Before we get any further let's clear things up. This is not a an angry post to roast men in the workplace or explain how unfair the wage gap is across industries. This is clear enough, time is up.
What this article will review is why every women in business needs her own support group of likeminded women, what benefits this has on them and how they can go about getting one.
I’m from a small town in Maryland but I've spent my entire career outside of the United States working in small technology companies and startups in Spain. I don't have any stories about workplace harassment or corporate politics.
I've never worked in a company larger than 20 employees. Now I am the co-founder of a SaaS startup in Barcelona and have been fortunate to feel as if I work for myself, I have full flexibility and freedom to try innovative ideas to help grow the company.
What I don't always have is the confidence.
There are several things that every woman in business needs.
2. The needed experience.
4. The feeling of being understood.
5. The network or a community I feel I belong to.
6. I am a foreigner here, I am the only woman in my company. Who feels this way in your company? What are you doing to help?
7. I am the only native English speaker. Who is struggling with language in your company or community?
8. I am the only one whose family and support system is more than 4000 miles away. Have you bothered to ask those in your circle of business is not connected or may need a hand.
9. On that note I’m also the only one who measures in miles. Have you noticed someone that may not understand the customs or culture of your company or business?
Have you formed a support group?
My case may be more extreme than the average or typical woman out there, but if we don't form meaningful connections, if we don't form a support group and network then it will feel as if you're a foreigner in your own country, your own city and even your own company.
Forming a support group is not only for alcoholics or those with substance abuse problems. In reality we all have some form of addiction.
1. Negative thinking or speaking.
2. Over working.
6. Constant worrying.
7. Self destructive habits that hold up back from feeling fulfilled, happy, stable or strong.
8. Fill in the blank with your addiction.
The negative loop.
We create these negative loops that originate from the sensation that we are alone, we are the only ones with these thoughts, these worries, these problems, this anxiety, this product, this service, this relationship, the list goes on and on.
We alienate ourselves and suffer in silence because no one wants to be that “complainer” full of problems.
We try to fix our problems on our own and we use the phrase, “ I’m an independent woman who don’t need no man” [sic] more times than we could possibly ever count.
Help to get back up.
Meanwhile what we don’t realize is that all those successful men out there are not always so independent and they do in fact need a man. They need many different men as well as women throughout their careers to help them learn, improve, get ahead, to fail and then to get back up.
There are some men and women who actually DO know how to accomplish these types of relationship issues.
They know how to ask for help, they know how to ask for a raise and ask friends to get a drink. They know how to vent from their tough week and they know how to allow someone else to vent. They know how to listen and they know not to shut someone down.
These people also know how to let off steam, they play sports and complain about their relationships, hear others similar complaints. They don’t feel alone in this world -- they know half of their soccer team is worried about their weight and the other half is dealing with relationship problems.
Oh the everyday extremes -- always extremes.
To make matters worse we are all surrounded by extremes all day every day. From extremely successful businesses getting acquired, to extremely horrible accidents.
We have world leaders being seconds away from nuclear war, and the unfair - extremely beautiful Instagram women -- you get the point. This gives us this perception that we must be extreme as well.
This can and does lead to anxiety about all the bad things that could happen to ourselves or our loved ones. All of this accentuates anxiety about our business and why we aren’t successful enough yet. Anxiety about our personal lives and why are aren’t as happy as people in Instagram appear to be and even anxiety about our own anxiety.
AND HERE we have just come back to our negative loop.
One of the most extreme examples with extremes -- is in our productivity. When starting a company we feel like being balanced is actually a bad thing. We need to work late, work weekends, and women tend to outwork our male counterparts.
As explained by Erin Telford, “Capitalism and the patriarchy has sold us the idea that we are only valuable when we are being productive. This translates, for women especially, as over-giving to prove their worth until they run themselves into the ground.”
Support groups tame anxiety.
These support groups tame our anxiety, put an end to our negative loops, make us realize how far from being alone we really are and they help give us balance in our lives. They can provide the support system and human interaction that we need and that social media will never provide. They can solve our problems by talking with others who have already been there and done that.
There have been many studies done that have proven that women need to speak with other women. A women needs a women friend. We must learn that we do not have to start from zero and that needing this help from each other does not make us weak.
Asking for help is not a sign of dependence.
Okay, I know, we get it -- I’ve been the lone wolf trying to forge my own path. When there was a smooth and free highway right next to me I could have hopped on and easily gotten to the same destination in business or anywhere else -- but, now what?
Learning how to self-care.
Now as we have learned, before putting in the time and effort to create something brand new, ask around and see if a solution already exists. Really and truly -- you don't have to invent the wheel.
Ask your colleagues or friends, look up different groups in your community and if you don’t come across anything that suits your fancy then get to LinkedIn stalking.
Don't have zillions in your group.
I advise keeping these groups under 10 people, select the women on LinkedIn who you think have similar interests and concerns as you do. Find those who are looking for similar solutions. Send them an invitation and tell them you are starting a group of likeminded women to find synergies, make connections and create a supportive community.
Once you get some interested women then find a quiet place to meet and make a plan for the first meeting. Start with some classic icebreakers to learn about their experiences, challenges and goals moving forward.
Armed with this information you can prepare the following meetings to discuss relevant topics, bring in experts or run workshops. I like to bring in an expert every other meeting to teach us something new and help us solve pain points.
Communication between the group is crucial. Have each member present on a topic they can help others with. You can begin by starting to discuss books you’re reading. Most women like to share something new they have learned or a problem they’ve solved. You can have each member share these thoughts and feelings.
There is so much we can learn from one another but we need a little direction to avoid feeling awkward or too open. The environment should be trusting, intimate and willing to create an welcomed flow of information without any judgement. This means no eye-rolling and an absolute commitment that no one will be talking about any other member of your group -- ever. Trust and trust and trust -- and loyalty.
Connections and relationships -- make your group.
Life is all about connections and relationships, they bring immense value to our lives but sometimes we need a little push and organization to create them. Join a group or create your own to start your journey to self acceptance, understanding and confidence. Go get em!