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The power of women helping women

When women support one another, we’re all lifted up. A study on successful female leaders in the Harvard Business Review shows that women with an inner circle of successful female friends are more likely to land executive positions and receive higher pay. In our personal lives, too, research shows that close female friendships promote better mental and physical wellbeing, influence the way we respond to stress, and even help us live longer.

The power of having a good set of female friends who raise each other up is indisputable, but perhaps it’s time that we extend the power of the pack, growing its reach beyond that of our immediate friendship circle.

Here are some ways we can do that.

Upskill and uplift 

Change begins at home. Consider upskilling your domestic worker to help her get ahead. Most domestic workers perform one primary role, such as cleaning, but a recent report by SweepSouth shows that the more roles a domestic worker takes on, the greater her earning capacity is. Childcare, for example, pays more than cleaning. Ask your domestic worker what would better her skill set. It may be a driver’s licence, so you could give lessons, or it could be sending her on a course in childcare or first-aid. According to SweepSouth CEO, Aisha Pandor, “domestic workers live lives far more challenging than we could ever imagine”, and helping your domestic worker to start acquiring the skills she needs to improve her life reinforces the message that none of us are in this alone.

Empower and transform 

It’s almost unthinkable that, every month, over seven million girls in South Africa do not have access to sanitary products. Project Dignity is a non-profit organisation that uplifts and restores the dignity of school girls. Kindness is always available to us – we just have to make the choice to tap into it. To show your support, join MySchool MyVillage MyPlanet and select Project Dignity as your beneficiary. Every time you shop at one of their retail partners, including Woolworths, Engen, Loot.co.za, Builders and more, the partners will give a portion of your spend to Project Dignity, or a school or cause of your choice — at no additional cost to you. By showing compassion, you can transform a life.

Mentor other women

When you’ve reached a busy leadership role, it’s often easy to forget how your own career began and the ways you can pay forward the opportunities and advice you received. Asanda Gcoyi, CEO of the Vapour Products Association of South Africa, says that if it were not for the many amazing women who mentored her along her path, she may not have ended up working in an industry that, although challenging, is extremely rewarding. Her advice is to find an area you’re passionate about and purposely seek out juniors or other women interested in the same field — then be someone they can turn to for advice, guidance or simply to help empower them and build their confidence. Use your talents and experience to help those around you realise their own potential.

Be a cheerleader

We need to champion and advocate for each other, so look for ways to elevate women around you. If you come across a woman working towards her goals, give her support and encouragement. Imagine how motivating it would be to have a ‘hype’ woman in your life, spurring you on to realise your potential and reach success! If you’re in a leadership role, recommend women to the decision-makers. And, if you hear about an opportunity and know a female colleague who’d be perfect for it, tell her about it.

When a colleague or a friend does something great, recognise and celebrate their achievement. It bolsters their confidence and reminds them that they’re talented, skilled, and intelligent. Make it part of your mantra to laud other women’s gifts and talents, so that they feel stronger and more confident about using them.

Small gestures count, too. Acknowledge the importance of all the women you meet, and give other women compliments. Sometimes, a small act of recognition could be all the encouragement another woman needs to push through a difficult moment, changing her perspective from wanting to give up to feeling buoyed to try again.

Grow a network for success

Connect your successful friends into a network of positive, strong women, and invite other women to join. This could start as simply as hosting a lunch and encouraging your friends to bring another woman along, or creating a Facebook group for women with similar interests. Encourage each other to reach out and lift each other up. At the end of the day, we can only get so far alone. Being part of a team of women walking through life together will grow a strong sisterhood for a better tomorrow.

Share resources that help women 

Not all women know where to look for inspiration, motivation, counselling, advice and more. Share your own solid resources across your social media accounts and talk about it throughout this month and beyond. Podcasts such as The Brown Girl’s Guide podcast are dedicated to helping women and offering advice, providing resources and more. If you know of any others, share these with the incredible women in your circle along with any other resources that might be useful to them.

Buy products that support women

Buy brands that support needy women. By doing so, you’ll be helping someone and feel happier in the process. Studies show that when we perform selfless acts of kindness, our brains release feel-good chemicals such as dopamine and oxytocin, proving that giving to others is good for you. Look out for brands with charity programmes, like Sorbet’s SEW, a socio-economic upliftment initiative that trains unemployed women and men to become barbers, hairstylists or beauty therapists. To uplift domestic workers’ spirits and make them feel special, Sorbet also recently sponsored vanity care packs for SweepSouth’s domestic workers – a caring gesture to honour them as women.

Allow a woman to shine

A beautiful way to acknowledge other women is by embracing the Shine Theory. First proposed as a model for female relationships by best friends journalist Ann Friedman and writer Aminatou Sow, the Shine Theory is summed up by: “I don’t shine if you don’t shine”. It’s based on friendships or relationships where the parties uplift and support each other and see the mutual value of the other.

When women come together, great things can happen. By empowering each other, we share the road to success, and by celebrating one other’s achievements, we all shine a bit brighter.

This article was first published by iAfrica.com on the13th of August 2021.

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