In today’s business world, there are clear and positive steps being taken that are fast closing the gender divide, however being a woman in business still involves many challenges.
As a female leader myself, I have experienced firsthand the challenges presented to women in business. When I opened Gemstar’s Innovation Centre of Excellence in Singapore, I faced a great deal of scepticism from the business community, reminding me that these challenges are not localised to Australia, but transcend borders.
One stark reminder of this came from a young female graphic designer in Singapore, who recounted for me her experiences of running her own business in the corporate sector. She told stories of not being paid, threatened with legal action, and ignored as regular occurrences. Her stories moved me, and forced me to realise I had the power to help her situation, and so I did by providing her with the opportunity to work within my business. She has been a valuable employee ever since.
We need to encourage women to speak out , be confident and work together to create a culture of unity in business. This means embracing diversity and supporting one another, even across borders.
Knowing where to start can be difficult and daunting, here are my tips on how you can start to contribute to a global female network:
Break away from gender stereotypes.
There is a tendency in the business community to think of women coming together as social, rather than professional, networking. We need to break away from the age-old stereotype of women as socialites rather than professionals – starting with female leaders who defy this stereotype and can advocate for change.
Reach out to others through mentorship.
Female leaders, entrepreneurs and mumpreneurs need to reach out and support one another through mentorship. Today’s female leaders are in a position of great influence and can guide the next generation of girls and women through the challenges they themselves have faced.
Create a culture of inclusion for both women and men.
Female mentorship, support groups and professional networks are sometimes thought of as feminist – but joining forces with other women doesn’t mean rejecting men. Rather, men are just as important in creating an inclusive business culture for women. A culture of acceptance and mutual respect means moving beyond difference and celebrating diversity of all kinds.
Value the unique skills that women have to offer.
A culture of sisterhood in business is grounded in women valuing other women. How can men value and respect the unique skills women have to offer if we don’t respect each other? Female leaders need to show support for one another, work together, and find new ways of instigating positive change. Only then can we truly achieve gender equality in the workplace.
Inspire others to succeed.
Professional networks and mentorship programs help to equip women and girls with the tools to achieve sustainable business success. Whether you’re managing your own company or just starting out, every business woman can benefit from a helping hand – especially from someone who has been through similar experiences.
A culture of sisterhood in business is about guiding and inspiring others to succeed and thrive. Like any partnership, successful mentoring relationships between women require perseverance, patience, and resilience – but they are well worth the effort and can make all the difference in lifting women in business to new heights.
With women supporting other women, we can work through the challenges and discrimination still faced by female leaders in the business community. We need to communicate and share innovative ideas with one another, be flexible, supportive, and understanding.
We also need to move beyond our comfort zone. For female leaders and women in business, this means no more blending into the background. Only when we stand up and reach out to one another can we build a more inclusive, diverse, and equal workplace that values people, not gender.