Athena In Action September 20, 2018

Women Helping Women: The Three-Minute Challenge

By Danna Lewis Former Chief Operating Officer

I was having lunch a few weeks ago with a friend and professional colleague who told me a story. A true story about two women. One woman had a direct connection to a high-powered executive role. The other woman was interested in the position but needed an introduction to get her foot in the door. While the first woman expressed enthusiasm at the idea—and even promised to make an introduction—it just didn’t happen.

“It’s frustrating,” my friend told me. “Because the candidate is a perfect fit for the job. She just needs the intro to get things going.”

The story is disappointing, but it’s especially concerning to me because that was the fourth time within a few weeks that similar stories were shared with me about a missed connection. An introduction not made. A deal falling through. An opportunity missed. And each instance was an event that transpired between women.

I want to talk about women helping women.

Cues from our male allies

It’s tough to discuss this topic without discussing men. While this isn’t meant to be a male versus female comparison, I think there’s always room to learn from one another. The following story from a friend’s husband is a great example:

A friend of mine mentioned that her husband is interviewing for an executive position in a new city. He’s more than ready for the next move in his career, but the relocation factor is a big deal. It makes it a far bigger commitment. He’s also moving to a different market. He wanted to know: was he receiving a fair job offer? Was he expecting too much (or not asking for enough?)

Here’s what he did to evaluate the opportunity: he asked five or six friends (who all happened to be men) what they thought of his offer. He asked friends in his field, inside and outside his market. It was purely about gathering data, it was all about the numbers, no arrogance, no ego in any of the information sharing.

His friends gave him inside information he never could have received from online research. Not only did they throw out a range of numbers, giving him something to consider, but they also gave feedback on potential challenges and roadblocks he may experience. They suggested questions to ask as he evaluated the opportunity. There was a shared interest and action-oriented response to ensure these phone calls were about banding together, exchanging information, and making sure he was receiving a fair offer.

My friend told me this isn’t the first time she’s seen her husband and his male allies do this. In fact, she said there’s an inherent trust in his network—he knows he can pick up the phone, reach out to a friend regarding a matter like this, and the friend will have his best interests in mind. This could mean connections to jobs, insights into a company he may be evaluating, referrals, or more. It’s completely organic and instinctual. The shared pragmatic approach of the collective group leaves no room for bragging, competing, or exclusion.

What would this look like if women took the same approach? Pragmatically empowering each other with insights, knowledge, and connections to truly soar in our careers?

A place of abundance

What is the hesitation in women helping women? How has this become an issue?

Some of it could stem from a feeling or perception of a lack of abundance. To many, there is the belief we’ve always had it harder. Often, we’ve had to work harder (from degree programs to the hours we put into our jobs). Often, we’ve had to justify our way into leadership roles at both big companies and small (validating our experience and proving our expertise). And let’s face it, many of us feel like we must go to superhero lengths to prove that we can do it all. Perhaps these experiences have hardwired within many of us to laser-focus on our own goals, rather than take an active interest—or take action to support—the goals of the collective group.

Prosperity consciousness is the mindset that there is more than enough available of what you desire and seek in life and work. While there may be more than one right person for a job or a board role, what if supporting each other in our endeavors allows a place of abundance? Taking this approach may connect us to opportunities we weren’t even aware of simply due to a lack of connecting, follow-up, or following through.

I see confidence within women who take the time for action-oriented support, a confidence in knowing that there’s enough opportunity to go around. A confidence in knowing that you can look to your network of women for just about anything, including evaluating an offer or connecting you with an opportunity. It’s confidence in knowing that, without a doubt, these women have your best interest in mind.

What can you do for your network?

No doubt, another challenge women face is time and resources. We’re all busy. We’re all juggling competing priorities, often we’re just trying to do too much.

But I invite you to challenge yourself: What can you do for your network? This month, this week, or even today? What can you do in just three to five minutes of your time?

What would it take for you to make the time to introduce an ambitious, intelligent colleague you know to a career-changing opportunity?

What would happen if you followed up on that introduction request from a few weeks ago?

Who do you know who would make a great asset to your company board, or to a contemporary’s board?

How can you give feedback or advice to a woman you work with or network with—advice that could change their outlook or open new doors?

What women in your circles deserve to know each other, but they just need someone to facilitate the introduction?

We’re stronger together.

We all have the opportunity to impact each other’s days and lives in a positive way. Opening doors and helping our network form the right connections is one important way you can achieve this. We’re all in this together. Some of you are absolutely determined to get that first board seat, while others simply want to connect with other powerful women and men and continue on your executive development journey.

There are great opportunities out there for each of us. And they may just be one email or introduction away. We can get there faster if we proactively support on each other.

What can you do for another woman in your network today?