On March 8th, International Women’s Day brings attention to the achievements of women worldwide and at the same time, it signifies a call to action for gender equality. According to a report by the World Economic Forum, it could still take another 100 years before the global equality gap disappears entirely. Within the management consulting industry specifically, less than 30% of consultants are women. At Propeller, we’re proud to share that our workforce is led by a female co-founder, and that 54% of our consultants are women. To address gender inequity with transparency and shine a light on what can be done to empower women, we launched Propel Her, a gender diversity initiative. To celebrate International Women’s Day, we asked members of our team what they do to support and empower their colleagues who identify as women.
I have helped my female colleagues by being their cheerleader and a sounding board. I like to ask questions to understand individual’s interests and goals. When I come across something similar in my career journey that might be beneficial to them, I can then share those ideas. Empowering women means fostering a community of helping one another.
HEATHER MCFARLAND, PROPELLER ALUMNA • PORTLAND, OR
Be visible and walk the talk. I lead by example to honor women who have been role models for me and to show others what’s possible. By bringing my whole self to work and publicly celebrating the successes and the struggles, I hope to show the complexity of modern life and the grit that it takes to persevere. As a leader, I make safe spaces for women to have challenging conversations about these complexities, whether they reflect my experiences or not.
Something I really appreciate about the women I work with is that they don’t necessarily need to be empowered: they skillfully pursue their goals with tenacity, no permission needed. The women of Propeller tend to guide and inspire each other by example. They’re strong self-advocates, they enforce appropriate boundaries, and they’re nearly always willing to drop what they’re doing to offer advice, encouragement, and strategies. Ultimately, we’re all playing for the same team, and genuinely want to see each other succeed.
JEN BIRK, PROPELLER ALUMNA • PORTLAND, OR
I empower female colleagues by finding ways for them to shine. This can take many forms, such as: encouraging a female colleague to pursue a great opportunity, mentioning her name to leadership, advocating and supporting a great idea she came up with, or offering support, especially in cases when she may be feeling self doubt around the pursuit. I also try to take an inclusive approach when I'm leading a project or initiative, particularly when it comes to crafting an environment for younger women to explore, try, and fail. Furthermore, empowering women is about sharing knowledge, resources, skills, values, and connections, enabling women to be their full, authentic selves. I don't dictate or tell women what to do; I provide them with the tools they want and need so they can chart their own best path forward.
STEPHANIE STANO, PROPELLER ALUMNA • PORTLAND, OR
As women, we sometimes feel awkward tooting our own horn so I love to do this for other women. Giving credit where it’s due, and sharing it with other co-workers is important. I’ve found that praising other women that do great work helps to build confidence, mitigate competition, and strengthen relationships. One of the other things I love to do is to tell women to ask for their worth. After being listed as a reference for a former colleague, her potential employer called me. After giving an authentic review of why they should hire her, I mentioned that I had seen the job posting. Given her skill set, I suggested they consider raising their offer. A few days later I received a phone call from the former colleague thanking me and letting me know they did increase their offer to her...quite substantially!
Democratize the process of gathering inputs and ideas and ensure you’re hearing everyone’s voices, thought processes and approaches. The best way to empower is to have an open mind. Celebrating what you have learned from your female colleagues and the value that they have provided as well as giving credit in an uplifting, visible and public manner creates a supportive environment.