Seeing headlines that remind us of the toll of the pandemic on women in the workforce and the gender wealth gap, it’s daunting to consider how we achieve a more equitable future. There are countless studies, panels and events on the subject. But when it comes to real change, 1:1 conversations between women - community members, colleagues, networking connections - are the best way to uncover the experiences and lessons that drive professional growth.
It’s crucial that supportive spaces are created for 1:1 connections where women can share their experiences and challenges, whether they are facilitated by organizations and communities, or sought out by women in their own networks.
As an 80% female team led by a female CEO, we’re believers in the power of sharing advice and experiences with one another. Inspired by the stories of our clients and users, we’re sharing four ways that 1:1 connections between women can drive professional growth, and create a more equitable future.
Despite the fact that women are apt to be naturally self aware, strong communicators, their failures and mistakes are more carefully scrutinized than their male counterparts, so they tend to share less. As a result, women frequently miss out on the opportunity to learn from each other in a candid setting.
Some career stages are for hitting big milestones, and some are for making mistakes that help us learn and do better next time. When a woman can be vulnerable without the fear of being judged, she can help another woman to avoid the same pitfalls.
TheBoardroom Africa, an Orbiit client, is the largest regional network of female executives in Africa. TBR works to help bridge the diversity gap on the boards of companies in or with a presence in Africa, and their work is crucial: just one in five corporate board seats are held by women. The odds are even more challenging for women of color. In a study of corporate boards, researchers found that only 3% of board seats were held by women of color, and 81% of companies don’t have a woman of color on the board at all.
As the TBR team puts it, “Peer-to-peer networking plays a key role in our work. Being a woman at the top can be a lonely experience, but we enable our members to realize they don’t have to go at it alone. Our partnership with Orbiit allows members to discuss everything from solutions to problems, new tools, and technologies. It also provides a forum to cultivate new, and sometimes life-long, friendships.”
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When it comes to competency and confidence, professional women statistically sell themselves short in self-assessments, compared to male counterparts. By connecting to share experiences, women can offer each other a fresh perspective on untapped strengths and skills, challenging situations, and business decisions.
There’s no ‘years of experience’ cap on offering valuable perspective, either. As Orbiit client Danielle Letayf, founder of Badassery recalls of her experience leading programs and community at BUILT BY GIRLS, an organization that prepares female and non-binary students for careers in tech, “I was in awe of the way these teen girls navigated their careers and personal lives with simultaneous boldness and messiness. They helped me realize that things don't have to be perfect to move forward. As a founder, that lesson has been instrumental.”
Connecting with fellow professional women can uncover potential hiring needs or other opportunities. These connections and referrals help to decrease gender bias in hiring, which is crucial. For example, a woman’s odds of getting hired are 79 times greater if there are two woman candidates in the pool of finalists.
When women unite and connect, they can strengthen professional skills, seek out opportunities, and grow their confidence. And when women succeed, their organizations do, too: companies in the top quartile for gender diversity on executive teams were 25% more likely to have above-average profitability than companies in the fourth quartile.
Our communities, workplaces and networks are brimming with the knowledge and experiences of women, and it’s time to unlock this potential through connection.
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