Photo: Mira Miller

8 Tips from young women leaders

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By Mira Miller

Young women leaders in community development and politics discussed unconventional leadership methods at Ryerson University on Wednesday.

The event “From Rage to Action: How Young Women Lead” was organized by the Young Women’s Leadership Network.

Yasmin Rajabi, co-founder of the Young Women’s Leadership Network, explained in an interview that one of the organization’s goals is “to engage young women in politics and civic engagement.”

She said the motivation behind this workshop was to highlight the fact that leadership can look very different when the person leading is a young woman and it is important to acknowledge that these methods are just as valid as traditional masculine leadership styles.

Co-organizers Arezoo Najibzadeh and Rjabi asked thought provoking questions while engaging attendees in discussion about the different ways young women can lead and overcome barriers.

Here are eight leadership tips from young women leaders, for women leaders:

1. Find a group of women to stand behind you and support you

For all women leaders, and especially for women of colour, it can be difficult to overcome barriers alone. Women are always better working together. Don’t try and do it all yourself. Build relationships with people that will show up for you when you are facing challenges in your sector.

2. Be authentic

Do what you do because you believe in it. As a leader, it is essential to be genuine and true to who you are. This also means believing in the authenticity of others.

3. Give and take constructive criticism

Speak up when something needs to be said, but listen when others do the same with you. Opposition is often seen as a threat but it can also be a great motivation for self-improvement.

4. Put truth before career development

If there is injustice happening, such as sexual harassment or violence, say it. You will always provide space for other people to do the same. The right people will stick by you. Help yourself to be able to help others.

5. Inspire

Share your passion. Lift your team up when they are down and remind people why you do what you do; remind them of the vision.

6. Being a leader also means making space for new leaders

In order to increase the number of young women leaders, it is essential to encourage one another to get there, especially in male-dominated fields. Often times, women get into these roles on the backs of other women by imitating traditional structures. This has to change. It’s not just about getting women in the room, it’s about changing the structure so the door opens for other women to follow.

7. Know when it’s your space to speak up and know when it’s time to pass the mic

Sometimes it’s great to speak up for others, but other times it’s better to amplify their voices. Help create spaces where people can share their own unique experiences instead of speaking for them.

8. Be unapologetic

Women in leadership positions are often asked to bite their tongue. While it can be helpful to be diplomatic and strategic, it is also important to be bold and transparent. Never apologize for making people uncomfortable with your truth.

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