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Inner Circle

Published on WIN SUMMIT:

Galentine’s day is upon us. In case you were wondering what exactly Galentine’s day is, let me enlighten you: Galentine’s is a day for women to celebrate other women. The date? February 13, the day before Valentine’s day.

Galentine’s day was actually started by a fictional TV character: in season two of the tv show Parks and Recreation, the lovable Leslie Knope gathered her closest friends for brunch to celebrate them and the importance of female friendships. In the wise words of Leslie: “Every February 13, my ladyfriends and I leave our husbands and our boyfriends at home, and we just come and kick it, breakfast-style. Ladies celebrating ladies. It’s like Lilith Fair, minus the angst. Plus frittatas.”

Let’s just say the fictional holiday really took off, as The Atlantic put it, Galentine’s has been “thoroughly Hallmarked” -- businesses like Lyft, Target, and AAUW have Galentine’s exclusive offers.

Why limit the women celebrating women M.O. to Galentine’s?

As the talented business maven, Sara Blakely says: “When women support women magical things happen.” In fact, research actually shows that there are immense benefits for both the individual and the organization when women support other women. A study by Kellogg School of Management discovered that the most successful women depended on —in addition to the wide network men also depended on— a close inner circle of women that provided a support system. As Professor Brian Uzzi, co-author of the study said: “That kind of support, we hypothesize, helps propel women into leadership positions.”

In the study, 77% of the highest-achieving women had strong ties with an inner circle. Which leads one to question: how does an inner circle help advance women’s careers? An inner circle can help women be more confident with their own voices. By sharing the similar (many times gender-specific) hurdles they’ve experienced, women realize “Oh, it’s not just me” -- thus not conflating mistakes with personal flaws, and more importantly, preventing those mistakes from changing the course of their career.

It is in these inner circles that women can feel most comfortable to privately share information about the organization’s attitudes and even give a warning about particular co-workers/bosses. Inner circles are not just a place to bond over mistakes, an inner circle gives space to be unapologetically ambitious, to share your dreams, and get encouragement to go after them.

Here are some tangible ways to develop your own inner circle:

Shine Theory: Collaboration over competition

"I don't shine if you don't shine." The term was coined by Call Your Girlfriend podcast hosts Ann Friedman and Aminatou Sow, although Ann first used it a few years earlier when she published an article on why powerful women make the greatest friends in The Cut. As they explain “Shine Theory is a commitment to asking, would we be better as collaborators than as competitors?

Embrace randomness: diversify your network

Connecting with people that have different backgrounds and experiences gives you access to new insights, viewpoints, and even skills. In the study by Kellogg School of Management, researchers noted that when MBA students were randomly sorted into sections, women would befriend women with different backgrounds, experiences, and goals. This way you also prevent your circle from being, as Prof. Uzzi describes, too interconnected, an echochamber without any differing opinions or insights.

Get Personal

Last but not least, although this may seem obvious: get personal. In order to have an inner circle you need to first reach out and make connections. Don’t be afraid to go beyond work pleasantries and get personal. Find common ground and build on it: show interest in the other person and show your circle who you authentically are in and out of the office.


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