There are rising calls to press forward and progress gender parity in the business world. While there are many suggestions about how those changes should happen going forward, there are some steps that women can take right now. Insights from research papers and articles around the world offer five ways in which women can empower themselves. The first step is surprisingly actionable – Start with oneself.
#1: Education is the Gateway to Progress
Higher Education is more than obtaining a paper that proves your credentials – it is a gateway to professional and personal progress. Honing leadership and business skills, salary increase and career acceleration are some of the reasons people invest in higher education.
“The INSEAD MBA is the only reason I was able to make a switch in job function, geography and industry”,
says Mavra Khan, INSEAD MBA Alumna 2016. “It has given me the network and confidence to explore new opportunities outside my comfort zone.”
The lessons you learn in graduate school also help you understand the business world better. You will learn to think about the global economy and understand how your business interests fit into that structure – and the bonds fostered with one another during your programme will often translate into lifelong friendships and business opportunities.
#2: Learn from a Mentor
A mentor has specific knowledge and expertise that will contribute to your learning and skill development in a way little else can. “Having a reality check from a trusted partner (especially in your chosen field, function, or expertise) can be invaluable,” explains Katy Montgomery, Global Director, INSEAD Career Development Centre. “Mentors not only impart knowledge, but can serve as accountability partners and sounding boards”. Look for a woman or man who has been where you are and is willing to give you advice.
#3: Join Forces with Men
As you look to empower yourself, remember that men are not the enemy. With the launch of the HeforShe campaign by the UN Women, more and more men are coming forward as allies. INSEAD is home to a “Manbassador” initiative that is designed to improve gender equality. “Most men want to help,” says Minh Huy Lai, former Managing Director, INSEAD MBA Programme. “Join forces and work with them to take concrete steps in advocating for gender equality.”
#4: Embrace Your Personal Leadership Style
Keep in mind that personality traits like sensitivity and the ability to take a holistic approach may be traditionally considered to be feminine, but they are also proven to be characteristics that make for a good leader.
Follow the advice of Xiaowei Rose Luo, Associate Professor of Entrepreneurship and Family Enterprise at INSEAD: “Adjust your mindsets, shed your limiting beliefs and maintain openness to the idea that many of your experiences have prepared you well to be a leader.”
#5: Hold On to Your Core Values
Finally, your core values are what make you so wonderfully you – so don’t change them, even if you perceive pressure to change. “Being confident and believing in your own self-worth is necessary to achieving your potential,” explains Sheryl Sandberg, Chief Operating Officer of Facebook and Founder of Lean In Foundation. Beyond the risk of compromising your integrity, you could risk becoming one of the herd and failing to contribute your unique diversity to the mix.
Empowerment is the feeling that you can do anything and you deserve to do well – and it all starts with honing your skills, developing your support system, and staying true to yourself.