More than 25% of women are considering downshifting their careers or leaving the workforce completely as a result of the pandemic. That’s according to the latest Women in the Workplace Study by McKinsey & Company. Women supporting other women at work is one way to protect gender equity and help women deal with growing challenges.

Many female employees are facing financial insecurity, along with increased burdens on parents and caregivers. Without additional resources, it’s easy to burn out.

Learn more about opportunities for women to support each other. Try these practical strategies for bonding and collaborating with other women.

Cultivate Relationships

A study by Harvard Business Review found that both male and female executives were likely to have a diverse network of well-connected peers. However, women seeking greater authority and higher pay also needed an inner circle of close female contacts.

Keep these strategies in mind:

  1. Focus on giving. Professional networks and personal friendships depend on helping others. Reach out and share your time and expertise. Perform random acts of kindness and build mutual support.
  2. Be selective. The quality of your friendships matters more than the quantity. Find other women who share your values and interests. Move on if someone consistently turns down your invitations to get together or fails to respect your boundaries.
  3. Pace yourself. Healthy reciprocal relationships take time to blossom. Be patient. Get to know each other gradually.
  4. Have fun. Friends see each other outside of the office and talk about stuff besides spreadsheets and coding. Host parties and organize outings. Take a vacation or bake cookies together.

Encourage Work-Life Balance

Women continue to bear responsibility for the majority of work at home. The American Psychological Association warns that this causes stress and other health issues and lowers productivity.

Try these techniques to enhance work-life balance:

  1. Suggest flexible hours. One upside of the pandemic has been a big increase in the opportunities for remote work. Maybe supervisors at your company are willing to experiment with alternative schedules as long as employees complete their responsibilities.
  2. Examine benefits. Let your employer know what perks matter to you and other women in your office. Maybe you’d rather have gym memberships instead of bean bag chairs and ping pong tables.
  3. Review workloads. Are your performance reviews based on realistic expectations? Discuss the situation with your colleagues to see if adjustments are needed.
  4. Take time off. Research shows that excessive overtime and unused vacation days actually lower productivity. Set an example by leaving the office at a reasonable hour and taking advantage of your annual leave.

Develop Leadership Skills

Women at the top are struggling too. The McKinsey report also describes Onlys: women who are the only or one of the only women at their level in the workplace. They’re more likely to feel pressure to work more and face a variety of microaggressions.

These strategies can help:

  1. Support mentoring. Depending on what stage your career is at, you can look for a mentor or become one yourself. You might even do both. These relationships provide guidance and build community.
  2. Advocate for others. Unfortunately, there’s some truth in The Devil Wears Prada kind of stereotypes. Even if your company culture tolerates bullying other women, break the cycle. Have the courage and compassion to provide constructive feedback and help other women advance in their careers.
  3. Network with women. Join a professional group for women or start one of your own. Mingle with other women when you attend conferences and follow up with interesting acquaintances.
  4. Make referrals. One of the most effective ways to help other women is to make introductions and referrals. Bring others together to find new partners, clients, and friends.

One woman’s success can benefit others too. Create an environment that maximizes and celebrates each other’s accomplishments.

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