How to … support other women at work

by 03 Apr 2007

Increasingly, women are faced with a struggle in the workplace, and this time it’s not the glass ceiling.

While women helping women in the workplace sounds as natural as a honey and oatmeal facemask, it’s an issue that has highlighted the gender inequality that can be so omnipresent within work environments.

Look around your workplace. Are there women in senior positions who you look up to? Are there women in senior positions at all? While the number of women occupying senior management positions has increased since the 1980s, this triumph has brought with it myriad issues.

The workplace has become a competitive battlefield, where an “every woman for herself” mentality pervades the ranks of female senior management.

Having achieved success by playing hardball and working hard, they can expect the same from others, and find it increasingly difficult to relate to other women in the workplace, especially when the number of males employed within the organisation outweighs the number of women.

Unfortunately, this attitude manifests itself in a tendency to suppress feminine attributes congruent to fitting in with a dominant male regime, which has resulted in a communication breakdown between senior women and their subordinates.

As an added pressure, many women look to those in senior management positions to almost ‘carve’ a path for them to follow, creating reluctance amongst these women to share the hard-earned ascendancy. While this may seem like an unbreakable cycle, take heart in the knowledge that aspiring to create rewarding and satisfying relationships at work is a step in the right direction.

Changing people’s attitudes may seem like a daunting task but introducing even the simplest measures will be easier than you think.

Reconnecting with women

Start by seeking networking groups for women, either at work or out of the office. They can be a primary means by which women can share ideas, form alliances and effectively give each other a ‘leg up’.

Organising social events for women in your workplace is also an effective way to strengthen your relationships in a relaxed atmosphere. A morning tea or initiation of a sports team are good ways to get your colleagues interacting with each other in a non-threatening environment.

Encourage managers to train and develop the women at your workplace. Training women to take on leadership roles will foster a sense of equality, and can have a powerful ‘snowball’ impact on workplace mentality – when one woman is appointed to a senior management position it will encourage others to seek similar positions.

You may also like to consider mentoring as a viable means of giving women a higher profile in your organisation.

Either becoming a mentor yourself, being mentored or organising a mentoring program will establish mutual respect between colleagues and create valuable working relationships.

Of course, not every strategy will necessarily work in your organisation. There are a number of ways to build relationships with other women, so choose the one you think will work best and remember to enjoy yourself!

By Di Pierce, senior training consultant, Australian Women & Leadership Forums (