Over the last few years, as a society, we have come a long way on the journey toward gender equality, but that doesn’t mean there’s no work left to do. And in fact, there are many ways in which we can actually help further the movement on our everyday lives and even the smallest attitudes and gestures can make a big difference. So today, we’ll look at 30 ways we women can empower other women, some of which are so simple it’s just unbelievable.
#30. Validate Their Self-Expression
You’ve probably noticed while watching a movie or reading a book that women’s narratives are vastly underrepresented in pop culture and the media. That is one of the reasons why it is extremely important to let women express themselves, especially those whose voices are not heard, and whose expressions are not given a platform to be appreciated by the rest of the world.
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If you see a woman who opens up, shares her story and lets herself be vulnerable, acknowledge her strength and let her know that you are there to listen and to honor her truth. This is something that we see every day on social media, for example. A comment or a “like” truly goes a long way and reminding these women that there is nothing more brave than sharing their story can be very empowering to them.
#29. Compliment Their Mind And Soul
Another thing that we can constantly see in the media is how many comments women receive regarding their appearance. Their weight, shape, color, style, makeup and hair are being judged all the time, everywhere. Sure, sometimes the comments are positive, but to most women it is important to be acknowledged for things other than their physical appearance, especially because they don’t get to hear it that often.
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If you’re looking to compliment another woman, try going for their attitude, their intelligence, their kindness, their bravery and their talents. They have already heard people commenting on their appearance a million times, so why not do something different for a change? Thus, it never hurts to remind other women about all the great qualities that make them who they are.
#28. Check Your Prejudices
Whether we want to admit it or not, we have all been subject to unconscious biases, which are learned stereotypes that are automatic, unintentional, deeply ingrained, universal, and able to influence behavior. Sure, you might not intentionally judge people by their race, gender or sexuality, but there might be some prejudices engraved so deeply in your brain that you don’t even notice them.
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It is of extreme importance to work on our unconscious biases. The first step is to recognize them, and then proceed to question them. This is especially important at the workplace, where women face even more discrimination not only because of their gender, but because of their race, age, sexual orientation, and more. Checking your own beliefs and encouraging the discussion of biases can make a huge difference.
#27. Be Ready to Offer Your Support
The only way in which we can all move forward as a society is working together, and even the strongest people (or at least, those who appear to be the strongest) need to feel supported, encouraged and validated. Do not fail to offer your support because the woman in question looks like she has it all together. More often than not, those who show a strong exterior might be suffering in silence.
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This is particularly problematic with non-white women. On the one hand, they are placed with the burden of being too strong and carefree to feel pain, but on the other hand, they suffer from greater discrimination and social exclusion than white women. So gift all of your fellow women with your support. It can be as easy as asking “how are you?”, and letting the other person know that she can trust and rely on you.
#26. Prioritize Solitude
Look at traditional gender roles and think about this question for a moment: are women socialized to prioritize other people’s needs or their own? The truth is, women are largely raised as caregivers, giving everything to others and sacrificing their own well-being in order to provide for others. But do you know what can really help a woman who is struggling with this role?
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You can effectively empower these women by validating and encouraging their alone time. Let them know it is perfectly OK to put themselves first and take some alone time to treat themselves, decompress and address their physical and mental health. Having some alone time also improves your relationships with others aside from reinvigorating your mind and body, so everyone wins in this situation.
#25. Be Ready to Give Them a Voice
It is a known fact that in general terms, leadership teams, speaking roles, conference lineups, and media sourcing overwhelmingly prioritize male voices over female ones. It is of extreme importance to support and encourage women to take a spot in such events and have their voices heard. If you happen to have access to these spaces, see what you can do to actually make it happen.
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If there is a conference coming up, for example, be ready to recommend a list of names of women who should participate, and request that there be a woman in the lineup if there isn’t any. Signal-boosting can really make a difference and give women the spot they deserve in these pulpits. The contents of these events affect everyone, so why should there only be men speaking?
#24. Know When to Pass the Mic.
It is true that not all women are treated the same way. Factors such as race, wealth, age, sexual orientation and nationality give privilege to some women over others, and it is important to recognize when it is happening to us. So all of us should learn to ask themselves: am I enjoying a better position than a fellow woman because I’m white? Am I getting the spotlight because my voice tends to be heard louder than hers?
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It is important to ask ourselves these questions every once in a while. And if the answer is yes, then what can we do to change this? Imagine that you’re offered an opportunity when someone else is more qualified than you are, and there is clearly a chance that they didn’t get it because of their race. Take that opportunity to pass the mic, and give the floor to someone else who is not getting a chance.
