In her instant classic, Lean In, Sheryl Sandberg references a 2012 McKinsey report in which it was uncovered that “men are promoted based on potential, while women are promoted based on past accomplishments.”
To my mind, this study highlights the absolute necessity of Shine Theory in the lives of every professional woman. After all, as we’ve learned, when women amplify each other’s accomplishments, incredible things happen. Wondering how to make incredible things happen in your own personal and professional life? The first step is connection.
Dedicated women’s organizations have been around since the mid 1800’s. Starting with pioneering organizations such as Sorosis and the New England Women’s Club, the Club Movement, as it became known, provided women who were otherwise without any political voice a space to gather and organize.
“While literature and history were often the cornerstones of the study club curricula, some clubs specialized in the study of law, music, the sciences, and other fields. Clubwomen held discussions and presented essays and speeches on current topics of study.” [source]
Clubs also were some of the first instances of organized political work, accomplishing goals such as the building of libraries and parks, often through sheer persistence and determination at town councils. Although these clubs began as segregated, upper class associations, they sparked a trend of women banding together for the purposes of political involvement, education, and edification.
Today, groups such as The Lean In Organization and The Wing are shining examples of what Women’s Clubs can look like on a larger scale, and with an intersectional mindset. While these exceptional organizations exist on a larger scale, I believe that every woman should consider the benefits of building a smaller circle closer to home.
Building Your Own Shine Coalition
This past winter, I banded together with some fantastic like-minded women at my office to form what we refer to as a Shine Coalition. The concept is a simple one, we’re a group of women who work together, meet often, have each other’s back, and are committed to highlighting the accomplishments of one another.
The advantages of a Shine Coalition are numerous. You have a group of allies, a team who are committed to amplifying each other’s achievements, women who want to see each other succeed and cheer each other on while doing it.
I am a firm believer that no two groups need to function identically, or follow a certain set of protocols–so once you’ve found a group of like-minded people in your office or community, start by entering into an open dialogue about what types of meetings would work best for everyone. This could take the form of bi-weekly lunches, or even periodic group video chats if distance is a problem.
While every Shine Coalition should and will take its own form, I thought it might be helpful to share what my group does to stay in touch with one another. We work in STEM, so technology is a big part of our day-to-day lives in the office. We created chats in Google Hangouts and Slack where we can share our daily thoughts as well as make plans and discuss any upcoming meetings. We also use these channels to share interesting articles we’ve read, talk about the books we’re reading, or just to share funny gifs that brighten our days.
We try to meet weekly or bi-weekly for lunches where we can all sit down together and talk face to face. We don’t force a schedule or an agenda out of these meetings, but the conversation often involves the projects we’re working on in and outside of the office, as well as our career and personal goals and how we are progressing towards them. Since we began these lunches, we’ve been able to celebrate well-deserved promotions, smart career moves, new home ownership, and many more wonderful events in the lives of our Shine Coalition Members.
Another great practice we’ve adopted is scheduling feedback sessions with each other prior to any big presentations we are delivering. This gives us the opportunity to go over our material in a safe space, and to receive valuable feedback that helps improve and polish our presentations. Speaking from personal experience, I’ve deeply benefited from the feedback I’ve received from the group, on everything from content memorization techniques, to narrative flow suggestions.
Of course, we are always committed to amplifying the ideas of one another. This means that whenever we are in meetings together, we ensure that we are actively listening to each other’s ideas and speaking up on behalf of one another if we find that people are interrupting or not listening. We also amplify each other’s work and accomplishments in day to day conversation around the office and on our office’s internal Facebook site–which is easy to do, as we are all so proud of each other’s accomplishments that we generally cant help but celebrate!
I’ve stated before that forming these relationships with this group of women has truly been a life-changing experience for me, and hopefully these examples of the tactical ways in which we support each other are evidence of that. Prior to our Shine Coalition, I often felt overwhelmed with the pressure of managing everything alone, and having to find all the answers within myself. Bonding with other talented and driven women has been a game changer, and a huge boost to both my personal and professional lives.
I hope this post will inspire you to build similarly empowering relationships with the women in your lives, and to take full advantage of the wonderful wisdom and support you each have to offer.
This post is dedicated to Kendall, Sarah, and Brit. #ShineOn