Women vs Women
Now more then ever we need to support each other, but what does that look like? Support means recognizing that while we are all in this together our experiences and challenges are vastly different. Many working women are struggling in this new normal to draw a clear division between work life and home life. While the weight of our responsibilities always seemed to bleed a bit over the lines the lack of boundaries has only been exacerbated by trying to work while providing childcare and homeschooling. Many of us have husbands or partners who are trying to do the same and yet much of the burden continues to fall on the shoulders of women. We are the ones with children on our laps during conference calls or chasing toddlers while on the phone. Is it because we are better at it? Is it because we innately do what needs to be done without a second thought? Or is it because we are so used to self-sacrifice, we continue to raise up those around us even when we are on the brink of falling apart?
Now more then ever women need the support of other women. Support that validates our feelings and emotional needs. That recognizes our struggles and assures us we are all walking through this together. We need women who stand up and aren’t afraid to discuss the inequities inherent in the situation we now find ourselves. We need women to advocate for each other, to have each other’s backs and to continue to cheer each other on. But the reality is as much as we can and SHOULD be each other’s biggest cheerleaders women can sometimes be each other’s toughest critics. Why is that?
The problem: Insecurity is inherent
Women are already at a disadvantage when it comes to climbing the corporate ladder. We are seeing slow improvements but as of 2019 only 25% of the most prominent C-suite titles were held by women*. So is it really any surprise that when we are competing for a smaller piece of the pie the competition is more fierce? When faced with the scarcity of opportunity we feel the need to eliminate viable competition instead of championing the success that moves the needle forward for all of us.
The solution: Support successful women
By supporting each other and championing other women’s wins, we make strides for us all. One more woman at a leadership level can open the door for other qualified women to walk through. Our successes are built on the backs of those who came before us. Instead of seeing each other as an innate threat we need to recognize a win for one is a win for all. It is much easier to lift the collective from a place of power. Additionally, women bring a diverse perspective, it is that diverse thought that helps change business as usual. That opens the doors for diversity of all kinds and enables a forward shift in thinking.
The problem: Societal expectations
Socially, there is still a cultural bias toward women acting humble and going with the flow. Women who come in with revolutionary ideas and thoughts can be seen as “rocking the boat”. Our expertise comes in to question because surely if we are not on the same page there must be something wrong with us or our thinking. Having a strong opinion that is counter to popular thought will brand you as a “B” quicker than anything else. What is even worse, is when an insecure woman is met with a woman who has ideas different then her own and instead of seeing this as an opportunity to challenge each other and to grow it becomes necessary to take down the other. The mentality here is that only one can succeed. This serves no one
The solution: Celebrate together
Celebrate your wins. And those of women around you. Champion original thought and view new ideas as challenges that will make you ultimately better. Shake off the worries of how you’ll be perceived, and focus instead on how you can lift yourself and those around you even higher. Learn from each other. Not all ideas are good and not all risks will be wins. If we collectively lean on each other, building each other up creating a like minded confidence and a resource of learning we will be unstoppable.
The problem: Guilt leads to resentment
Most women are consumed with guilt, much of it over self-perceived failures but that doesn’t make the burden any less real. Many career women with families feel guilt over how they have chosen to live their lives. It’s either too much focus on family at the expense of their career or too much focus on career at the expense of family. There really is no way to win. And this can lead to feelings of judgment and resentment. Think about the example of a woman who has guilt over missing her daughter’s 3rd-grade play to make a deadline. And now a subordinate wants to leave early for her son’s soccer match? There becomes a level of resentment among women. A mindset of ‘Ihad to sacrifice my entire life to get to this level, what makes you think you can choose to live a life you love outside of this career and succeed the same way?’ We perpetuate the reality of not being able to have it all or do all things well because we are constantly holding ourselves to standards that are not our own. What is right for one woman isn’t right for another. Moreover, personal and professional success are not mutually exclusive.
The solution: Treat women as trailblazers
Women are innovators, we always have been. You shut a door we’re coming through the window. When did we decide we needed to play by someone else’s rules? Why would my success have to come at the expense of yours? Why do we let our insecurity drive our actions when it comes to celebrating the strong women around us?
We should be building our reality off the learnings and sacrifices of the women who went before us. We can reclaim our empathy if we stop believing there is only one road to success and only room for some of us.
Without a doubt, we live in a world of comparison culture. The ability to scroll social media and consume the perfectly curated stories, rather than share our reality. We set ourselves up for falling short. We feel beholden to doing things the “right” way when in reality that doesn’t exist. Give grace; to yourself and to others. Create the life you want to live. Build up the women around you, and trust they will do the same for you. Let’s create a society of support. For each other and for ourselves.
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