Studies Show Women Need Each Other’s Support to Reach Maximum Success — and I’ve Experienced This Firsthand. Here’s How.


Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.

Women’s History Month comes around every March, and this year, it led me to reflect on my relationships with fellow successful women. There’s an urban saying that suggests, “There’s a place in hell for women who don’t support each other.” But why is that? Should women be obliged to assist other women simply because of their gender? No.

However, they should support one another if they possess the capability, drive and desire to thrive — and if the other women can provide solutions such as mentorship and connections.

The reality is that there are numerous official and unofficial “boys’ clubs” and societal perceptions that make it challenging for women to access capital, attain promotions or “break the glass ceiling.” A study done by Northwestern University’s Kellogg School of Management professors Brian Uzzi and Yang Yang and Nitesh Chawla of the University of Notre Dame discovered that successful women maintain close inner circles of female contacts, leading to leadership positions with authority and pay levels 2.5 times higher than their peers lacking such networks.

Conversely, women who mirror successful men’s networks often secure lower-ranking roles. Another study highlights how formal women’s business networks (FWBNs) — structured groups that support and empower women entrepreneurs — significantly support them by providing vital resources and opportunities. Especially amidst challenges like the pandemic, FWBNs emerge as essential platforms for networking, shared interests and accessing resources, emphasizing the need for further examination and support.

These studies just strengthen the reason why I manage my networks the way I do. I am a part of both mixed-gender circles and women-only circles, and I’m privileged to be part of several prominent and influential women entrepreneur circles across different countries. Here’s what I’ve learned about being a part of successful women’s circles and how they essentially become a secret weapon for each other’s fulfillment — both socially and professionally.

Related: Women Entrepreneurs Need More Than Capital to Succeed. Here’s What They Also Want

1. We build a culture of support

What I love most about these women’s circles is that we’ve established a safe space where we genuinely compliment, acknowledge and support each other’s growth. We openly recognize each other’s achievements, discussing recent news articles and sharing personal experiences — like when one of our members’ potential clients expressed doubt about her business capabilities simply because she has three kids — and seeking advice from the group on how to handle such situations. We also share valuable resources and tips, including AI hacks that streamline our work. The heart of these communities is celebrating each other. The culture we’ve built is based on acceptance and support, and we carefully select women who align with these values to maintain the group’s integrity.

If you are a part of such female groups or looking to start one, encourage values of acceptance, support and opening up about struggles and failures. To build such a culture within your circle, it only takes one woman to be radically honest and open up, which usually makes the rest feel comfortable to do the same.

2. We can open doors to success for each other

As they say, “People do business with people,” and this rings true in women’s circles where deeper connections lead to increased support. Being part of a women’s circle allows us to strengthen relationships collectively and individually. This deeper connection helps us learn about each other’s strengths and what we’re working on, which often leads to opening doors for each other.

For instance, as an adviser for an external UN-NGO Committee, I had the privilege of inviting accomplished professional women whom I believed could contribute to our gatherings. I feel it’s important to bring qualified individuals to the opportunities I have access to. A colleague from a large tech company began utilizing services offered by several of our group members after connecting with them through our circle. My advice to you is to consider where you can open doors for others — think about qualified women you know who could benefit from similar opportunities. Leverage your influence and support your network.

Related: This Is Why We Still Need Women’s Networking Groups

3. We ditched the notion of competition

Unless you are living in a small village and running an offline business with limited customers, there is always ample opportunity for abundance in business. Remember, clients choose you over others because of your unique differentiation in the market. Sometimes, you may find yourself in a group with women offering similar services to yours. This can be a great opportunity — but only if both parties have the right mindset. In one circle I belong to, there are four women offering the same services that I specialize in. Instead of competing or gossiping about each other, we embrace openness. We share how our approaches differ, learn from one another, publicly acknowledge each other’s strengths and even collaborate by offering jobs to one another when we are unavailable. This perspective on competition is refreshing, and I encourage all women to adopt the same mindset.

4. We become a herd of lionesses when needed

Another hallmark of the circles I’m part of is our refusal to stand idly by in the face of injustice towards other women or causes that matter. We have this unwritten rule that we should lead by example, and as women in our 30s and 40s, we want to pave the way for the younger generation. If one member initiates a project to address an issue, the rest rally behind it, offering their time, resources, network access, social media exposure and more.

One of the group members initiated a campaign against sexual abuse in women, and the group quickly transformed into a functioning business: the PR expert took on the role of spreading news in the media about the cause, the designer contributed her skills and the salesperson found donations. Suddenly, this project was supported by several women from the group. We recognize our responsibility to our fellow women, leveraging our collective power and unity to advocate for what’s right for our sisters.

Going back to the studies outlined about the impact of women’s circles, now you can see how valuable being involved in a women’s circle can be to fulfill yourself and grow personally and professionally.

Related: Seven Lessons For Women In Business (From Other Women In Business)

If you’re not already part of such a group, consider joining these groups by asking your friends about the Facebook groups, female-based communities and WhatsApp groups they are a part of (there are so many out there, both official and unofficial) — or consider creating one yourself. The advantage? You can craft the values and character of the group and invite the right women who can create this amazing ripple effect of impact, joy and special bond.

Additionally, if you’re keen on learning more about how successful women entrepreneurs communicate and achieve their goals, I invite you to watch the webinar I hosted here together with for Women’s History Month.

This WOMEN ENTREPRENEUR® article is part of our ongoing series highlighting the stories, challenges and triumphs of running a business as a woman.

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