A Practical Guide to Empowering Women For International Women’s Day
  • March 8, 2018
  • international women's day

    Around International Women’s Day, I see a lot of inspiring, but often generic advice to uplift and empower other women. While the advice is laced with good intentions, there’s really no guidelines or practical how-to’s. What DOES it look like, in our daily lives, to empower each other? What can I do today (and tomorrow and the next day) to uplift someone?

    I’m no expert here, but in my few years of networking and hustlin’ with girl gangs, I’ve noticed a few things that help motivate, inspire and empower me. It’s not an end-all-be-all list, but it’s a start. Here’s my attempt at breaking it down.

    Money Talks

    Listen, I know money is a taboo topic for a lot of people; we’d rather talk about almost anything than our salaries. Even though we don’t like to talk about it, money matters, and most of us don’t feel very confident in our personal finance choices.

    I’m not saying to bring Excel spreadsheets to a coffee date (but if you are into that, let me know). I’m not even saying you need to talk real dollars or salaries, but I am saying we should start talking about money, how we feel about it and how we spend it, save it and invest it with other women.

    We are, after all, the most powerful consumers in the economy, in charge of almost $18 trillion in spending decisions. Where we choose to spend our money matters. When making purchasing decisions, especially those with multiple options, consider supporting women-owned and women-led businesses. Know a great woman-owned business that you love? Tell your friends about it, review it on Yelp, Instagram it. Simply spreading the word can mean a lot to the bottom line of these businesses and it’s an easy way to show your support.

    We also need to talk about investing. We’re victims to not only a gender pay gap, but also (and more importantly!) an investing gap; women are leaving a lot of potential dollars on the table. Most of us didn’t get a formal education that included personal finance or How-to-Invest 101. I was an accounting major in college, I now work in finance and I was (and still can be) just as intimidated as anybody else! As women, we are naturally risk-adverse, but by not making money moves, we’re really missing out.

    The good news is, there have never been more resources out there to help. We live in a technologically-savvy world and we can take advantage of that. If you find a great investment app, credit card bonus or brokerage account, it’s time to talk about it (pssst, by the way, I’m a huge fan of ElleVest, Acorns and Blooom as great, easy places to start investing).

    Investing in yourself – and talking about it – makes others more confident to invest in themselves.

    Careers and Networking

    Fifteen minutes before my year-end evaluation, one of my female colleagues popped into my office. “I’m giving you a pep talk,” she started. “Okay, so you’ve done amazing things this past year. I don’t want you to forget them – they are [X, Y, Z]. And I think you’re really good at [X] and you never give yourself enough credit for that time you did [Y]. You are awesome and I’m so proud of you. You got this, good luck!”

    This has never happened to me before and I wasn’t expecting it, but holy shit did it make a difference in my confidence when I entered the room for my evaluation meeting. Could you imagine if we all gave each other a five-minute pep talk before important meetings? Obviously, that’s not entirely practical to do every time, but we can start small.

    Give credit where credit is do (always!), remind other women about their strengths, directly ask other women about their thoughts and opinions in meetings and don’t be afraid to hand out compliments – but also don’t shy away from giving good feedback. Women don’t get as much (or as specific) feedback as men, and it ultimately hurts us. If you have a specific critique for another woman in the workplace, it might seem counterintuitive, but one way to empower her might be telling her what she did wrong and how she can fix it for next time.

    Lastly, when there are job openings in your office, take note of the kinds of candidates that get interviewed. Are they diverse (in the broadest sense of the term, not just male/female)? I work in an industry that is 90%+ male, so it’s often hard to think of others in my role that look like me, but having a slate of diverse candidates is important, otherwise I fall into the trap of assuming I’m an exception to the rule. There are no rules!

    Shine On

    It’s easy to fall into the comparison trap, but trust me, life is a lot more fun when you stay out of it. A few years back, writer (now Editor-in-Chief!) Kristen Geil talked about the Shine Theory which basically states, “I don’t shine if you don’t shine.”

    Sometimes we forget there’s enough shine to go around for everybody. I often find that when we start to spread light, we get light in return. It’s a multiplier effect.

    What I’m saying is, be the Key to a Peele. What does that mean? Celebrate other women’s successes with them as if they were your own. You’ll make others feel good and safe to celebrate their own success and you’ll walk away more inspired. Shine Theory is the ultimate win, win.

    This International Women’s Day, we celebrate all the wonderful women that built and created this wonderful community from the ground up. We celebrate you for being strong, for your choice to wear (or not wear) yoga pants, for your creativity and everything else that makes you GREAT. Thank you for being a part of this journey with us, and continuing to make us better. We hope we do the same for you.

    About Cass Gunderson

    Cass hails from the southwest suburbs as a proud White Sox fan and a graduate of University of Illinois. By day, Cass is an associate at ParkerGale, a small private equity firm that buys profitable technology companies. Raised as the youngest in a family of older brothers, Cass grew up a tomboy and remains active in sports. To her mother’s satisfaction, Cass learned how to embrace her feminine side in college and has developed an interest for fitness activities that require spandex as opposed to knee-length basketball shorts. In her spare time, she runs a lot (sometimes for hours and hours) because it is cheaper than paying for real therapy. The rest of her spare time is spent convincing herself that pizza and donuts can be part of a healthy lifestyle and balanced diet. Cass completed her fifth marathon in 2016 and got tired of the distance, so she found an ultra-marathon to do instead. She can still be found on the basketball courts in Lincoln Park wearing knee-length basketball shorts.

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