Women need to celebrate each other
March 8 was International Women’s Day, and here in my country, the United States, March is National Women’s History Month. As women across the country and around the world celebrate ourselves and each other, I want us all to take a step back for a moment. We frequently discuss how men treat us. We’ve discussed how we treat men. What about how we treat each other, especially in the workplace?
We have a hard enough time as it is making a place for ourselves at the corporate table. Yet our fellow women are often the toughest barriers to getting there. Why is this? There are many reasons, and they all need to stop.
First and foremost, women who “make it in a man’s world” typically feel like they are getting the only seat available. I know. I’ve been there. I’ve been the only woman in a sports newsroom, the only woman in a room full of history majors. We become territorial not only of our seat at the table but of our comrades.
Yet we have no reason to be jealous of our fellow women. Some of us may be jealous of the new middle manager because she looks like a runway model and is quick to laugh. We could also be jealous of her because she’s damn good at her job.
Regardless of the reason for the jealousy, it’s unwarranted, since we are all unique. No one else is bringing the same set of skills or experiences to the table. Alibaba’s Jack Ma recruits women for his organization’s leadership positions because of the diversity of their experiences, calling them the “secret sauce” of the business’s success.
While this is just one example among many, it’s proof that organizations do make room for more than one of us at the proverbial table. There’s no need to elbow our fellow women out of a chair.
Yes, our ages play a large role in how we treat or mistreat each other. I have been on the receiving end, and admittedly, the giving end of ageism, especially reverse ageism. This factor plays a huge role when the younger happens to be a manager.
Certainly, traditional ageism can be a factor in how we treat each other, but we tend to bully or mistreat our younger female co-workers more. Why? Lack of experience, perceived or legitimate, is often the answer. In my previous organization, I saw a group of middle-aged administrative personnel, all women, bully a much younger manager.
This manager, who was my manager but also my junior in age, had no college education compared to multiple bachelors’s degrees and even master’s degrees among us. She was, however, highly organized and highly motivated. When she first started managing our team, she was, at least, showing me she didn’t need a college education to be successful.
When this lack of experience started to become glaringly clear, the mature really turned on the reverse ageism. The whispers, closed-door meetings, and backstabbing began. I had too long been this young woman’s champion without reciprocation; therefore, I stayed neutral, then found myself a new job.
Try a Little Empathy Instead
While there are so many related reasons we women mistreat and bully each other in the workplace, the gist of it is we have to stop. We have a hard enough time as it is getting fair wages. We shouldn’t have to fight each other for jobs or for leadership positions.
We sometimes forget to put ourselves in each other’s shoes every once in awhile. Empathy is one of the many traits that makes for successful managers and leaders. As Ma pointed out when discussing his “secret sauce,” women are more naturally adept at thinking outside of ourselves.
When we get a little taste of power, I think many of us sometimes forget that. It’s time to remember that her fight is your fight is my fight, ladies. Let’s not fight with each other, but for each other.
Image courtesy of Gratisography