You can do small things to help women succeed at the office. Here are 5 of them.

Barack Obama is probably the most feminist commander-in-chief we've ever had in the White House.

There are a ton of reasons why that claim is valid.

But I will say — prepare yourself, Obama fans — things weren't always easy for women staffers at the White House on the president's watch.

According to a report from The Washington Post, Obama's White House once looked a whole lot like most other White House staffs before it: a total boys' club.


"If you didn’t come in from [his presidential] campaign, it was a tough circle to break into," Anita Dunn, former White House communications director, told the outlet. "Given the makeup of the campaign, there were just more men than women."

This meant women had to work extra hard just to get a seat at the table (literally) and even harder for their voices to be heard.

Did the few women in the early Obama administration days crack under the pressure? Hardly. They strategized.

Using what they called "amplification," women staffers made a concerted effort to support one another. When a woman would make a key point at the office, another woman would make sure to reiterate its importance and value. This not only put more weight behind the idea, but also placed more emphasis on who voiced it in the first place (read: not a dude).

Their subtle, sort of sneaky, kind of brilliant plan worked.

The president noticed their initiative and began calling on more female staffers to take part in important discussions. Today, his inner circle is split evenly between men and women.

GIF via "Saturday Night Live."

Unfortunately, America's boys' club problem doesn't stop at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue.

Across the rest of the country, women are often overlooked for important roles they need to advance their careers, and business executives (who are disproportionately male) are less likely to try and build relationships with their female subordinates, which can hinder a woman's networking prospects.

You can't dismiss these inequalities when you look at the facts.

Women are the CEOs at only 4.4% of S&P 500 companies. They make up a disproportionate number of low-wage positions. And they continue to make far less money than their males peers.

We're better than this.

If those stats have you gunning for a punching bag, don't fret. Be part of the solution!

Here are five ways you can change the gender dynamics in your own workspace.

1. Become a vocal ally to the women at work. Heck, you'll benefit too.

I'm sure most of us can name off one or two (or a dozen) talented women we work with. Like the White House staffers learned, fighting alongside these women to make sure their skills and drive are recognized by managers doesn't just help them, it can help you too.

Doing things like, say, tossing out their names for big assignments or including them in important discussions can work out to be a total win-win.

GIF via "Lindsay."

"It will help your women colleagues have access to more opportunities," according to Jennifer Thorpe-Moscon, a director at Catalyst, an organization that advocates for women in the workforce. "And you will be recognized for identifying and nurturing top talent that helps your organization grow."

2. Provide "air cover" for women with risky ideas.

Let's face it: Bringing up bold, out-of-the-box ideas to your boss can be a very scary thing.

But these types of ideas can spur some of the best results and help bolster careers to new heights.

That's why providing women colleagues with "air cover" — protection and encouragement — when they have one of these ideas can be hugely helpful in empowering them to speak up, said Thorpe-Moscon. Let them know they have your support.

3. If you're a guy, be aware that sexism is still a very real thing in the workplace, and it often slips right under our radars.

Sexism is still affecting women at the office — in ways both big and small — and it's probably far more harmful than we even realize.

Men, you can especially help in curbing this behavior.

If you're a dude, don't shy away from defending your women colleagues. Speak up when you hear a misogynistic joke or see a woman getting left out of a critical conversation.

GIF via "Lord of the Rings."

And make sure to actually listen when someone needs your help.

"Men can listen to women and trust their experiences [to promote gender equality]," said Thorpe-Moscon. "When women in your company tell you they’re being excluded, take their concerns seriously and work to fix them."

4. Recognize that women from disadvantaged groups face even more barriers to success, and fight to change that too.

Minority women, in particular, face big obstacles even just getting a seat at the table, let alone climbing their way up to managerial roles. Unfortunately, negative stereotypes and a lack of trust between workers of color and managers play roles in this discrepancy.

Some may call that racism, others may call that unconscious bias (I call it both). Either way, it's flat-out wrong that talented women of color are overlooked for positions and promotions every single day because of the color of their skin.

GIF via "How to Get Away With Murder."

Even though there are ways women can fight to overcome these challenges at the individual level, we must recognize there's a larger problem at play.

"The leadership gender gap is significant, persistent and systemic," reports a 2016 study from the American Association of University Women on this issue. "Individual choices alone simply will not solve the problem."

In order to rework the systems that leave many women of color out, we may need to start some conversations in our own work environments — and yes, fellow white people, they may even be uncomfortable (we generally hate talking about race, after all). But they're necessary.

Reach out to make sure women of color feel supported and valued in your office (remember #1 and #2 on this list?), and assure them they have an ally in you.

5. If you're a woman, don't be afraid to be yourself — even if the world's suggesting otherwise.

There's a ton of patriarchal pressure on women to act (and look) a certain way, and this pressure can understandably bleed into your work space. Entrepreneur Zeynep Ilgaz, however, learned that simply being authentic can be a real asset — not to mention it's good for business.

"When I started my company, I thought that if I acted tough, I’d achieve more success," she wrote in Forbes. "I wore pants to work and rarely dared to talk about my family. But one day, I decided to stop pretending. I started talking about my family with customers, and to my surprise, people began relating to me, our relationships grew stronger, and the company culture became unbelievably transparent."

You being you can help other women around you be themselves, too.

We have to get better at guaranteeing equal and inclusive work environments for women.