#23. Bolster Whisper Networks
A whisper network is an informal chain of information passed privately between women. These networks arose particularly to spread the word about powerful people in the workplace accused of being sexual harassers or abusers, but nowadays they exist for a variety of different reasons. The truth is that not all women have access to the same quality of information.
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Providing a network where women can share their experiences in a safe and reliable way is very important, especially when their experiences are related to work because we all know it is not easy to have your voice heard there. Do you know of a manager who ever said something inappropriate to you? Well, if you do, then warn other women. Did you manage to negotiate a good maternity leave package? Tell others how you made it happen.
#22. Don’t Be Afraid To Talk About Your Body
Since the beginning of time, certain bodily functions such as periods have been considered a taboo, which has caused severe misinformation among women who should have a right to receive all necessary information about how their bodies work. Don’t be ashamed of discussing your period with other women and answering questions from those who don’t have the same knowledge as you.
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The best way to demolish the stigma around periods is to talk about them. It is something natural after all, what is shameful about that? To quote Michelle Obama:
“I think it’s the worst thing that we do to each other as women, not share the truth about our bodies and how they work”.
#21. Encourage Women-Run Businesses
Men have long been considered the breadwinners. And, although in recent decades women have been taking a stand and taking their rightful positions as breadwinners as well, men are still regarded as the good businesspeople, while women are not taken seriously. Statistically, male entrepreneurs are twice as likely to raise money for their businesses than their female counterparts.
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If you are in a position to make a decision about it, invest in and support businesses run by women. Are you, for example, looking to re-do your kitchen? Why don’t you look up a female contractor in your area? Are you looking to invest in a business? Give women a chance. We all know we are just as capable of running a business as men are, yet we are constantly shortchanged. Don’t contribute to the problem!
#20. Disagree, Don’t Dismiss
Just because we are women doesn’t mean we will always agree and support each other’s choices and opinions, but there is a difference between disagreeing and dismissing. More often than not (an especially at work) women feel unheard and their opinions are treated as unimportant. The last thing you want is to make another woman feel the way you’ve felt before, right?
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It is important to acknowledge when another woman is making a legitimate point, even when she represents an opposing view. A good way to disagree without dismissing her is to first honor her intelligence before voicing your contrasting opinion, with phrases like: “I hear you, and that makes sense, but I believe…” Let her know that you heard what she has to say.
#19. Empower Their Decisions
In relation to #26, another role that women are usually assigned is to be people pleasers. A people pleaser is more than just accommodating; they put others first and never say no, and when they do, they feel like they need to justify themselves in order for it to be acceptable. More often than not, women don’t really need a reason to justify their choices, and it’s important to remind them of this.
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Sometimes, just wanting to do something is more than enough to justify it. You quit your job, you left your partner, or you canceled plans… so? Wanting to do it is a sufficient reason. Women need to give themselves permission to make the choices that they want without the fear of others’ opinions, so encourage your friends and colleagues not to be afraid to do so. This will empower them and reinforce their ability to act in their own best interests instead of always putting others first.
#18. Let Women Talk
A study has found that men dominate 75% of the conversation during conference meetings, which comes as no surprise to many of us. This means that decisions are made without a fair representation of views at the table. One way to prevent this from happening is by actively asking female colleagues for feedback during meetings. They deserve to be heard too, don’t they?
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Sometimes women are just not comfortable sharing their opinion because they feel like they won’t be heard and that their opinion won’t matter, mainly because most of them have suffered this in past experiences. Try approaching your colleague before the meeting and letting her know that you would love to hear her thoughts on a specific topic and that you think it would be beneficial to the group. This will make her feel supported.
#17. Thank Women Directly
Another problem with gender roles is that the role of the homemaker that is imposed on women is also dragged into the workplace. We have seen countless women who get stuck carrying over the responsibility of covering household duties into the office, such as taking notes during meetings, planning office parties, answering phones, and cleaning up desks. The worst part of this, however, is that this work goes unnoticed, unpaid, and unthanked.
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An NYU study found that when men stayed late at work they were rated 14% more favorably than women. So take your time to appreciate and thank the women who take it upon themselves to do nice things, no matter how small they are. If you notice she refilled the copier paper or offered you a cup of coffee, express your gratitude and encourage others to do so as well.
#16. Don’t Be Afraid To Talk About Sex
Female sexuality has long been saddled with all sorts of stigma, judgments and shame, while male sexuality has been normalized, praised and encouraged. This weighs heavily on women’s mental health and sexual satisfaction: straight men reach the climax 95% of the time, while women only do so 65% of it. But there are ways we can make female sexuality less of a taboo.
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Just talking about it like there’s nothing wrong with it (because there isn’t) is a good way to even out the playing field when it comes to sex. Creating nonjudgmental spaces to talk about sexuality and desire is a good way to empower women and help them release shame and find out that a lot of other people experience similar things. If men can talk about it openly, why shouldn’t we?
