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The Benefits Of Building Authentic Connections With Women Colleagues, And How To Do It

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Mar. 13 2024, Published 8:10 a.m. ET

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The idea of a support system is nothing new for women. We forge friendships and connections from a young age to help us through major life events (puberty, breakups, marriage, children, divorce, promotions, you name it). We root for each other, cry together, share in each other’s wins and outrages, and, most importantly, bolster each other. 

But more than feeling we need each other, research shows that women who feel connected and supported are better able to cope with challenges, have a higher quality of life, focus more on their goals, and have a positive effect on their connections.  

So when it comes to nurturing authentic relationships with your women colleagues, when done thoughtfully and intentionally, it’s beneficial all around. Here’s how to do it:

Cultivate Your Self-Awareness

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When looking to establish authentic connections with others, it’s important to first look within.  In an interview with Her Agenda, Dr. Leah Sheppard, associate dean for equity and inclusion at Washington State University’s Carson School of Business, said she believes that having a deep understanding of who you are, what you bring to the table, and where you want to go is essential. By being self-reflective, you can develop a good rapport with your peers because you aren’t faking it at work or trying to be someone you’re not.  

Being reflective and self-aware has larger implications as well, especially when it comes to issues of gender inequality, stereotypes, and societal norms. As Tina Opie and Beth Livingston, authors of Shared Sisterhood, share in their book, digging into your preconceptions allows you to bridge differences because you are focusing on connecting with empathy and vulnerability, which builds trust. 

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Reframe Your Thinking

Mindset matters. This is why the “queen bee” stereotype and feeling we need to compete with our women colleagues can be harmful. Sheppard suggests reframing feelings of envy or competitiveness. “Pay attention to what the person has and think about what you can do to create that in your life. When you know your goals and career aspirations, you can use the people you compete with as inspirations.”

Reframing is also effective when it comes to our perceptions of others and their behavior. “Don’t take it personally or read into things; give the benefit of the doubt,” Sheppard explains, using the example of how the tone of emails and messages can easily be misinterpreted. 

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Kelly Ceynowa, an organizational psychologist, coach, and consultant based in New York City, echoed this sentiment when she spoke with Her Agenda, referencing having an abundance mindset. “We’re taught from a really young stage in our careers that there’s not enough for everybody, that there’s scarcity…when the reality is there’s more than enough to go around.” Reframing our mindset and perceptions can go a long way in minimizing competitiveness by opening the door to connections based on trust and empathy.

Consider Micro-Actions

It’s the little things that can have the biggest impact. Supportive interactions between women foster empathy and compassion, create genuine affection, and improve collaboration and the overall work environment. Women can connect over shared understandings about the pressure of maintaining work-life balance, navigating inequities at work, and sharing challenges and successes. This uplifting helps bring women together, instead of dividing them. 

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These “micro-actions,” as Ceynowa calls them, bring thoughtfulness and intentionality to our interactions. When combined with self-awareness and a positive mindset, it means we are being vulnerable and open enough to talk to other women in the workplace with transparency. As a woman, you need to continue to have that unconditional positive regard for your fellow women,” she explained. “Get really transparent about what we’re up against, from salary to how we are treated in the workplace.  Some of these micro-actions can have a really big impact.”

Network Strategically

While networking is a popular way to connect with other professionals, it’s worth considering the outcome you want so you can be intentional, especially since more of us are finding ourselves in remote or hybrid work environments post-pandemic. Depending on your goals, you may seek mentorship, sponsorship, or a more formal community. 

The great thing about networking, Ceynowa added, is that it’s more available than ever. What she finds especially beneficial is group coaching, like what companies such as Awe and Medley offer. “Not only are you meeting people, but you’re getting coaching in real-time,” she shared. “Now, group coaching can have a real impact on relationship building. It brings groups of people together, with a coach, to talk about challenges at work, to talk about the challenges in a virtual environment.”

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Marta Kargol
By: Marta Kargol

Marta Kargol is a former educator turned freelance copywriter who brings a unique blend of storytelling and clarity to her writing. She believes effective communication shapes ideas and focuses her efforts on finding creative ways to simplify complex topics. Marta uses her writing skills to help small businesses and solopreneurs share their purpose with authenticity. She is passionate about education, self-improvement, work-life balance, and wellness, all aspects of a holistic approach to success in life. When she isn’t writing, Marta enjoys traveling the world to experience new cultures. Learn more at www.mkcopywriting.com or reach out directly to Marta at marta@mkcopywriting.com.

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