Sheryl Sandberg, Facebook’s Chief Operating Officer and founder of the Lean In Foundation, has dedicated much of her focus to helping women succeed. Now, as one of PEOPLE’s 25 Women Changing the World, the tech mogul offers five easy ways women can support one another in their personal and professional lives in an exclusive piece for PEOPLE.
We’ve all heard the myth that women don’t support each other — but it’s not true. Women are incredible allies, and we accomplish amazing things when we support each other.
Here are five simple things — backed by social science research — that we can do every day to advocate for the women in our lives (and these tips work great for the men who want to support the women in their lives, too).
1. Challenge the Likability Penalty.
Women face a double standard that men don’t. Men are expected to be assertive and confident, while women are expected to be nurturing and collaborative. When women take the lead and assert ourselves, we go against expectations — and often face pushback from men and women. According to our 2016 Women in the Workplace study, women who negotiate are far more likely to receive feedback that they are “intimidating,” “too aggressive,” or “bossy” than men who do the same thing.
So when you hear a woman called “aggressive” or “bossy,” request a specific example of what she did and then ask, “Would you have the same reaction if a man did the same thing?” In many cases, the answer will be no.
2. Celebrate Women’s Accomplishments.
Women are often given less credit for successful outcomes and blamed more for failures. And when we celebrate our accomplishments, we are often penalized for self-promotion. As a result, women’s contributions can go unnoticed.
In meetings, performance reviews, and everyday conversations, call out women for their achievements and point out when they are being blamed unfairly for mistakes. When women celebrate one another’s accomplishments, we’re all lifted up.
3. Make Sure Women’s Ideas Are Heard.
Women often get less airtime in group discussions than men and are interrupted more — by both men and women.
Look for ways to shape the conversation and invite other women to participate. When a woman is interrupted, interject and say you’d like to hear her finish. Speaking up is a win-win: when you advocate for other women, they benefit — and you’re seen as a leader.
4. Become a Mentor.
Mentorship and sponsorship are key drivers of success, but women typically get less access to both. The women who participated in our Women in the Workplace study reported fewer substantive interactions with senior leaders than their male counterparts.
You can help fix this by committing time and energy to mentoring other women. If you’re further along in your career, pay it forward by investing in a woman who’s just starting out. And if you’re early in your career, find a woman who’s coming up behind you or a student who’s interested in your field.
5. Join a Lean In Circle.
Peers can be powerful advocates and advisors. Earlier in my career, my older mentors advised me against taking a job at Google, and then again against Facebook. But almost all of my peers understood the potential of these companies. Their counsel was a valuable resource for me then and continues to be now.
You can tap into that power of peer support by joining a Lean In Circle, a small group that meets regularly to learn and grow together. Go to leanin.org/Circles to get started.