The reasons we help other women in their career journeys might seem obvious to most. It’s the right thing to do and it often just comes naturally, many of us may not even think about why we’re doing it.
But the benefits of giving another woman a ‘leg up’ are numerous, and can have a far wider positive impact than just on the woman we might choose to help at that moment.
Helping other women with their careers can come in the form of formal sponsoring or mentoring, informal encouragement, acknowledgement, advice or suggestions, or even via a specific offer of assistance in some way. It can also come, often very powerfully, from a simple, well thought out and well timed compliment.
Kindness is leadership
The first reason to help others is that, as Linda Burney MP said at a Women’s Agenda event recently, acts of kindness and generosity are actually acts of leadership. You can demonstrate leadership through lending a hand to someone who needs it, or to someone who may not need it but will benefit from it anyway. As well as making a positive contribution to the world, through such acts you also create trust and followers, two essential ingredients of effective leadership.
It feels good
Secondly, helping other women feels really good. Psychologists have found that altruism and kindness to others is part of what creates genuine inner happiness. Others benefit from your help, and you feel good about that. That’s a simple win-win situation right there.
It might help you
A third reason to help other women is that it might create a connection that later pays off. This applies inside and outside one’s career. When I was at the end of a long labour with my first child, a midwife came on duty, to whom I had taught communication skills at university some years earlier. When she came to visit me and my baby son the next day, she told me she remembered me and how kind I had been to her when she was a nervous new student transitioning to university. That was what led her to choose to get under the shower with me, fully clothed, rub my back and tell me what a great job I was doing in labour when she could see my distress. She said she was so happy to return the favour of the kindness I had shown her years earlier. In terms of career, you never know how helping a woman advance up the ladder might benefit your business or your career at another point. You might not choose to help for that reason, but it can lead to an unexpected positive outcome later.
The next generation will benefit
Finally, unless we pull other women up behind us, and even push them in front of us, we won’t creat positive change or progress for female leaders. Without significant change, today’s junior and emerging women leaders will still be facing gender discrimination and unequal pay in yet another generation, and that will be to everyone’s detriment.
Marcia Devlin is a psychologist, and the winner of the 2016 Women’s Agenda Leadership Award in the Government/Public sector category. Follow her on Twitter @MarciaDevlin