Down the road, this conversation will (hopefully) feel dated and unnecessary. Maybe we'll have equal pay. Maybe we'll have equal representation amongst our business leaders. Maybe we can declare success.

But until that day, we need to keep fighting for what's right. And it starts with us.

GIF via "Modern Family."

True

When Sue Hoppin was in college, she met the man she was going to marry. "I was attending the University of Denver, and he was at the Air Force Academy," she says. "My dad had also attended the University of Denver and warned me not to date those flyboys from the Springs."

"He didn't say anything about marrying one of them," she says. And so began her life as a military spouse.

The life brings some real advantages, like opportunities to live abroad — her family got to live all around the US, Japan, and Germany — but it also comes with some downsides, like having to put your spouse's career over your own goals.

"Though we choose to marry someone in the military, we had career goals before we got married, and those didn't just disappear."

Career aspirations become more difficult to achieve, and progress comes with lots of starts and stops. After experiencing these unique challenges firsthand, Sue founded an organization to help other military spouses in similar situations.

Sue had gotten a degree in international relations because she wanted to pursue a career in diplomacy, but for fourteen years she wasn't able to make any headway — not until they moved back to the DC area. "Eighteen months later, many rejections later, it became apparent that this was going to be more challenging than I could ever imagine," she says.

Eighteen months is halfway through a typical assignment, and by then, most spouses are looking for their next assignment. "If I couldn't find a job in my own 'hometown' with multiple degrees and a great network, this didn't bode well for other military spouses," she says.

She's not wrong. Military spouses spend most of their lives moving with their partners, which means they're often far from family and other support networks. When they do find a job, they often make less than their civilian counterparts — and they're more likely to experience underemployment or unemployment. In fact, on some deployments, spouses are not even allowed to work.

Before the pandemic, military spouse unemployment was 22%. Since the pandemic, it's expected to rise to 35%.

Sue eventually found a job working at a military-focused nonprofit, and it helped her get the experience she needed to create her own dedicated military spouse program. She wrote a book and started saving up enough money to start the National Military Spouse Network (NMSN), which she founded in 2010 as the first organization of its kind.

"I founded the NMSN to help professional military spouses develop flexible careers they could perform from any location."

"Over the years, the program has expanded to include a free digital magazine, professional development events, drafting annual White Papers and organizing national and local advocacy to address the issues of most concern to the professional military spouse community," she says.

Not only was NMSN's mission important to Sue on a personal level she also saw it as part of something bigger than herself.

"Gone are the days when families can thrive on one salary. Like everyone else, most military families rely on two salaries to make ends meet. If a military spouse wants or needs to work, they should be able to," she says.

"When less than one percent of our population serves in the military," she continues, "we need to be able to not only recruit the best and the brightest but also retain them."

"We lose out as a nation when service members leave the force because their spouse is unable to find employment. We see it as a national security issue."

"The NMSN team has worked tirelessly to jumpstart the discussion and keep the challenges affecting military spouses top of mind. We have elevated the conversation to Congress and the White House," she continues. "I'm so proud of the fact that corporations, the government, and the general public are increasingly interested in the issues affecting military spouses and recognizing the employment roadblocks they unfairly have faced."

"We have collectively made other people care, and in doing so, we elevated the issues of military spouse unemployment to a national and global level," she adds. "In the process, we've also empowered military spouses to advocate for themselves and our community so that military spouse employment issues can continue to remain at the forefront."

Not only has NMSN become a sought-after leader in the military spouse employment space, but Sue has also seen the career she dreamed of materializing for herself. She was recently invited to participate in the public re-launch of Joining Forces, a White House initiative supporting military and veteran families, with First Lady Dr. Jill Biden.

She has also had two of her recommendations for practical solutions introduced into legislation just this year. She was the first in the Air Force community to show leadership the power of social media to reach both their airmen and their military families.

That is why Sue is one of Tory Burch's "Empowered Women" this year. The $5,000 donation will be going to The Madeira School, a school that Sue herself attended when she was in high school because, she says, "the lessons I learned there as a student pretty much set the tone for my personal and professional life. It's so meaningful to know that the donation will go towards making a Madeira education more accessible to those who may not otherwise be able to afford it and providing them with a life-changing opportunity."

Most military children will move one to three times during high school so having a continuous four-year experience at one high school can be an important gift. After traveling for much of her formative years, Sue attended Madeira and found herself "in an environment that fostered confidence and empowerment. As young women, we were expected to have a voice and advocate not just for ourselves, but for those around us."

To learn more about Tory Burch and Upworthy's Empowered Women program visit https://www.toryburch.com/empoweredwomen/. Nominate an inspiring woman in your community today!

4-year-old New Zealand boy and police share toys.

Sometimes the adorableness of small children is almost too much to take.

According to the New Zealand Police, a 4-year-old called the country's emergency number to report that he had some toys for them—and that's only the first cute thing to happen in this story.

After calling 111 (the New Zealand equivalent to 911), the preschooler told the "police lady" who answered the call that he had some toys for her. "Come over and see them!" he said to her.

The dispatcher asked where he was, and then the boy's father picked up. He explained that the kids' mother was sick and the boy had made the call while he was attending to the other child. After confirming that there was no emergency—all in a remarkably calm exchange—the call was ended. The whole exchange was so sweet and innocent.

But then it went to another level of wholesome. The dispatcher put out a call to the police units asking if anyone was available to go look at the 4-year-old's toys. And an officer responded in the affirmative as if this were a totally normal occurrence.

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