Empowering Women in Business: Strategies for Success

image showing two women wearing suit at work

Over the past few decades, we have seen an enormous shift in the influence and presence of women in the business world. 

Barriers are continually being broken down, women in leadership positions are on the rise and businesses are more agreeable than ever to work towards proper collaboration. Yet despite these impressive changes, some challenges still exist, and it’s clear there is a long way to go before equality is secured. 

To help empower women in business, we have put together this guide and collated some of the best strategies for success to help women forge their way in the business world and continue on the trajectory that has taken many years and an army of strong women to initiate and grow into what we see today. 

Getting on the front foot

Empowering women in business starts where most people’s careers begin - when the time comes to select an educational pathway.

Completing a Master of Business Administration for example can be an excellent way to build the business acumen needed to achieve long-term career success, however, it is important to understand not all programs are created equal. Prospective women should perform their due diligence on any course they are considering and be sure to compile a list of questions to ask MBA admissions that relate specifically to women. Some examples may be;

  • What kind of community does the program build for women?
  • What percentage of women make up the faculty and leadership teams?
  • Does this program accommodate its student’s non-academic responsibilities?

Although showing improvement year on year, women are still under-represented across the board when it comes to participation in business studies. Data from the Association to Advance Collegiate Schools of Business shows women in undergraduate programs represent 41% of all enrollments, women in MBA programs represent 44% of all enrollments, women in specialized masters programs represent 49% and women in doctoral represent 42%. 

Asking these questions can help you gauge whether the MBA program - or indeed any type of further study you are considering - will be welcoming to female students and suit your particular needs. It is important to consider these before starting your education journey to give you the best possible start to your business career.

Mentorship is key

One of the most powerful tools for empowerment comes from mentorship opportunities, particularly for women. A mentor can help aid professional development, provide guidance, support and insights, build confidence, and help navigate you down a successful career path.

Maryann Bruce, experienced Corporate Director and former Fortune 100 Division President & CEO, says mentoring is one of the important tools for women in business.

“As senior leaders, we have an obligation to mentor and support women in the workforce - to aid in their professional development, to help build their confidence, and to guide them through challenges as they advance in their careers. I believe mentoring is one of the top strategies to help close the gender gap in business leadership,” she said.

A mentor is someone who takes an active interest in your career, whether it be upon your request or of their initiative. They can act as a sounding board, share their experience and wisdom, challenge your views or ways of thinking, and help you to gain new, important skills. Often a mentor will share a similar professional mindset and have achieved some of the goals you are also interested in reaching.

A mentor can be of any age, level or industry, so you should never limit yourself to only those who work closely with you. A mentor-mentee relationship can be formal where a regular cadence is set for meeting, or informal where you may meet if a question or issue arises. Mentors and mentees work best together when established goals or objectives that are mutually agreed upon are set.

Whether you are seeking a female mentor to help empower you as you continue your journey in business, or if you are looking to ‘pay it forward’ and become a mentor yourself, a mentor-mentee relationship can be a rewarding and transformative experience for both parties. 

Attend networking opportunities

There is nothing more rewarding than women boosting up women. In the same vein as mentorships, networking with like-minded women can provide you with a wealth of knowledge and opportunity when it comes to career growth.

It can however be difficult to start networking and often feels like hard work committing to awkward handshakes and unfulfilling small talk. Kimber Maderazzo, former executive vice president and general manager of Proactiv says the best way to combat this is to look outside the confines of your current company

“Working in large companies, I found mostly opportunities for operational networking that were confined to the boundaries of the company. This never felt comfortable, as if others were pushing for connection because they wanted something from me. Making the shift to grow my personal network through professional associations and common interest groups helped me to widen my perspective and opened the door to personal growth and opportunity,” she said.

By actively engaging with like-minded individuals, women can reap the benefits of networking. Finding valuable long-term business contacts, forming a sense of community, hearing advice from experts in the field, and sharing knowledge and collaboration are all ways to empower and help you succeed in reaching the top of whatever ladder you are aiming to climb.

The future of women in business

With tremendous effort and force of will, women have made their mark on the business world, with no signs of slowing down. 

The digital age is also partly to thank as it significantly lowers traditional barriers to entry and allows women to launch and scale their businesses with unprecedented access to markets, audiences, and support systems. These businesses can fit into their lifestyle allowing for family and work balance like never before.

By continuing to uplift, support, and learn from one another, women can pave the way for more inclusion and empowerment across all businesses. Building a mindset where promoting each other and building confidence is the norm can create a brighter future for generations to come that results in business empowerment and success.