#15. Encourage Them to Accept Sincere Compliments
99.9% of women can safely admit that they have waved away compliments a thousand times. Think about it: when someone compliments you, do you accept it and say thank you, or do you say something like oh no! not at all!? The truth is that women have been socialized to wave away compliments about their accomplishments, abilities, self-representation, and much more.
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Let other women know that there is nothing wrong with accepting a compliment and that it is a good thing to recognize the good things in them. Tell them that when someone genuinely acknowledges their achievements, hard work, and personal qualities, they should simply say thank you. The idea that a woman is self-absorbed or cocky for accepting compliments is absolutely ridiculous.
#14. Subvert Gender Norms Around Children
Ever since they are born and before they can even open their eyes, people’s lives are determined by their gender. Their clothes, their toys, the activities they’ll be signed up to do, the chores they’ll do around the house, the movies that will be shown to them, and much, much more, depends on their gender. Research shows, for example, that girls are spoken to in softer voices than boys are.
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Also, boys are encouraged to explore their environment more than girls. Offsetting these damaging gender roles should be an active priority, so try to be a role model for young girls. If they make statements such as “that’s a girl toy”, “that’s a boy thing“, let them know that there is no such thing as “girl things” and “boy things”, and that they can play with and do whatever makes them happy regardless of their gender.
#13. Don’t Be Afraid To Say You’re A Feminist
Although most people can agree that there isn’t gender equality and that a change needs to happen, there’s a heavy stigma surrounding the word feminist. For this reason, many women avoid using it so that they’re not identified with the stereotypical and false image of feminists: loud, crazy, and man-hating. This just perpetuates the stereotype that feminism is the fight of women against men instead of the fight for equal rights.
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Do you know what the word really means? A feminist is a person who believes in equal rights for all. Say it and own it with pride, even if it’s uncomfortable and some people don’t understand it (or don’t want to do). The stigma isn’t going anywhere if we keep on being afraid to use the word, right? If you want everyone to be treated equally and if you truly treat everyone equally, then newsflash: you are a feminist. Welcome to the club!
#12. Prioritize Intersectionality
As we mentioned before, and as we all know, just because we share the female gender doesn’t mean that we are all treated the same way. That is because there are many more factors that contribute to privilige, discrimination, and rights. Therefore, categories such as race, age, disability, sexual orientation, and more, should always be considered when it comes to gender equality.
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To encourage equality and liberation, we have to operate from places that best prioritize and protect the most disenfranchised among us, such as trans women, for example. Trans individuals have lower life expectancy than cis individuals. Of the 20 known transgender women killed in the United States in 2018 so far, 14 of them were black. So give a voice and encourage those who are less privileged than you.
#11. Sponsor Other Women
Mentoring other women is super important, and sponsoring them is just as vital. However, a study found that, although women are mentored by others, they tend to be under-sponsored. A sponsor is someone with power who knows you and your potential, who advocates for your success on the corporate (or organizational) ladder, and who helps remove obstacles to your progress.
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Although mentoring is a key way to tackle gender disparity, especially in the workplace, take time to consider whether you are actually sponsoring your fellow female colleagues. Are you in a position to give a woman the sponsorship she deserves? Although mentorship is essential for developing leadership, what really helps other women advance in their careers is having someone sponsor them.
#10. Remember That Women Aren’t Competition
Ever since we are little, we hear about the notion that women don’t support each other and see each other as competition. The idea that women do not work for mutual good and instead constantly compete to bring each other down just helps us race to the bottom instead of moving forward. It is important to ask ourselves if we contribute or have contributed to this stereotype.
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Don’t shame women who made different choices than you. Although it might temporarily make you feel vindicated because you think you’re doing the right thing and they aren’t, you are just making things worse for everyone. Does a woman decide to be a stay-at-home mom? Awesome. Does another decide to get back to work and hire a babysitter? Awesome too. Celebrate women who make their own choices, even if they don’t match yours!
#9. Support Mothers
A poor mother deals with rowdy kids in public that she can’t control. We have all witnessed this situation. Now, people usually react in two ways: they either understand her struggle or criticize her for doing a “bad job” because she can’t handle the misbehaved children. The truth is that nobody can control whether a baby is going to cry in public or not, not even their mother!
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As annoying as it may be to hear a baby crying in the middle of your ten-hour flight, for example, remember that it is just as (or even more) annoying for the mother who actually has to deal with the irritating bundle of joy. A wink and a smile are enough to make the mother feel better, and sometimes a little lift and confidence are just what she needs to get through those rough moments.
