As we continue our efforts towards achieving gender equity and ultimately, gender equality in the workplace, it is vital that we acknowledge and embrace the power of networks and communities intended for women. These networks, established by remarkable women in corporate America, have a significant role to play in diversifying the world of business, which still poses a considerable challenge for women due to their underrepresentation in positions of power. Sadly, women hold only 10% of CEO positions in the Fortune 500 – an appalling number. We are also underrepresented on corporate boards, in venture capital, and angel investing, perpetuating gender inequality and limiting inclusive economic growth and innovation. The consequences of this lack of representation are especially grave for women whose identities intersect with other social dimensions such as race, ability, religion, sexuality, and gender expression.
We are living in a unique moment in history. The majority of women leaders in corporate America today belong to the Boomer and Generation X generations, who were the first to be granted – or rather who were fighting really freakin’ hard for – opportunities to lead. Thus, we need to ask ourselves how we can create a mutually beneficial knowledge transfer between generations to not only equip the next generation of leaders to press for continued change but rather help us achieve our goals faster.
In this article, I’m offering three approaches to help women across all generations make progress together.
- Financial Mentoring
The capitalistic society we live in is ruled by money. It is crucial that we recognize the power of financial mentoring as a tool for women’s economic empowerment. While men are more likely to find themselves in professional and social circles aka “the boys’ club” where it’s common to discuss financial matters, women are often taught to shy away from discussions about money. On top of that, we are paid less, charged more for personal care products, and offered worse loan conditions, which perpetuates the cycle of financial insecurity. To break this cycle, we need to imagine a world in which every young woman knows how to generate wealth sustainably.
As I like to say: Systemic oppression won’t be solved overnight, but a wealthy woman can walk out of (almost) every room she feels uncomfortable in and create opportunities for other women along the way.
That’s why I believe there is massive opportunity in seasoned women coaching younger women on financial management, negotiation, and investing, as well as how to attract other career-promoting and financial opportunities. Corporate board seats are a great example. It’s a catch-22 dilemma because women are not starting their board careers early enough and by the time they want board seats at the larger companies, they don’t have the requisite for-profit board experience. Serving on advisory boards and smaller company governing can be an excellent launch pad to larger company corporate boards. Similarly, angel and venture investing can lead to board-related opportunities. By providing this insight, mentorship and access to the requisite networks to tap into these under the radar opportunities early on, we can empower the next generation of women to build wealth and
become angel investors at a younger age, start serving on advisory and corporate boards of the smaller, early-stage companies we invest it and then leverage that experiences for opportunities at larger companies. That way we can accelerate progress towards gender equity and inclusive economic growth, and that’s why I’m such a big fan of The Fourth Floor’s work because they can help get us there together.
- Meet Young Women Where They are
The second approach I’d like to explore is meeting young women where they are and tapping into young community builders. It’s no secret that younger generations are primarily online, especially on social media platforms such as TikTok and Instagram. Did you know that Gen Z is the fastest-growing demographic on LinkedIn? I would encourage more established women and women’s networks to partner with young content creators and community builders in their 20s who have built strong networks of ambitious women. Those are our future leaders. Co-host events, offer brand deals or sponsorships, share their work with your networks, introduce them to their next mentor or investor. That being said, meeting younger women where they are at sometimes requires being open to adopting new ways of progressive thinking, which brings me to my last point.
- Reverse Mentorship
Traditional mentorship can be daunting and intimidating, especially for young women who may feel like they lack the necessary experience or knowledge to ask the right questions. Women my age often wonder why any successful and busy woman would make time for them. The idea of “paying it forward” may be hard to grasp for those who haven’t yet served as coaches, mentors, or sponsors themselves. But through reverse mentorship, we can shift the dynamic and allow younger women to share our unique perspectives and experiences. A topic that immediately comes to mind is technology and how the adoption of new gadgets and digital tools can help introduce efficiencies to your lives. Cultural competence is another great example where younger women can help their mentees better understand the nuances of cultural diversity, particularly in relation to race, gender identity, and sexual orientation. Two women who have been doing an outstanding job at serving as very public reverse mentors to tens of thousands of more seasoned professionals by helping them “future-proof” their businesses for Gen Z customers and employees are US-based Meagan Loyst, Founder of Gen Z VCs, and Switzerland-based Yaël Meier, Co-Founder of Zeam. Diversity, flexible lifestyles, social justice, and mental health are priorities for this next generation and with Gen Z being expected to make up the largest proportion of the workforce by 2030, they have massive influence over the future of work and business. That’s why I encourage the more seasoned women to proactively seek out reverse mentorship relationships with younger women. We have many ideas, a desire for self-expression that is in alignment with our values and we want to be heard. But we also need people who can open doors for us.
Because with every door that opens, we get closer to closing the gender power, gender wealth, and gender funding gaps and ensure that women of all backgrounds have the opportunities we need to succeed.