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The Secret to Women's Empowerment is Women - Mended Hearts

More information on Women’s Health can be found at the Office of Women’s Health

What a year it has been already.

Record numbers of women are making their voices heard in Congress. There are almost 75 million of us in the U.S. workforce. We are educated like never before, earning more than ever, and starting business and philanthropic empires that are changing the world.

We’ve come a long, long way, baby … but we have more work to do to change perceptions and ensure gender equality for future generations.

Lean In and McKinsey recently released research showing that despite all the “leaning in” we have done, there has been virtually no advancement of women in business. As the study put it: “Progress isn’t just slowed — it’s stalled.”

Depressing, right? It’s not the best news, but I am hopeful about our fate because we are finally talking about the issues that hold us back and collaborating on how to confront them.

I believe that one way forward is to make sure that women support each other. How can we expect women to succeed if we’re not directly involved in the effort? Women comprise almost 47% of the workforce, we control up to 80% of consumer spending and we own more than half of the investable assets in the United States. But somewhere, somehow, we became convinced that we needed men to empower us.

We are the solution.

The combined voice of women is powerful and it can uplift our communities. We should be standing up for other women at work, telling success stories and banding together so that we can’t be ignored.

In honor of Women’s History Month, here are three steps women (and men) can take to continue to move the needle closer to equality.

  1. Sponsorship at work matters, especially for women. 

It has been said that the biggest decisions about your career are often made when you are not in the room. So, what can you do? Forget the mentor — get yourself a sponsor.

While mentors guide you and give you advice, sponsors go beyond traditional social, emotional and personal growth and advocate on your behalf. For women especially, it takes more than meeting expectations and getting the work done to get noticed. you need a sponsor fighting for you. Too often, women make the mistake of assuming mentors and sponsors are interchangeable.

Sponsors can also offer career coaching and guidance that enable other women in their organization to make more strategic contributions. Many trailblazers, including the Tory Burch Foundation, Broadway Angels and Female Founders Fund are setting up networks to help women find sponsors and advance professionally.

  1. Invest in women.

As Elastigirl said in The Incredibles: “Leave the saving of the world to the men? I don’t think so.” Sallie Krawcheck often mentions this quote when she’s talking about her digital investment platform Ellevest. (Full disclosure: Ellevest is a partner of Style Salute.)

There is a growing number of impact funds that allow investors to power social and economic change by advancing women globally. How do they work? Say you invest in a fund that provides loans to women-owned businesses in a community. You can potentially earn financial returns from the fund, and it enables other women to grow their businesses.

And when those businesses grow, they create new opportunities and more profits, leading to financial growth and a more robust economy. Studies show that women reinvest 90% of their income back into their families and communities. In other words, when women thrive, we all thrive. Investment funds that pursue above market returns through investing in women include Golden Seeds LLC and Ellevest Impact Portfolios.

  1. Standing up makes a big difference.

One roadblock to equality is women’s tendency to stay silent. We have all been there — we witness something at work that isn’t OK, and we ignore it out of fear, jealousy or ambivalence. We need to change that. We can all speak up as individuals. When you witness “mansplaining” or a woman being given “office housework,” say something about it in whatever way makes you and everyone else feel comfortable.

Supporting each other will help us advance at work, start businesses, buy dream homes, reach our big life goals and achieve even more. This matters for all of us and for our communities.

None of us are operating in a silo. Advancing women in our own communities and offices and providing opportunities for them to reach their potential is important both for attaining gender equality and also for meeting a wide range of international development goals.

We can bridge the gender inequality gap by sponsoring women, investing in them and standing up for them. My mantra: empowered women empower women. When we support each other, when we work to make women stronger, when we break through taboos to speak up — if we do it together — everyone wins.