5 Ways Women can Empower Women

Last month I attended the Texas Conference for Women, and a quote by speaker, Amal Clooney, really resonated with me. She advocated that, “As women, we have a bond of shared experience -experiences that only women go through and struggles that only women face. The worst thing that we can do as women is to NOT stand up for each other. This is something that we can practice every day - no matter where we are or what we're doing. Because, IF we are united, there is no limit to what we can do.”

Words Inspire QuoteDue to my technical degree, my academic and work experiences have only been in male dominant environments. Clooney's quote hit home for me because the most discouraging and disparaging comments and actions directed towards me have not come from men, but from other women. Although these incidents were few, the effects were hurtful and lingering. I admit that if the same remarks and actions were said or done by a man, I would not have held them to the same level of expectation as a woman. Perhaps it is because I have trained myself to tune out and disregard stereotypical comments from men, but when it comes from another woman, as Clooney implies, we should know and want better for ourselves. 

Academically, I was at the top of my Engineering class and I frequently received praise from my Professors. As one of a handful of females in our class, I was very familiar with the phrases ‘oh, that professor likes girls’ or ‘you just got lucky on the test’, that came from my male classmates. I did not geek out on computer games and I was heavily involved in extracurricular activities as the Public Relations Chair of the IEEE student chapter. The fact that I didn’t fit the profile of a typical engineer essentially gave my classmates more reasons to doubt my academic abilities. Although the negative and unnerving comments came from my male classmates, the reinforcing actions came from the female ones. While my male classmates were always eager to hear my opinion and ask for my help, my female classmates preferred to approach the male classmates with questions. Additionally, in group projects I had to go through excruciating lengths to prove my point while my male partners made decisions freely and without consultation. Unfortunately, these demands were made by my female classmates, not the male ones.

This mistreatment from my female peers made me feel betrayed; I felt that rather than standing up against stereotypes with me, they were on the opposing team. On a very positive note, currently my life is filled with brilliant women across the globe who help dispel negative stereotypes and end discrimination which, as Clooney stated, is most effective when initiated and practiced by women. You may also hear this referred to as Women’s Empowerment. Below, I've compiled a list of five strategies that I have seen or practiced that I truly believe, have the potential to empower women:

Lena Dunham quote1. Support one another

One of the best ways that women can support each other is by allowing one another the freedom to be themselves. Acknowledge and accept the fact that each progression and journey will be unique. Diversity in personality and perspective is an asset that should be capitalized on and celebrated and not criticized. I don’t believe thriving and succeeding in a man’s world requires women to be more ‘manly’- less feminine and more assertive (I certainly don’t believe in defining men with these attributes either).  The proof lies in the fact that historically famous figures, such as Mother Teresa, Cleopatra, Sheryl Sandberg, etc., were not confined to the same attributes in order to become successful, influential and powerful. A non-judgmental environment will create a safe zone for women to confidently and courageously make bold decisions.

2. Find a female mentor or "friendtor"

Actively look for female mentors in professional settings and friendtors among your peers. I don’t look for the 'the best', but seek out those that are better than me in areas that I would like to improve. These individuals could be ‘the best’, but social barriers and struggles may have prevented them from becoming one (yet); this is how I choose to show my support in the battle they are fighting in their careers. As humans, we often want to feel appreciated and valued and choosing a 'rising star' as a role model can help validate those feelings as well as encourage and empower both parties in the relationship.

3. Give compliments, generously

Genuine compliments have a great impact on a person, therefore we shouldn’t shy away from offering these ‘free gifts.’ If we keep in mind that a person is made up of many unique ideas, actions and daily decisions, and has the privilege to make alterations to them at any time, then we have given ourselves a plethora of subjects to that are worthy of a compliment. Sincere compliments have the power to break down walls and create a circle of trust.

4. “Amplify” ideas in a meeting

When a good idea is presented by a woman, other women can repeat it back to the group in an effort to ensure that idea is not interpreted as a group one. In fact, the women on President Obama’s staff developed and practice what they call the “amplification strategy in order to ensure adequate credit is given where credit is due. 

You might wonder how often this type of omission really happens in meetings? I very recently learned about this concept and within days, I witnessed a great idea proposal that was overlooked and disregarded. The amplification strategy is an excellent idea, but it only works if we are mindful and vigilant of these instances; just learning about the concept was enough to open my eyes,

5. Do not reinforce negative stereotypes

"Stop telling girls they can be anything they want when they grow up. I think it's a mistake. Not because they can't, but because it would never have occurred to them that they couldn't." To me, this advice by Sarah Silverman is the epitome of empowerment.

 Another common misconception is that a woman has a better chance at being considered for a technical position than a man. This belief insinuates that women are chosen based on their gender and not their abilities. When a woman vocalizes this opinion, it further validates the fallacy and prolongs the battle against inequality.

My experience with my female classmates left me feeling betrayed but it served a greater purpose; it revealed a deeper issue. Their actions were not malicious, rather, they were a influenced by society and refective of the status quo. Stereotypes must be broken and it starts at ‘home’; I have surrounded myself with people who will always keep me in check when I unconsciously digress.

The most important lesson I have learned in my journey is to take opinions and viewpoints that don’t coincide with mine with a grain of salt. I try to see them for what they really are- ONE person’s opinion or viewpoint. These are a few of my viewpoints on Womens Empowerment and I would greatly appreciate the opportunity to learn about new methods to help further our cause. What are some of the strategies and tactics you use to help empower women?

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