by Denise Berger
I love to quote Madeleine Albright: “There is a special place in hell for women who don’t help other women.” How often do you find that you’ve been undermined… by someone of the same gender?! What happened to sisterhood… traveling pants… friendship… trust… mutual respect… camaraderie…? Sometimes we are our own worst barrier on the roads to success and in creating a substantive change in the workplace... and worse yet, often we don’t even realize it. We undermine women’s progress by often creating drama (you know the type about which I speak) or by lacking emotional restraint to negotiate successfully without “wigging out” when frustration hits a peak.
And, about the dichotomy between working and non-working moms, book by our own Leslie Morgan Steiner , Mommy Wars: Stay-at-Home and Career Moms Face Off on Their Choices, Their Lives, Their Families , is quite intriguing and baffling. True or false: Haven’t we all gotten past inflicting judgment of each other about the decision to work or stay home? Wasn’t that a thing of the 80s? Twenty years later we surely have evolved and are in fact supportive of each other. Are we faking it? Leslie believes: “What I know for certain, because I see it almost every day from each side of the battlefield, is that the two groups misunderstand and envy each other in the corrosive, fake-smiling way we women have perfected over the eons.” Wow! I have not experienced this divisiveness, honestly, in the 20 years that I have been working, but if there are pockets of this tension out there, when will we figure out that there are many other battles to fight for women to gain parity beyond whether you stay-at-work or stay-at-home? Don’t we all seek the same level of respect at the end of the day? We all want acknowledgement for our hard work: our logistics management; our tireless and endless supervision and organization of the household or the practice or the team; our thoughtful and complex decision making which affect others’ lives-be they children, employees, pets or all of the above. When you get right down to it, we are all CEOs! We ought to be giving each other pats on the back at this point, if not getting the big bucks!
Sadly, men know that we can be our own worst enemy. Have you heard men giggle (yes, giggle) about cattiness among women? One interesting theory on this phenomenon is based on research about how women, by nature, seek equal footing with each other. When one woman steps out of bounds, for example is promoted, that is considered among women to violate the “Power Dead Even Rule”, according to WomenCo and some women will go out of their way to sabotage the person who has created imbalance among women. A second theory, from Mommy Trackd’s Newsdesk , developed by Wall Street Journal reporter and working mother, Joann S. Lublin, identifies a different culprit for the lack of women’s progress in the work world. "I don't blame such setbacks on misogynist men," Lublin wrote. "I blame complacent women. Too many women take for granted that they will enjoy equal status and opportunity on the job. They are too young to remember the barriers that their mothers and other older women battled years ago."
Perhaps tripping over our own bullish feet isn’t even a conscious act of undoing, but rather often unintentional and indirect acts that affect our progress? We lead very complicated lives and can sometimes, very simply, forget to step back and study the impact that our actions have on the ongoing evolution of women in the workforce, the bigger picture, so to speak. The concept of Karma would lead us to believe that it is to the benefit of all women to watch the select few succeed. The advancement of women serves to improve economic growth, corporate results and overall performance of talent. More success stories and greater numbers of women in the upper rank and file of our society at large lead to more possibilities for all women to be recognized for our contributions in this world. And, certainly more role models, mentors, and life coaches are needed. We need to applaud each others’ successes and seek to promote each other. And, we need to think about how our actions and decisions impact all women and our progress as a gender, and as part of the human race. Vigilantly paying attention to our individual pathways and exuding tolerance and acceptance for each other’s choices are imperative in the overall evolution of womankind. Above all else, celebrate the female spirit… together.
Do we just continue to do a disservice to womankind - undermining our own progress and accomplishments – or do we each try to applaud each other and stand by one another, supporting the decisions we each make for ourselves, our families and our careers?