In one of my last roles before becoming self-employed, I had to deal with a woman who was the very stereotype that perpetuates women not supporting one another. Any fellow female worker she perceived either as outshining her or undermining her in any way was subject to her wrath. She talked behind people's backs. She threw other women under the bus, and in general, any female who reported to her had a choice to make: do mental and physical acrobatics to make certain they gave her center stage or be pushed out.
As I share this experience, frankly, I feel guilty. In explaining what has prompted my mission to support other women at all costs, I'm shining a light on another woman's negative behavior. I don't enjoy this now, and I didn't enjoy it then. Making your female co-workers the enemy isn't what I'd call a healthy competition. It is perhaps a short-term solution to a long-term problem. Yes, you may feel victorious for a few minutes or maybe even climb the corporate ladder, but how is this cut-throat, "there's only room for one woman at the top" philosophy going to help more women secure leadership roles? And really, what do you want your legacy to be? A woman who created a bigger table for more women or the queen bee who isn't respected. I'm not even talking being liked or not, but genuinely respected.
Perhaps I can't blame her as the workplace isn't always a level playing field. Still, it created such a toxic environment, and even though it will not be easy, we need to do better. After some time privately analyzing that experience, I can honestly say I have to thank her. She brought home how much we need to work together for equal pay, for equal opportunity, and if nothing else, to show future generations that we do not have to fall victim to the female rivalry narrative.
I spoke to three women who share this commitment.
Turning a Negative Into A Positive
We can take these experiences and learn from them to enact real change. Reimagining how women can promote one another is what Kathleen Griffith, Catie Luzio, and Kristy Wallace are aiming to do both professionally and personally.