I feel that we need to raise awareness about women supporting each other in the workplace. To my mind, women helping women is an unused resource. A resource that, if we all utilize, can further the company we work for and us.
So, how can things get better with collaboration amongst female professionals?
Before we jump in, let’s take a step back. Discrimination against women in the workplace is, unfortunately, an old story. Women face multiple barriers from getting the job to earning promotions. A lot has been written about how hard women have to work to prove themselves and achieve higher positions. The term, breaking the glass ceiling, was first coined to focus on the hardships women encountered in a male-dominated workplace.
However, we missed out on how women treat other women.
Nowadays, various research pieces are also being conducted on how their own tribe members mistreat females. Women are accused of bullying, ill-treating women, and competing with each other.
Simultaneously, a different set of studies show what females can gain by supporting each other at work. Let us study this latter motion and find out how to move towards a better future — a future where women supporting each other is more widespread.
The emergence of women power
The situation was very tough for the first wave of female executives. They were treated unfairly and had to face disparity in pay packages and other forms of discrimination. Despite these setbacks, women advanced to key leadership positions. They steered up changes that were welcomed by all. And the result? More and more women felt the motivation to join the workforce.
People, who believed the problem of discrimination would be alleviated by introducing more women into the workforce, were proven wrong. Sadly, most women imitated their counterparts’ leadership style and came across as harsh, mean, and demanding. At the time, it appeared natural, as these women were the first generation of female managers and leaders. They were working in a male–dominated setup and trying to find their foothold.
Women against women – the other side of discrimination
The less known side of discrimination is that women bring on almost 40% of workplace bullying. It might feel like the wild wild west of the modern working environment. In some cases, they have a sour relationship with their female colleagues and subordinates. These relationships are devoid of trust and the ability to rely on each other. They often refuse to accept new ideas proposed by their female colleagues. Other females envy the achievements of women. Their same gender colleagues can ridicule women with bold ideas and firm beliefs communicated with confidence. Often derogatory words are used against ambitious women, and their success is attributed to unfair means. In a nutshell, some women are not supporting each other at work. Furthermore, it‘s startling that most women believe this and try to stay away from female colleagues. Some women depend more on their male counterparts than their female co-workers. It‘s a gloomy picture, right?
Women competing with women in the workplace
Well, the good news is that despite all the barriers and hurdles, the participation of women in the workforce is increasing. According to a recent study, 49% of our workforce is made up of women now. They learn their own authentic ways to shine a light on their results and professional expertise and strive to prove the value they create. At the same time, they face another challenge, the challenge of women supporting each other.
Competition in the workplace is not a new invention. Although, you will hear plenty of stories of women competing with the mindset that they need to bring each other down. This competition is unhealthy as it makes one win by making the other lose. It is also known as covert competition or indirect aggression. Some women find it challenging to see other women getting promotions, experiencing pay hikes, or being recognized.
What else? Jealousy is another emotion attached to covert competition. A woman may like another woman‘s presentation skills, but they would feel envious of the recognition the other woman receives after the meeting. She may feel threatened by the other person‘s popularity.
Let‘s take a minute or two to think about why that is so.
The general belief among people has been, for a while, that women are not supporting each other at work. What if the situation was different? Just think about the numerous initiatives, organizations, projects, or networks women started, seeing women collaborating and helping other women grow.
Everybody gains when women support each other
There is great power in collaboration! Women supporting each other not only make us feel great but also increase our chances of success. There is power with the pack, and the more women realize this, the more changes they can bring to the equation. Situations that seem hostile or negative can be turned into positive and encouraging if women support each other at work.
Then there is a bigger question of gender equality at work. How can we achieve that if we have women bullying women? Collaboration over competition will help women to fight misogyny and overcome gender–related difficulties.
Benefits of networking and women supporting each other
According to a Harvard Business Review study, both men and women benefit from having a network of peers. Besides, women stand to gain more in terms of finding better job opportunities and higher pay packages. Women face bias in various forms while trying to climb the ladder of leadership. But having close contact with other women helps them to deal with these hurdles easier. They can benefit from the experiences of women who have already faced bias. You can make better decisions, dare to ask for what you are worth, and offer your unique talents to align with the organization’s goals.
That‘s right – building your own circle of girls, and having each other‘s back is a great feeling. Having strong professional relationships with peers and supporting each other could help women to advance their careers. Women act as sponsors and mentors to each other, which, in the long run, is beneficial to them as well as the organization.
Move beyond connection building
When we attend conferences and training sessions, we also aim to build connections with like-minded people. But what are connections? A stack of business cards? Remember, for long-lasting growth and support, you need relationships and not mere connections. Women need to get out there and create strong working relationships with females from other groups. All this would be possible if you shake off your insecurities and reach out to peers.
The power in relationships when women supporting each other
We all know that relationships are powerful in creating feelings of security and dependence. Based on shared interests and goals, these unique connections could propel you to be even more successful at work. Imagine the reassuring feeling you get when you are in an environment where you can meet other women, share your experiences, and expand your horizon. It‘s a lot of fun and an opportunity to release stress, something that women professionals desperately need. Thus, women leaders must encourage relationship building with other females. Mentoring, coaching, and networking are tools that can promote healthy relationships between female co-workers.
Build each other up
This is an excellent idea! When you help others to rise, you shine. Building each other up is a way of promoting a friendly environment where people get their due credit. When someone does a great job, congratulate them, share it with others, and encourage others to try harder. When you build each other up, you motivate even more women to join and strengthen your tribe. This is the best way to fight gender–related difficulties and ensure your work is seen and appreciated. Together, you can ask for transparent policies, equality in pay packages, and other benefits.
Collaborate, don‘t compete with each other
Why do women compete with other women? When good opportunities are scarce, if a woman fears that her efforts will go unnoticed or she will not be compensated for her hard work, she will try to compete hard and grab the ‘prize.’ However, when you look at it from the opposite point of view, you will see abundance and not scarcity. Collaborating will make it easier for you to get the coveted position. Working together has other benefits, too: creating a better workplace environment, developing relationships based on trust and dependence, and enjoying your work.
Grow along with others
I have mentioned above how the first generation of women leaders imitated their male counterparts in leading teams and delivering results. It was observed that the subsequent women leaders moved away from this practice and used their unique skills to motivate others. They are more empathetic, value work-life balance, focus on teamwork, nurture talents, and are strong communicators. Women leaders can handle crises well. They panic less and are good at multi-tasking. These qualities make women leaders more successful and contribute to the growth of organizations. Having leaders who collaborate will have a positive effect on the work culture. Companies that have more women leaders at the top have a positive brand image in the market too.
Women supporting each other
It sounds great to have friends at work, doesn‘t it! When you know you have someone to turn to or ask for advice, you become more self-dependent. Collaboration, a friendly atmosphere, and fewer gender gaps bring out the best in employees. So, start seeing the change when women supporting each other becomes more frequent and see how you move ahead towards your goal collectively. Bring about the change, be the change, and find the world changing around you!