their hard work, and also less likely to throw their hats in the ring when it comes to stretch projects and promotions. This isn’t because they aren’t capable — it’s because, generally speaking, women tend to speak about and represent their accomplishments differently than men.
This is why, especially with the women in your office, it’s important to make sure you are acting as a true advocate for your young female mentee’s professional growth — avidly handing them opportunities to enhance their skills and resumes. Be a sounding board for the day-to-day things and offer your best advice.
I’m a huge fan of inviting young talent into “big” meetings. In my early career as a young designer, I remember having a hard time understanding the true objectives of my assignments after being left out of the ideation stage. During that era, the thinking was that tenured creatives should meeting and come up with “big picture” schemes, while younger talent should focus primarily on production.
The problem with this approach is that it leaves a lot of important perspective off of the table. The young talent in your office — regardless of gender — has different life experience, an important generational viewpoint, and a lot of fresh ideas to contribute. Additionally, with less years in the “corporate world,” they’re less likely to fall victim to the “group think” mindset and more likely to approach the problem at hand with wide-eyed curiosity. They are a valuable resource during brainstorms and ideation. This is why I believe in inviting young talent to the decision making table and listening to what they have to say whenever possible rather than using the “top-down” approach. In fact, I can often be found pausing a meeting to ask my just-out-of-uni film specialist, “Lil, what would you do?”
Once you’ve invited your young talent to the table, it’s important to make sure that they’re heard. As discussed before, men and women tend to speak differently in meetings, so it may be necessary to put extra effort into amplifying the voices of the women on your team.
One interesting method employed by many professional women throughout the States is the an “amplification” strategy devised by the women working in the White House during President Obama’s first term. In order to increase their ability to be heard and exert influence during meetings, these savvy policy strategists came up with this simple approach, according to this article in the Washington Post:
“…things were so tough for women to exert influence during the president’s first term that they devised a strategy called “amplification” to hammer across one another’s points during meetings. After one woman offered an idea, if it wasn’t acknowledged, another woman would repeat it and give her colleague credit for suggesting it.”
Because women are less likely to demand credit or influence during meetings, it may be good to get into the habit of applying your own method for making sure they are heard. In my current role, our office is pretty evenly split between men and women, and with a female CEO at the helm, the women in our office have no issues being heard. That being said, I can recollect times in previous roles where I felt that my ideas were overlook or my voice was drowned out — and that isn’t a beneficial situation for anyone.
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Nat is an American expat, obsessive world traveler, yoga instructor, aspiring author and the Marketing and Content Lead here at Zuper. Prior to coming to Zuper, Nat created campaigns for the retirement division of Fortune 100's Nationwide Financial in the States, along with a number of start-ups, bootstrapped organizations and nationally-known brands. When she isn't at the helm of Zuper's creative team, Nat can typically be found bopping around Bondi or hiking Sydney's national parks.