I always find International Women’s Day (IWD) a little challenging. I’m a strong advocate for women standing up for and pushing for what they deserve. No question there. And I work with many females clients to equip them to have these conversations. However, when I look back over my career and the part women have played in it. Of all the women I have worked with, some of them have been my greatest adversaries. The idea of having a team of women in the workplace that supported each other to strive for promotions etc was all well and good whilst you were their colleague. However, everything changed when you became their boss, leader or mentor. Or someone that you perceived to have more power or control than you. All of a sudden, you were a threat to them. An enemy that was no longer “one of them”, someone to be skeptical of, someone to become a closed door to for fear of being rated badly or judged. Despite having a healthy working relationship previously. Or it would become a power battle that I wasn’t interested in competing in. That female support network would disappear faster than quick sand. I had suddenly become their opponent in a battle of right and wrong, only one can win. Instead of being in a position where we can help each other to rise and shine.
Recently a past female work colleague bumped into my husband and asked him to apologise to me for how badly she treated me years ago on an intense project I was leading. That she recognised how horrible she behaved towards me when I was actually doing a fantastic job and felt incredibly bad about it over a decade later. And whilst I appreciate this, it only goes to show how messed up it is that we are competing against each other. Yes, there is a battle for equality in pay etc. However, there is also a battle in our own heads to stop comparing, competing against each other. To see another women’s rise not as a threat to you but as a sign that you can do it to.
Despite having had my own business for over a decade now, I’ve felt a lack of support there too. Yes, my business has ebbed and flowed over the years and there have been times I could have really used some fellow females to cheer me on or promote my services. I’ve had to look for that in women’s networking or business groups which are growing in numbers and I can see why. I often get a sense that there is a reluctance for women to promote my and other women’s services for fear of them being judged. Judged if an occasion should pass where someone should fail to perform. Despite mine and others having a solid, proven track record and history. Despite being impressed by what we see or who we know these women to be, we women fail to lift up or give accolades to other women WHILE THEY ARE RISING. It’s like we cannot recognise them or promote them until they’ve been extensively promoted and recognised by a LOT of others. We cannot “stick our neck out” for the perceived albeit minuscule risk.
I believe it comes back to not trusting our instincts and a big fear of getting it wrong. I believe the same reason many women struggle to apply for jobs that they don’t fit 90% of the criteria for, is the same reason we can’t support other women to rise. It’s because we fear getting it wrong so much and that the implications of this will kick back on us. So we choose not to act. We stay silent. We stay safe.
I was going to compare this to what men do however it’s irrelevant. I care what women do. This is how we as women go forward. How we shape the world we live and work in. How we shape it for our girls, showing them that not everything is a competition. That they can shine without putting someone else down. That they can rise and support other women to do the same. That we’ve got your back. So, on this IWD, look around you. How many other women’s backs do you have in your workplace. If not many, maybe ask yourself why not?