“There is a special place in hell for women who don’t help other women.“
These words by America’s first female, ceiling-smashing Secretary of State, Madeleine Albright, reflect two truths:
- The strong value many women place on supporting other women to achieve their ambitions as they pursue our own.
- Acknowledgement that not all women value the “sisterhood,” opting instead to pull the ladder up behind them as they climb, presumably because they don’t think other women should have it any easier than they did.
The former reflects a spirit of generosity and abundance – there’s enough opportunity and need for what we each have to offer for us all to do well. The latter reveals a fear-based scarcity mentality that views success as a zero sum game with only so much pie (power and admiration) to go around. While this second group may be a distinct minority, they can cause immense anguish and injury as they reinforce negative “mean girl” female stereotypes, fortify existing gender barriers and, on occasion, actively seek to undermine women whose influence they perceive as a threat to their own.
Having worked in a poorly managed all-women team early in my career, I know first hand how “bitchiness” can siphon the joy from even the best job. And while there is no quick-fix remedy, it’s important to remember that if these women weren’t so insecure to begin with, they wouldn’t need to pull others down in order to prop themselves up.We must be resilient, and never let someone else’s poor and petty behavior be an excuse for our own.
Fortunately, the vast majority of women I’ve encountered throughout my career embody Albright’s value set to lift as they climb. Women like Emma Isaacs (to watch my conversation with Emma Isaacs on RawCourage.TV, click here), CEO of Business Chicks, a company dedicated to supporting “business chicks” in supporting each other. With over 35,000 members in Australia, and soon to expand in the USA, Business Chicks hosts events that bring women together to help each other, as they are inspired by the insights of speakers such as Bobbi Brown, Richard Branson, Diane von Furstenberg and Sir Bob Geldoff.
The launch of Business Chicks USA in July with will undoubtedly give many more women the opportunity to “lift as they climb.” Of course, whether you ever make it to a women’s event is far less important than what you do each day to help the women around you meet the challenges they face – both the external ones and the doubts in their own head.
A quick glance at the statistics on the state of women globally tell us that much work is still to be done to create an even playing field for girls and women. According to UN Women, women still only earn 60% to 75% of men’s wages globally. In line with that, the 2014 Global Gender Gap Report found that female economic participation and opportunity, while improving, still stands at only 60%. Closer to home in America, where women are graduating college at a rate of 2:1 over men and equal pay is legislated, women still lag behind men on nearly every other marker from wages to board representation to accessing venture capital. And this is in the face of overwhelming evidence showing that as more women are economically and socially empowered, communities, companies and countries are better off. Not just more fair and just, but richer and more prosperous.
The Dalai Lama once said “The world will be saved by the western woman.” So as we look toward the future, complete with all the challenges it holds – we must think bigger, beyond our personal agendas and ambitions, and recognize that we will go further and grow stronger when we give up comparing and competing and choose to pull in the same direction. As Janine Garner, author of From Me To We shared with me, “When women come together to support one another, it creates a powerful space for collaboration, innovation and the collective advancement of our society.” A rising tide lifts all boats. (Watch my conversation with Janine Garner about the power of collaboration here.)
To that end, I invite you to think of five women circling your orbit you could support in some way. Whether making an introduction, sharing a useful resource, posting a recommendation on LinkedIn or sharing a few words of praise in the presence of a decision maker – helping other women get ahead won’t diminish your position or power, it will enhance it.
We grow muscles by lifting weights; we grow powerful by lifting each other.
This article first appeared on Forbes.com. View the original article here.