Every year, as Women’s History Month takes place in March, the world hears louder, more insistent calls for greater equity and progress for women in the business space. While great strides have been made for women in the workplace, many women continue to face systemic barriers and biases that hinder their ability to have a seat at the table in all instances.

Similarly, during Women’s History Month, some of the top professionals in their respective industries give their thoughts on how to further women’s empowerment. Through these diverse perspectives, it becomes clear how the need for empowerment goes beyond numerical parity and must be able to dismantle the barriers around pay, leadership, decision-making, and economic development.

Credit where credit is due

“I am a big believer in giving credit where it’s due, and acknowledgment of that alone goes far,” says Hafsa Burt, founder of hb+a Architects. “If somebody works hard on something, initiates a concept or action it is really important to give them credit and encouragement.”

The recognition of contributions may seem like a small gesture, but it can be crucial for empowering women within the workplace. Recent studies show companies with robust recognition programs saw up to a 31% lower turnover rate. Women can often feel overshadowed in work environments, especially if they are one of the few women in the office.

“I also encourage people who work for me to take a leap, such as applying for a position or an honor when I think it may be overdue,” says Burt. “I act as a cheerleader of sorts through the process. Respect and kindness go a long way no matter who you’re dealing with, and regardless of their stature in life.”

Tell your story

“I do my best to inspire and empower other women in the industry by showcasing my own journey and achievements,” says Stephanie Devli, founder and CEO of Happy Camp3r, a clothing company that focuses on mental health issues. By telling stories of achievement and personal growth, we can inspire and empower others to do their best, try something new, or get outside of their comfort zones.

“When I first started Happy Camp3r, I felt like I was very much behind the scenes, but as I’ve grown the business I’ve started to show more of the back end of the business and more of myself. I think putting myself out there helps other people do the same,” Devli shares. Indeed, social media has allowed many to “put themselves out there” and tell their stories, creating a new generation of inspired and empowered female entrepreneurs, business leaders, and creatives.

Explore new paths

Encouraging women to get into fields that have been historically dominated by men is another way of stoking empowerment. “I support women in my industry and community by encouraging young women to consider a career in the trades,” says Melanie Powers, president of Goodberlet Home Services.

In 2021, the number of women in the trades reached its highest level ever at just over 314,000. Through the inspiring work and words of people like Melanie Powers, that number continues to grow.

“I am driven to support and empower women in my role because I was never presented with the trades as a career option,” Powers shares. “As a girl growing up in the 80s, this was considered ‘men’s work’ and off limits to women as a career choice.”

Powers also makes sure to never make assumptions with her clients. “I empower women as my customers by giving them choices and solid information to make repair decisions in their homes,” she adds. “I never make assumptions about their home improvement and repair knowledge.”

Leah Zuercher is another professional who likes to shed light on the benefits of exploring non-traditional work paths. Zuercher, a welder and Field Project Facilitator with Oxidizers, Inc., has served as a mentor to girls and women looking to follow her unique path.

“Over the years, numerous families have reached out to me, seeking advice on welding schools, technical education, and the day-to-day experiences of being in this field,” Zuercher explains. “Many of these questions aim to gather information for their daughters, granddaughters, or nieces. By empowering women in our industry and communities it allows for growth and creates new opportunities.”

As these examples show, as more women become decision-makers and thought leaders, the more they are seen as just — if not more — capable than their male colleagues. As a result, the more empowered other women can become to follow in their stead.

Seek out mentors, be a mentor

Many female trailblazers in traditionally male work roles — such as finance — moved into their positions without the help of female mentors because there were few other options available. However, as women move into positions of leadership in these industries, the more the need for women mentors has grown.

“I’ve contributed to the support and empowerment of other women in finance by serving as a mentor,” says Kelcee Blue, director of strategic finance at Embarc Advisors. “This includes involvement in formal programs through my alma mater as well as informal efforts such as meeting for coffee to discuss challenging situations.”

Mentors can help answer questions, advise on career moves, and, as Kelcee Blue illustrates, help women work through challenging situations in the office. It can also be empowering to take the role of a mentor.

“I believe that one of the greatest limiting factors to women’s growth is our own self-limiting false beliefs,” says Blue. “To break barriers and gain a more equitable share of seats at the table, we have to empower and support each other.”

Don’t stop once you leave the office

“I don’t support and empower women just in tech. I am another advocate as a coach in a male-dominated sports environment,” explains Brianna Van Zanten, a customer success manager at InCheq. “As the sole female staff coach at my club, I am committed to connecting with all the girls in our community.”

Empowering one another shouldn’t stop once the workday is over. While Van Zanten and others are focused on elevating women within their respective industries, their interest in seeing women succeed carries over into other areas of their lives.

Van Zanten is also active in online communities that extend the empowerment message. “I partake and stay active in online communities, such as Black Women in Tech and Women in Customer Success on LinkedIn,” she explains. These communities have proven invaluable in connecting other women, especially in niche groups, to mentors, influential leaders, or simply someone to have a conversation with after a hard day.

“By amplifying diverse voices and perspectives, we not only foster inevitable growth but also create a ripple effect of progress,” Van Zanten adds.

Create a supportive culture

By addressing the unique challenges of women in the workplace and putting strategic processes in place to support their success, leaders can create a supportive work culture that empowers female employees. Heidi Moore, an insurance professional and podcaster, has focused heavily on creating the most supportive and inclusive work culture possible.

“The culture in my office is extremely important,” Moore explains, “and many of the ladies who work for me are moms with children who are very active in school. Having an office that offers flexibility for school schedules, sick kids and anything else that parenthood may throw at them is at the core of who we are.”

Women have agreed that a push towards more hybrid and flexible work arrangements has allowed them better balance and more time with their children. A focus on a culture that supports the needs of female employees also leads to better retention and overall work satisfaction.

“It’s been my mission in 2024 to slow down, enjoy the little things in life, and do the things that I’ve been wanting to do,” says Moore. “As women, we often don’t take time for ourselves. When you don’t refuel your energy bucket and take care of yourself, you are much less effective for others.”

Empowerment of women in the workplace is not just a focus for Women’s History Month, it should be woven within the fabric of companies and organizations that care about elevating the role of women every day of the year. By fostering a supportive work culture, supporting the use of mentors, and sharing stories of success, female leaders in all industries can uplift their peers and further support the role of women in leadership positions to build truly equitable workplaces.

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