• Women Need A Sisterhood: Finding More Success By Supporting Each Other

    Founder at Asian Women MEAN Business. Empowering South Asian Women To Live An Epic Life!


    There's a saying that "Behind every successful woman, there is a community of other successful women who have her back."

    I have always felt the strength of feminine energy and sisterhood and considered it an amazing force for greatness. Nearly a decade ago when I left the corporate world and set up my boutique consultancy, I missed that peer female connection deeply. I attended networking events, workshops and conferences but felt that something was missing. This is what led me to found Asian Women MEAN Business, a community for like-minded South Asian women to come together to champion each other and create meaningful bonds.

    Despite the uncertainty of this year, I feel a deep sense of contentment, purpose and success. It's easy to assume these feelings develop with time and age. But from the work I do, I know women can reach their forties, fifties, sixties and beyond without knowing themselves or feeling a sense of peace. I also have my share of challenges and problems, so it's not the absence of them! Without a doubt, a huge source of these feelings for me has been being in authentic relationships with women. A great deal of my emotional and mental strength comes from the deep connections and bonds with the women in my life.

    This isn’t just a cliché or ideological comment but truth rooted in research.

    A study (registration required) published in the Harvard Business Review demonstrates that while men and women both benefit from having a close inner circle of supportive people, women are more likely to achieve the highest possible levels of success in their careers if their inner circle is made up of other women. More recently, research in academia this year led the authors to conclude that “we contend that women’s friendships allow women to thrive by meeting core psychological needs that are threatened in a marginalized work environment.” The role of a female academic’s female friendships are crucial in helping them counter and navigate the masculine culture of academia.

    Ann Shoket, author of The Big Life, is an advocate of women cultivating a squad. She says in her book: “When you’re doing something hard, like carving out a new path for your life, with no clear role models to follow, you need to find people who support you and think your dream is brilliant. Your squad needs to be made of the chicks who get you and your ambition.” This is especially true for women of color, who are more likely to be hit harder by imposter syndrome than their white peers, according to clinical psychologist Emily Hu, speaking with the BBC: “We’re more likely to experience imposter syndrome if we don't see many examples of people who look like us or share our background who are clearly succeeding in our field.”

    I know this to be true for me and other women I have supported through Asian Women MEAN Business, and it calls to mind the saying “We can not be what we can not see.” It's so important to showcase women who look like me, who are breaking through limiting beliefs and helping others to do the same.

    A landmark UCLA study suggests friendships between women are unique and special. Scientists share that being in the company of like-minded women releases oxytocin, and this can help counteract the day-to-day stress most of us experience. The same degree of impact was not witnessed in men.

    We also know that the impact of having a sisterhood is not limited to having a more successful professional life. Powerful research published in the Journal of Clinical Oncology looked at women diagnosed with early-stage breast cancer and found that those who have strong female bonds were four times less likely to die from cancer. Women with a female support network had a much better survival rate. Having women in your circle makes you stronger and more able to withstand the storms that life often throws our way.

    When women are surrounded by supportive female companions, they find themselves with a kindred network who truly understand the unique challenges we face and can offer encouragement, advice and support that men simply can’t. Women can go further in their lives, careers and businesses when they have a circle of other women supporting them. My hope is that you find your squad to support you to fulfill your potential in every way possible. As author Nellie McClung predicted, “Women are going to form a chain, a greater sisterhood than the world has ever known.”

    Forbes Coaches Council is an invitation-only community for leading business and career coaches. Do I qualify?

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