I’m writing this post while pumping. It is the reality of this woman in the workplace. I reached out to female colleagues and asked a vague question about what their experiences have been as women in the workplace. Turns out, I gave women a platform. And in a small pool of experiences, there seemed to be a sisterhood of silence.

I learned at an early age that I had to be loud. I remember I cracked a joke that was followed by silence, only to hear a boy repeat it and receive hysterical laughter. No, it wasn’t my delivery. As a woman in advertising, I’ve stayed loud. I’ve been in countless meetings as the only woman. I’ve walked on set to find myself a minority. It’s recurring moments such as these that remind me it’s my responsibility to be a representative.

—Taylor, Senior Copywriter

Being a woman in the workplace feels like an eternal battle to be acknowledged by peers, superiors, and clients. In many instances, I’ve been outright ignored or steamrolled. These experiences are exhausting, but they fuel me. I’ve learned to take control of my professional career. I don’t have the luxury of being laissez-faire. I fight every day, in every single discussion and meeting, to make sure that my ideas are heard and my opinions are taken seriously. I ensure my voice is loud enough to provide perspectives that I know are important.

— Justina, Account Executive

I find the potential labels of being a woman in the workplace challenging. I’m either too bossy and emotional or too quiet and passive. I believe men are allowed, and perhaps even encouraged, to unapologetically express their opinions. I don’t think women have the same permission to be loud. At least, not without fear of being labeled.

— Brooke, Graphic Designer/Art Director

In a male-dominated industry such as advertising, women have a lot to say but feel as if they are shouting into the void. The problem is complex. I don’t have a grand plan that will solve world hunger and simultaneously eradicate sexism. I do, however, have actionable small-scale solutions.

▪ Listen. This seems easy, but has proven difficult. If you take one thing away from this post, it’s listen. Listening means you acknowledge her voice is important. Listening is allowing her to finish her sentence. Listening is being actively engaged in what she is saying.

▪ Include. Bring her into a meeting for a new perspective. Pointedly ask for her opinion. This isn’t about making her feel involved, it’s about recognizing the need to include a female perspective because it’s valid and should be valued.

▪ Support. If you’re in a position of power, provide plenty of growth opportunity. Be a mentor, or provide mentors. Build a welcoming environment. As a peer, be motivational. Set aside ego and encourage success in others, not just yourself.

▪ Hold others accountable. Perhaps you’re already a champion of women in the workplace. First off, yay. Second, insist others do better. Minding your own business has its place, but you should stand up when others don’t feel they have the ability. Spectators are complicit.

This is the part of the post where I motivate you to make real change in your daily lives to support women in the workplace. So here it is: step up.