Recently there have been a couple of events I attended where the audience asked the panel or speaker, "What can we do to help each other?" One question came from the LGBT community and the other from an entrepreneurial women's event. The question was directed at how we can create a "good ol' girls club" or similar for the LGBT community. The answer was the same at both events: stop criticizing people and support each other. That's what it boils down to. It is true -- both communities can support themselves, and each other. How?
1. Stop worrying about fashion. I've been to women's events where there is a certain subset that is more concerned with their shoes and dresses than they are the event. I'm not saying that everyone should look like slobs and not care what they're wearing. I'm saying we should stop judging others based on what they are wearing. In the agency/tech world my clients and colleagues often look at me funny if I'm in something other than jeans. Jeans are great and you can dress them up or down, as is often the way we do it in the Silicon Beach world. Wear what makes you happy and don't worry about what others wear.
2. Be sincere. Have you ever met someone that says they are on your side but you can tell they really aren't? This happens everywhere, not just the aforementioned communities. However, if we are all going to get equal pay, seat at the table, etc. we need to sincerely be rooting for and helping others. Those who say that they're on your side should be. If you can't get behind someone or a particular cause, don't! More importantly, don't pretend to be if you aren't.
3. Don't be a flake. Again, this is something that affects every group as all have their share of unreliable people. If you tell someone that you're going to make an introduction, do it. Never give lip service about what you can do for someone. You don't look kind, you look like you only care about yourself. Just follow through or don't offer what you can't give.
4. Network and follow up. I'll go to networking events several times a week. I meet a lot of great ladies and know that some of them would enjoy meeting each other as well. Because of that I started a monthly women's networking lunch where 5-10 of us get together to get to know each other better, share ideas and discuss possible collaborations. It's easy to ask people to lunch and keeps you engaged with the new people you've met. If there aren't enough of the types of networking events you like, make events yourself.
5. Get rid of jealousy and negativity. Your mother was right. If you don't have something nice to say, keep quiet. Watch what you say, especially around the younger generations. They look to you for cues on how to act. Be genuinely excited for friends and colleagues when they get a raise or a new client. Don't be a frienemy and remove those types from your life. Also, have you ever noticed that positive people always seem to have more go their way? Sure, we can all experience a hardship but don't take it out on the world.
6. Mentor. Simply because you're a GenXer in your 40s that experienced lots of sexual harassment and inappropriate behavior in school/work in the 80s/90s it does not mean that you should now treat Millennials inappropriately. Remember how much you hated it? Empower the younger workforce/entrepreneurs and help them navigate through difficult times so that we may all benefit from a kinder, fairer world.
Remember, it isn't about excluding any one group. It is about including everyone. Let's do this together, it is the only way it will work.
How do you think women and the LGBT communities can help each other in the business world?