#8. Acknowledge Their Suffering
Going back to the topic of intersectionality (the way in which the effects of multiple forms of discrimination such as racism, sexism, and classism combine, overlap, or intersect especially in the experiences of marginalized individuals or groups), you have to remember that there’s always some subsection of women who are probably having a harder time than you are.
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Empathy is one of the most powerful tools to empower other women, so lift each other up and move forward as a group. If there is inequality for just one woman, there is inequality for all of us. Don’t support a movement only when it affects you personally and think of how you can help other women who have different struggles. Embrace their suffering as your own and take a walk in their shoes.
#7. Thank Them
There is a reason why thank you are considered the magic words. We truly underestimate the power that these words have, especially when we consider that women’s work often goes unnoticed and unthanked. A 15-year-long study has shown that gratitude improves the well-being of both the giver and the receiver. Thanking people will also make them reciprocate the feeling.
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As women often feel ignored and unheard, acknowledging the good and kind gestures that they have toward you with a simple thank you is more than enough to make them feel validated, acknowledged, and loved. Tell the women in your life how much you love them and how thankful you are to have them in your life. Appreciation is like a boomerang, and it will come back to you too!
#6. Go Out Of Your Way
We all have our own problems to deal with, but it truly doesn’t take much to go out of your way every once in a while to give to those who aren’t as lucky as you are. There are thousands of causes you can donate to, promote, or participate in to make millions of women’s lives better. Serious offenses committed against women all over the world include abuse, child labor, trafficking, child marriage, and more.
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Protecting girls and women who don’t have the same privileges as you can be done by supporting educators, counselors and organizations that provide medical care and assistance to women in need. You don’t even need to look to the other side of the world; many girls in your area might be going through these things, so supporting local organizations with some of your money or your time can make a big difference.
#5. Speak Up
We witness gender inequality all the time, but we don’t always speak up. Whether because of fear, lack of confidence, or just laziness, we sometimes let these issues go unnoticed. But keeping quiet and not speaking up before a situation of injustice only contributes to perpetuating it. This doesn’t mean that you have to make a huge scandal or compromise your career, of course.
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Sometimes it is just as simple as politely asking a man to let a woman talk, or bringing up a concern to human resources. The power of your voice shouldn’t be underestimated, because it can really make a difference. Also, when you find the courage to speak up, other women will also be empowered to do so. Supporting each other when we speak is key in this situation.
#4. Support Women’s Work
As we’ve mentioned before, it is much harder for women to start a business than it is for men. If a female colleague, friend, or acquaintance is just getting started, support her business. This doesn’t mean you gotta be an investor at her company, however. Spreading the world, sharing a Facebook post, or attending a fundraiser event can really help them take off and spread their wings.
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If a friend writes a book, read it and give her your feedback. If she starts a podcast, listen to it and share a link to it on your social media. And if their business doesn’t fit your taste or needs, recommend it to those who you think would be interested in it. If you find a woman who has potential and deserves attention, give her the encouragement and empowerment she needs to reach all her goals.
#3. Help Them Take Personal Time
Women spend so much time caring for others that they often forget to take care of themselves. That is why women should reinforce other women to slow down and take the necessary time for their self-care. If your colleague is buried up to her nose in work and you’re not doing so bad, offer to take some of the workloads while she goes out for a coffee to cool down.
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If your friend is so busy with her children that she has no time for herself, offer to pick her kids up from school every once in a while. Remember, your gesture won’t go unnoticed. Like we said before, gratitude and appreciation are reciprocal, and this encouragement and support that you give other women will eventually come back to you when you need it the most.
Sure, this is easier said than done. We all have responsibilities to take care of, like work, hobbies, children or other family members, exams, etc., and we don’t always find the time to actually go out to the streets with picket signs to protest a situation of injustice. But public spaces are a good place where women can empower and affirm one another, and making the effort to do it is important.
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When women stand together, their collective and united presence is made known, and it speaks louder than just one voice that speaks alone. Even if you can’t show up to an event in person, you can still show your support by leaving a comment on social media or sharing the event with friends. For a group of individuals who are so often ignored, standing together is a very powerful tool.
#1. Return the Favor
Think of all the points we’ve covered on this list. Now, think of the times other women have done this for you. Did you notice it? Did you thank them for it? It is of utmost importance not only to recognize when another woman is supporting, empowering and encouraging us but also to give back to the women who give their support to you. Reciprocity is key when it comes to empowerment.
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Everyone involved should benefit and do their part to nourish the bond of friendship that unites them. Don’t let the other person carry the relationship alone. Share the weight, and help each other all the way. That is what empowerment is all about in the end: helping and supporting each other to have our voices heard, our identities respected, and our lives valued.