Don’t Rise Alone

by | Nov 20, 2018 | Wellbeing

This blog is part IV of a five-part series on the theme of ‘Valuing Your Difference: Your “Shortcomings” Are Your Superpowers’. It is based on the presentation of that title delivered at Nottingham UK’s #WomenInTech event in October 2018.

Read Part I: Diverse Thought Prevents Dangerous Echo Chambers

Read Part II: Discomfort Is A Learning Space

Read Part III: When We’re All Different, There Is No Imposter Syndrome

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There are two types of successful women in this world – those who support other women, and those who do not. If you’re lucky, you have worked with both. If you’re unlucky, you’ve worked with the latter.

Women supporting women in business makes sense on paper. But the emotional reality and patriarchal minefield that we find ourselves in can knock even the most supportive amongst us off course.

Our best intentions are continually challenged by our environments and the success stories we witness. Deborah Frances White describes a high-flying corporate executive in her book ‘The Guilty Feminist’:

“everything in this woman’s working life has told her that there’s only one spot at the top for a woman. It’s a numbers game. There are plenty of jobs for the boys… but what if you’re better than she is? What if you’re competitive with her and steal her hard-earned credit? What if other people like you more? Why would she ever showcase you when being female in a male-dominated field can be her USP?”

And it’s a perspective that is incredibly compelling. When there is limited space at the top, perhaps you can see just one seat on the board held by a woman or just one woman in the management team, it is easy to think “one day, that position is mine!”. It is much harder to think laterally.

I know at times I oscillated between seeing female peers as competition and as allies. And I’m not proud to admit that. When I have lacked inner confidence and the environment I was in promoted ‘token’ women, I internalised that competition. It’s a mindset I no longer entertain, but it’s not easy to reject what society and culture permits.

Progress Is About More Than One Success Story

As women, we have a responsibility to support the sisterhood, to bring others with us and to empower each other. And this is true of any marginalised or oppressed group and not just to overcome gender inequality.

It is not enough for you as an individual to succeed on behalf of your tribe. That is not progress, it is an exception. And if we play the game of tokenism, if we reinforce the fight for one spot, we undermine progress for women in business.

It is your responsibility and your privilege to bring other women with you as you advance in your career. Give them the opportunities you wish that someone had given you. Trust that they can do the job. Give them the space to shine. And recognise the brilliance that they bring.

That is, without doubt, what you wish a female colleague or manager had done for you. And what you wish for your best friend, your sister, your daughter, your niece. Perhaps someone did do that for you, in which case you know how wonderful it was. Take that magic and pass it on.

Thank you, And Here’s To The Future

To all successful women who have achieved against the odds and made our path easier, thank you for the progressive steps you took.

But as with all progress, we must continually level-up to keep moving in the right direction. It’s not necessary for us to model ourselves on the actions and attitude of those who chose competition over collaboration. We can rewrite the rules. 

On your own path to success, it is crucial to give yourself the space to explore your own woman-ness and how you can embrace your uniqueness to achieve your goals. Adopting more masculine traits is not necessary if that is not your personality. You can and will succeed beyond your wildest dreams when you foster the strength to stay true to yourself.

 

What’s your experience of the sisterhood in business? Share your story in the comments below.

Keep an eye out for the next part in the series ‘Be Your Own Role Model’. You can sign up to our newsletter below so you don’t miss it.

Read Part I: Diverse Thought Prevents Dangerous Echo Chambers

Read Part II: Discomfort Is A Learning Space

Read Part III: When We’re All Different, There Is No Imposter Syndrome

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