This Halloween, I dressed up as a cheerleader to support my sons’ love of football and all things New York Giants. I jumped out of my bedroom thinking my 6 year old would love it—but he was mortified. “Mom, I hate cheerleaders!” he said. As his biggest cheerleader, the words stung but I pressed on and wore that cheerleading uniform with pride.
Ironically that wasn’t my first cheerleading costume. Ten years ago I came to our company costume party dressed as the company cheerleader. People probably rolled their eyes behind my back, but I wasn’t JUST dressing the part. I have embodied that cheerleading spirit in the ups and downs of my 15 years at Berlin Cameron, a boutique creative agency. I have welled up during an amazing creative presentation. I have gotten choked up telling the team how much I love them.
And when I started working with female founders I may not have been dressed in a literal cheerleading uniform, but I found myself acting the part. Being their biggest customer or referral. Cheering for their victories. Getting down in the trenches and feeling their pain.
All of this got me thinking about the power of the cheerleader, especially when it comes to supporting other women. So I went out and chatted with several women who inspire me, from executives to a girls’ soccer coach, to see how we could all be better at cheering each other on.
Here’s what I learned:
Showing up. “When girls cheer for each other, whether it’s from a coach to a player, a fan to a team, or teammate to teammate it becomes contagious. A clap or root spurs on others, not just those competing, but the entire gender,” says Jacy Giambi, founder and head coach of Houston Center for Soccer. “It’s a boost for all women and instantly the confidence and strength becomes an aura, not just something tangible. For girls the sense of genuinely belonging to a team, supporting each other at the youngest level of soccer, is when the true love of the game begins or dies.”
Not giving up. “It’s important to never give up because in times of adversity, it’s always a time to learn more about yourself and who you are. These moments help you figure out who you want to be,” says Julie Ertz, a midfielder on the U.S. Women’s National Soccer Team and the 2017 U.S. Soccer female player of the year. “From a team standpoint, knowing I have the support of my teammates personally gives me more confidence on the field. When we cheer and support each other, we all perform our best, whether that’s at practice, during a game or even in life’s daily obstacles.”
Encouragement.That means gestures both big and small. “Invest in building and fostering relationships with other women. Be proactive and share your experiences with women in your community. Make time to make connections. Even grabbing a quick cup of coffee at the office, talking with another mom at your child’s sporting event or gathering with girlfriends can be really encouraging,” Jenn Flynn, the head of Capital One Small Business, says.
When women are empathetic to each other’s individual situations, we can be much more practical and poignant in our support for each other. It’s less about giving advice and more about understanding the relativity of what matters most at any given time.
And also empathy. It’s not always rah-rah cheering that’s the most impactful. “To me, empathy is the most underrated attribute in the workplace (and often in our personal lives, too),” says Crista Carone, president of Group NineMedia. “When women are empathetic to each other’s individual situations, we can be much more practical and poignant in our support for each other. It’s less about giving advice and more about understanding the relativity of what matters most at any given time.”
Lending support from afar. “Be there even when you can't be there,” Rochelle Stewart, engagement director at Affinity Group, says. “There's something amazing about how social media allows us to engage, support and cheer each other on — the women we know and those we have never met! This form of ‘digital cheerleading’ is such an easy way to support each other and — in my experience — opens the door to make some great friends along the way.”
Sharing the spotlight. I’ve written about the importance of women networking and supporting each other before, but it’s even clearer when it comes to cheering that the group is more powerful than the individual. “A recent survey found that nearly two-thirds of women believe that women can achieve more when we work together, and at Secret, we couldn’t agree more,” explains Sara Saunders, Associate Brand Director of Secret Deodorant. “That’s why our new ‘All Strength, No Sweat’ campaign and our new “Cheer” spot honors barrier-breaking women who boldly pursue their passions without ‘sweating’ the obstacles in their path, such as those on the U.S. Women’s National Soccer Team.”
Tara Lechner, the principal at Sherman Elementary School in Roselle Park, NJ, adds, “I began this year with the motto: ‘Always Stay Humble and Kind.' We teach our children to share their accomplishments but more importantly care about the accomplishments of others. This is such an important piece to getting children to become selfless and learn to think about other people’s needs.”
How you use your dollars. “To me, cheering each other on means putting your money where your mouth is, taking those few extra minutes when we're buying something to make sure that the product or service you're buying is going to economically benefit women. Money talks. Period, the end,” says Karen Cahn, the founder and CEO of iFundWomen.
I’ll never be a professional cheerleader (if you saw me dance, you’d understand). But I can continue to cheer for my team, my family, and my friends. If I’m ever on your sideline welled up with tears of pride or yelling like crazy, I hope you don’t react like my son and instead feel me lifting you up. And I hope that all women can let down their guard and cheer more for each other. We’ll be a stronger team for it in the end.
Jennifer DaSilva, President at Berlin Cameron, is a seasoned integrated marketer with nearly 20 years of experience working on Fortune 500 brands. She has recently championed a new division of Berlin Cameron, Girl Brands Do It Better, empowering female founders through creativity and connection, and has spoken at many industry events on female leadership and entrepreneurship. When not at work, Jennifer advises female run start-ups, is on the board of UN Foundation, Girl Up, and most importantly is a wife and mother of two boys. Follow her on Facebook, Twitter, or LinkedIn.