Once upon a time, women used to stick together, gossip together, and uplift each other.
If one woman had the news, all the ladies in the neighborhood had the news. This means Ethel, Margaret, Mary, Gertrude, Anna Mae, and the rest of them. There was competition, but not as frequent and on the same level that you see today.
Nowadays, some women are out for blood because another woman has something they want to attain. I have been cut a few times—not literally, but figuratively. Others are unwilling to help other women unless faced with extreme hardship. In this case, it’s “If you help me, I’ll help you.”
Why do we tend to stick together more when times are hardest for us and not consistently?
What changed over the years?
There are more women in the workforce, and this means more competition. It seems like the higher the stakes (meaning money), the more problems for women and their ability to relate to each other.
I used to work with a woman who was the most pleasant woman with things were going right in her life. However, when she lost her position with the city and could no longer continue her mentorship program, she became a nightmare. This was when smear campaigns and intimidation tactics were launched against other women she felt were in her way. When she found out her actions did not change her outcome, she went back to the persona she had before—nice and calm, just like that.
Today’s society pushes the concept of individualism over collectivism.
This is neither good nor bad because it depends on the context of individualism or collectivism. The collectivism that allows for self-affirmation without being controlled by others can be good for the soul. However, anytime that collectivism is used to create an agenda that limits the opportunities that women can have or success that can be attained, it needs to be changed.
Many people associate individualism with selfishness, but it’s far from that. It’s the ability to think for yourself and “see the forest from the trees.” As a black American woman, I’ll admit that I am collective in terms of community building and civil rights issues. But, in terms of following my heart and doing what is morally right, I will step out in a heartbeat.
Let’s look at the competition in theory form.
When we typically compete, it is not as open and overt as male competition. We throw hints and clues at each other, hoping the other woman will catch it. Our competition is displayed through wanting to show off our accolades and establishing dominance in our communities. Women are more likely to try to destroy other women professionally, mentally, and physically than their male counterparts.
We often seek more approval from male peers than other women, whether the attention comes from wanting professional elevation, validation on attractiveness, or other “prizes.” This makes us more vulnerable to being thrown into an unsolicited competition by men who don’t respect us.
We need to separate healthy competition from B.S.
In workspaces, women tend to refrain from sharing information with other women because we fear this will jeopardize our position. This is mostly because of monolith quotas put in place by corporations and organizations. On the flip side, many women tend to have a Queen Bee complex which prevents us from wanting other women to advance to a higher level.
Ask yourself this, if she were a man, would I be doing the same thing? If not, you need to face the fact that there may be a hidden agenda that supports gender bias.
Why don’t you want to see another woman get ahead?
Support other women and allow yourself to be supported.
A 2019 Women in The Workplace report created by Mckinsey and Company shows that women are more likely to experience microaggressions in the workplace. This includes being overlooked or spoken over in meetings, having someone take credit for our work, having our competence questioned, or being mistaken for someone who works at a lower level.
There is a common practice used in Congress amongst women to support each other and make sure that we are heard. This practice is called amplification—a tactic that involves a woman reinforcing another woman’s message by repeating it during the meeting to make sure her message is not overlooked.
As women, we need to learn how to not only support each other but enjoy our successes in life both fully and unapologetically. No rule book states that we need to be unhappy because the women in our lives are unhappy. Share knowledge and support, not misery.
Here are simple things you can do to support your fellow woman.
Once the healthy competition is over, it is over. There’s no need to drag another woman through the dirt. She may just add to your future career possibilities. Don’t tell me you’re relying on only men to give you the scoop on career advancement?
Don’t try to disrupt other women just to get attention. There are more important things to do than have other people fawn over you. Don’t ignore or try to hush someone else’s voice.
Ask questions and don’t make assumptions about how she got to where she is today. We are often guilty of discrediting each other’s hard work and sacrifice because we are not in the same position. Don’t hate, congratulate.
Don’t allow people to pit you against other women for their enjoyment or self-gratification. As someone who has seen bosses bring their wives to work to try and compete with women in the workplace and pit other women against each other, I advise you not to do it.
Share information without fear of the unknown. Do you want all people in certain positions to be only male or belonging to certain ethnicities? I hope not, so share the wealth because there is plenty of success to spread around.
“Women who support other women are confident, generous visionaries.”—Mariela Dabbah.