Are you really supporting other women?
Sunday, July 27, 2014
Posted by: Barbara Francella
By Michele Hanson
I owe much of
my success in business to the efforts of one woman.
I began my
career in consumer products as an administrative assistant, and the first female
employee I met on my first day of work insisted on introducing me to everyone
in the company. With her guidance, I took advantage of networking
opportunities. My career developed quickly, and in 2001, I — and a handful of other retail and consumer goods industry executives — founded the Network of Executive
Women to provide more opportunities for women to work together and support each
But we don’t
always do that, do we? It’s clear that women still have gains to make in the
workplace, especially considering we still make 81 percent of
what men make in similar professions. Catalyst’s 2014
report reveals that women hold just 18.6 percent of executive officer roles in the
U.S. retail trade.
Related: "How to break into 'closed' networks"
And yet, women
don’t work together as well as we could. An Oxygen Media poll reveals that 65
percent of women resent powerful women. Perhaps you’ve felt it yourself. After
a promotion, you hear coworkers gossiping about how you made your way up the
corporate ladder. Or maybe you’re guilty of it, too: finding ways to put down
your colleague when she gets assigned a project that you wanted or talking
about a female executive in your company and claiming she’s, in fact, prejudiced
against other women.
Women can be
prone to this sort of behavior. We interact with our coworkers differently than
men, and we can blame
biology for our emphasis on feelings and relationships. As young girls, we
play relationships games (like dolls, house and school) and we play them
nicely. The unofficial "Rule of Female Equality,” an expectation of flatness
that is prevalent in female culture, insists that we all remain equal. When one
woman has more power than another woman, she violates that unspoken rule.
women, we also are able to rise above this sort of behavior. Instead of tearing
each other down, imagine how much stronger we would be if we consistently built
each other up? History is rife with examples of the power of women working
together. From Women
Together advancing peace in unstable Northern Ireland to the Coalition of
Women for Peace working for a more just society in the Middle East, unified
groups of women are impacting communities.
can start creating stronger connections between women beginning in your own
workplace with a few small changes:
aware of the female tendency to put down women with power.
harmful conversation that tears down others.
attention to how your own communication and leadership styles might cause other
woman to resent you, and work to create spaces for healthy conversations.
out how you can build relationships with women based on trust and then use
those relationships to make your organization better.
As Gail Evans
states in her book She Wins, You Win,
the number-one rule is this: "Every woman must always play on the women’s team.
Because every time any woman succeeds in business, your chances of succeeding
in business increase. And every time a woman fails in business, your chances of
If the coworker
I met on my first day of work felt threatened by my presence in the office, she
never let on. She pushed me forward, always encouraging, and the gift she gave
me helped me succeed in ways beyond what I had imagined for myself.
When we move
from women/women conflict to women/women collaboration, we make both ourselves
and our communities infinitely stronger.
Michele Hanson, the first president of the Network of Executive
Women, is CEO of ExecuInsight LLC. She provides targeted training opportunities to
companies in areas such as women’s advocacy, organizational effectiveness,
executive coaching and more. She is a certified Birkman consultant.
Views expressed in signed blogs and user comments are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the opinions of the Network of Executive Women or its Officers, Board members and sponsors.
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