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Insights: How to Encourage a High-level Female to Support Other Females at Work

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Submitted by: WISE San Francisco member | 15+ years professional experience

I am in a work environment where there is only one woman on the executive level and she is not supportive of promoting other woman. What is the best way to approach her to encourage change?


It can be extremely hard to be the only senior woman at the executive level in sports. Do you know explicitly that she is not supportive? Have you heard her say that or are you just assuming, perhaps because there are not as many women as you would like to see at that level?

If you have heard her specifically say she will not support women being promoted, then you can only approach this with her if you have a very strong relationship with her already. In that case, you can talk in more general terms, such as “Wouldn’t it be great to see a more diversified population at all levels? How do you think we can make that happen?” Don’t make comments or ask questions that seem accusatory or that blame her for the lack of career paths for women at your company.

If it is only speculation, then it is best not to say anything to her. Being the only senior female executive can be difficult as she may not want to be seen as pushing a female agenda in a male-dominated industry, which can backfire on her. Be prepared to accept the fact that maybe she doesn’t want to base her support of promotions on gender. Just because she is female doesn’t mean she will automatically promote women over men.

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Jane Hollman

About Jane Hollman

Jane Hollman has more than 25 years experience in senior human resources roles at large multinationals and sports across Asia Pacific and the United States. Currently a career coach, she helps business leaders and university students think through their career paths. Hollman is passionate about creating flexible, innovative work places and mentors women looking to start their own businesses. She is also a freelance writer covering the business of sports for publications such as Women Talking Sports.

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