Do women empowerment workshops work?

Women empowerment workshops are spreading throughout the world. The question is, do they have the intended effect? Discover this unique methodology that does work!

What is women empowerment?

On the question of “what is women empowerment,” we can probably agree on the fact that it’s all about providing women tools and resources to help them achieve their goals. Those goals may involve running their own business, advancing in their careers, improving financial independence, or any number of others. (Underlying many of those goals is usually the need to achieve work-life balance)

What is women empowerment? Do women empowerment workshops work? Only when you create a culture of mutual empowerment. Photo Credit: Jenny Gracia

To drive woman empowerment, find ways for your talent to sit on the driver’s seat of their careers. Photo Credit: Jenny Gracia

I don’t remember the first time I heard the question, “What is women empowerment?” but it was in connection with women empowerment workshops. I do remember thinking that it must have something to do with improving self-esteem. What else could it be? If you have to empower women it must mean they feel disempowered, right?

The problem with calling them “women empowerment workshops”

If like me you are a frequent flyer at professional conferences, you have participated in your fair share of women empowerment workshops whose leaders came across more like condescending parents than people interested in making attendees feel powerful. The problem is that the word “empowerment” itself implies that someone who has the power (the presenter, the current decision-makers) is “generously” offering it to someone else. In this case, women. Like an all-powerful genie who can give you some of his powers by touching you with his magic wand. A very unidirectional concept, indeed. (So in a way, it does go back to my initial reaction to the question, what is women empowerment. It has something to do with improving self-esteem in people who feel disempowered!)

What is women empowerment? A different kind of approach to women empowerment workshops

At the Red Shoe Movement, we don’t call our programs women empowerment workshops, because everything we do is based on mutual empowerment. We believe everyone has the ability to teach and learn at all stages of their lives and careers. Practicing this principle makes everyone feel powerful and it helps develop good leadership qualities. The acknowledgement that age, years of experience, or background are not factors that determine how much you have to offer is a great self-esteem boost for your female employees. Knowing that at 25 you have as much to teach as someone in her forties who’s had a very successful career pushes you to raise your hand for stretch assignments. Conversely, knowing that at 49 you can learn new things from your twenty-something-year-old colleague (and not just be her mentor) can give a new jolt to your career.

We believe that knowledge is always in the room. That’s the reason we developed a methodology that favors a two-way empowerment approach rather than the more traditional approach supported by most women empowerment workshops. It allows us to tap into people’s internal motivations and interest, which is the only way to sustain their career engagement in the long run. Because when you depend on external experts to provide motivation, participants’ initial high level of enthusiasm wears off over time. Until they receive another injection of short-lived excitement from another series of women empowerment workshops.

Do women empowerment workshops work? Only when you promote mutual empowerment. Featured in photo: participants of RSM Signature Event

Do women empowerment workshops work? Only when you promote mutual empowerment.
Featured in photo: participants of RSM Signature Event

No more women empowerment workshops that have limited effect

To drive engagement and productivity, nothing can compare to your employees sitting in the driver’s seat of their careers. Identifying where their passions and interests reside and matching them with their skills, knowledge and experience is a necessary step to establish career goals that each individual team member will be able to fulfill. This is not a process that can be achieved by a sprinkle of women empowerment workshops here and there. To that effect, our approach focuses on training your trainers to conduct sustainable, ongoing programs that you can measure. The RSM Circles invite small groups of women to meet every two weeks for nine structured sessions during which they work together to help each other figure out their individual career goals, they build camaraderie and trust which are the backbones of mutual long-term support. In the end, you’ll have a group of highly engaged women ready to tackle their next career challenge.

So the next time you need to offer corporate leadership development programs for the women in your organization, think twice about the sustainability of the effort. Ask yourself, “What is women empowerment?” Am I really empowering women when I send the message that the power lives elsewhere and not within themselves? Are there ways in which we can create a culture of mutual empowerment rather than continue to act as though power is unidirectional? Once you answer those questions you’ll realize you might need to start making some changes in the kind of programs you offer and develop.

And leave us your opinion of women empowerment workshops below!

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Award-winning, best-selling author, corporate consultant and international speaker on career success and women empowerment. Frequent media contributor on CNN, Univision, Telemundo and others. Her latest book "Find Your Inner Red Shoes" is the backbone of the Red Shoe Movement.
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