How to Empower Women in the Workplace

Women in a work meeting

To empower is to support someone in having the authority to represent their own interests. When we do this for anyone, the impact is felt beyond that individual, but ripples through their families and communities. In today’s society, it’s important to empower women, whether that’s in a family, community, or workplace, as it betters the community or unit as a whole.

There are traits that are traditionally referred to as ‘feminine’ and traits that are traditionally referred to as ‘masculine’. The traits that are generally associated as ‘feminine’ include gentleness, empathy, humility, and sensitivity. The traits that are traditionally referred to as ‘masculine’ include strength, courage, independence, leadership, and assertiveness. However, in reality these traits are actually found in both men and women.

Carl Jung, the psychiatrist, called the feminine traits “Anima” (the female principal or sensibility) and the male traits “Animus” (the male principal or sensibility). He said that each woman and man posed both Anima and Animus in varying degrees. So, a woman could be more “Animus” while still being “Anima” and a man could be more “Anima” while still being “Animus”.

Both women and men can learn to create a balance of both the “Anima” and the “Animus”. We can learn to develop the balance within ourselves through developing our “Emotional Intelligence” or “EQ”. Although men and women may have both “Anima” and “Animus” traits, throughout childhood, they are generally socialized to exhibit the traits that are associated with their gender. Since the workplace is made up of primarily men, especially in higher-level positions, those ‘masculine’ traits tend to be more prevalent and valued. Research shows that in companies where emotional intelligence, the balance of both “anima” and “animus” is valued and present in senior leadership, the company is often more successful and has a higher bottom line than when emotional intelligence is not present.

Companies where emotional intelligence is valued and present in senior leadership, the company is often more successful and has a higher bottom line.

The Four Elements of Empowerment

These elements can operate individually, but when combined they create a more effective, responsive, inclusive, and accountable environment. They can be used in the workplace, in the community, or in a family environment.

  • Information: Ensuring individuals have access to all relevant information.
  • Equal Participation in Decision Making: Ensuring individuals are included and involved in the decision making process.
  • Accountability: Ensuring individuals are provided with autonomy so they can be self-accountable.
  • Organizational Planning and Inclusiveness: Ensuring the organization or unit provides opportunities for inclusion and involvement.

women in an office boardroom

How can we empower women in the workplace?

For workplaces to empower their employees, it is important to provide autonomy in the activities that they are assigned. Employees need to be given the ability to learn what is needed to know how to make important decisions on their own.

What are some tangible things you can do to empower women in the workplace?

  • Give employees generous boundaries and support independence
  • Encourage open and safe communication through effective listening
  • Believe in your employees and support them to win-win outcomes
  • Encourage “safe failure”, forgive and help your employees to learn from mistakes
  • Provide opportunities for learning and growth, and reward self-improvement
  • Ask insightful and powerful questions without interrogating or lecturing
  • Earn their trust by being trustworthy, and show them you trust them
  • Ask for their input by having them share their ideas and insights safely
  • Mentor each worker and reinforce with positive feedback
  • Give opportunities to workers to be mentored and to develop as leaders
  • Learn each workers capability and develop them
  • Clearly define roles, expectations, and accountability
  • Provide ample context when communicating expectations
  • Praise, appreciate and acknowledge their efforts

The world is still working on equality for women, for equal pay, and equal opportunity. It is still a work in progress! This is something that we can work at every day to empower and lift up the women in our lives and workplaces.

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