Big change happens one small favor at a time

Art by Libby Vander Ploeg

I’m at the center of a community trying to make inroads for women in advertising and technology. Not just because it’s a moral issue. Which it is. But also because it’s a business issue.

Women control the majority of consumer spending by a landslide. We also control a bit more than half of B2B spending. So it’s no surprise publicly held companies whose boards include a higher percentage of women have higher stock prices.

I attend conferences, plan and speak at events, write articles like this one, and advocate for the business of gender equity every chance I get. But the single most powerful thing I can do as an individual is to say YES when a talented, qualified woman asks me to help her get through the door or up the ladder.

20+ years of small favors

I’ve been mentoring folks for more than 20 years now — spending 30 minutes on average with each mentee — in person or virtually, providing a little advice, and a few contacts. It doesn’t sound like much. But I’ve mentored a legion of women (and more than a few men). Like compound interest, my small investment in each of them has paid off big time. They’ve all made a difference in their workplaces — and beyond.

How to play your part

Of course, I don’t have the expertise, time, or connections to help everybody. Which is why I have a small favor to ask of you and every other person who reads this. Please do your part so we can create a beautiful, unending, exponentially powerful daisy chain of mentoring.

Start now

Give it a try. Right now. Help Clare Prowse, a young designer and front-end developer. She’s a double threat and she’s moving from Canada to San Francisco in the next few weeks to be with her American husband and to be part of the innovation economy. Clare needs a fulltime staff or contract job. And she’s got a lot to offer. Talent. Skills. Values (she’s a 3 percenter). And courage — she’s moving to a new country and into the very male tech industry. Check out Clare’s work.

Think you don’t have a lot of to offer her? Don’t underestimate your ability to help. Chances are, you know something and/or someone that would be of value to her. And like everyone I mentor, Clare has agreed to return the favor by paying it forward...

If you can spare a few minutes of your time to help Clare, please leave a comment, or tweet me, or find me on LinkedIn.

Even if you can’t help Clare, I hope you’ll consider saying YES the next time a woman asks for your help. Because every single one of these small favors adds up and helps to create the change — the gender balanced workplace — we all want to see and be part of.

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