Women, are the best and the worst to each other. In it’s extreme form, it’s a trope of TV and film. Think Mean Girls, Bridesmaids, Something Borrowed (all Amazon). But in real life, it’s my female friends who remember my birthday, send me flowers after a breakup, encourage me when I leave my comfort zone.
And… of course… there have been the not so great female relationships too. Featuring the classics of backstabbing, vindictiveness, etc etc.
But amongst technical women at least, I find it’s really rare to meet another woman who I don’t think is awesome. Sometimes I’m intimidated, and sometimes we don’t have enough in common to actually be friends, but at least in my experience, we’re usually pretty good to one another. But we could be better. Here are three super easy things that I think make a difference.
I was catching up with a friend recently, and she’d been organising some events and doing a bunch of great things for women around her, and she talked about how no-one had said thank-you. I empathised, there have been so many times when I’ve felt the same way. Or, someone flakes on something they were supposed to help with because they’re “too busy” and you just have to pick up the slack (no, it’s fine, I was just going to stare at the wall for that time period, yay for having something to do!).
A meaningful thank you is so easy. Some companies have internal recognition programs – use them! Or send a nice email to their boss (and cc/bcc them, because managers don’t always forward these on). These strategies are totally free to you.
For the cost of a cup of coffee, a thank you card. Or, an actual cup of coffee and a chat featuring “I thought it was great when you did X”.
Hardly anyone does this. But it makes a huge difference to people. I’ve always been happy to receive such appreciation, but since I started making a point of following up and giving such appreciation myself, I’ve noticed how grateful and appreciative women are to feel… valued.
If you can’t say anything nice…
About two years ago now, I set myself a really simple rule. I don’t criticise women doing difficult jobs. I had noticed that criticism of women was typically gendered, and more vicious than comparable men were getting. So I just opted out.
This doesn’t mean that I wouldn’t say “hey, I think you could do X better”, or that if really a woman was doing something egregious I wouldn’t call it out. But defaulting to no, and considering why I made this rule for myself, made me (usually! I’m not a saint) much more thoughtful about it.
Sometimes I say, “I don’t criticise women doing difficult jobs”, which has led to some interesting conversations. Sometimes I just sit quietly – if I think it’s merited. Sometimes I speak up – if I think it’s not. Sometimes I just walk away.
I know the data says that women are over-mentored, but I still from time to time hear women complaining about not having one. This has to be one of the easiest things to help another woman out with – I’m sure we all have someone in our network who would be a good mentor for someone else we know. Ask them, tell them why you think they would be great (it’s a complement!)
I hear women complaining about the same things, and yeah totally structural inequalities etc, but these are some really very tiny, easy things, that we could do for each other. They are not going to fix the structural inequalities, to be honest I doubt it will even make a dent in them. These things don’t address the underlying reasons why women leave the industry, or the egregiously bad things that happen. But. Brightening someone’s day, or at least making it a little less dark from time to time… isn’t nothing. Sometimes it’s the best, and the most, you can do.
Would love to hear about any little things you do for women, or that you really appreciate when people do for you!