"Celebrating another woman's triumphs or success will never take away from your shine or glory. If anything, it'll add to it and create more light." Alexandra Elle
Women Are Supportive of Each Other But Not Often Enough Inside The Workplace
As humans, but especially as women, we experience joy and strength when we’re understood and supported by each other and when we know that others share in our experience and echo our voice. When we turn to the workplace, however, many women have experienced the opposite. It seems counterintuitive how much we depend upon and grow from female friendships in our personal lives and then turn on them at work.
Research abounds showing a very high percentage of women strongly preferring to work for a man rather than a woman. A survey conducted by the Workplace Bullying Institute showed that 40 percent of workplace bullies are women. Men don't seem to discriminate between men and women targets, whereas women bullies are more likely to bully other women.
Robin Ely, a researcher from Yale, whose work was intended to peel back the onion on why women’s office connections can become toxic, conducted research in law firms in which 95% of employees were male. Women in these male-dominated offices thought less of one another and offered weak support, if any. Female partners in those firms were “almost universally reviled." ”My most difficult relationship at work had been with a woman, but women had also given me the most amazing support,” Robin says. She doesn’t buy into either of the common stereotypes about women—that they are nurturing earth mamas or manipulative traitors. Instead, her hypothesis was simply that “women, like all human beings, respond to the situation they’re in.”
The Workplace Environment Plays a Big Role in How Women Interact
A strong body of research supports this finding. What is sometimes called “queen-bee” behavior arises under certain circumstances—like when a woman believes that the path to success is so narrow, she can barely squeeze through herself, let alone try to bring others along with her. Every industry, company culture, and level of competition is different but universally it is agreed that a women’s career path has more barriers than a man’s. And to have a woman standing in your way is disheartening.
Getting to the root causes of this long-standing situation will take systemic change. What is not complex, however, is for each of us who believe in the power of support to begin now to make a difference for women in our workplaces. Imagine a line of women cheering you on in the race!
Ways to Show Support for Women in the Workplace
Here are some ways we can all (men and women) show and extend genuine support for women in the workplace.
Listen to her story.
Be available, be present. Be authentic. If you aren’t, she will know it. It's human to feel competitive sometimes; jealousy is a normal feeling. Yet if we can be aware of these negative emotions, we can offer ourselves as a powerful ally to another woman.
Celebrate one another.
Humans, and especially women, thrive on encouragement and positive reinforcement. Bring the best version of yourself to the party! You will be free and open to offer kindness, joy and generosity as you celebrate together.
Treat others the way you wish to be treated.
While this is a simple concept, it maybe not always so simple to affect. Remember the golden rule, and you can’t go wrong when you reach out to support her.
Stay accountable for her and for yourself.
When you’re showing support to someone, helping them stay accountable to their goals is important for them and for you. It keeps them on track and it keeps you in encouragement. Even when it may be easy to slip into a little jealousy, what you’ll find is that support feels good. And stay accountable to your goals and ambitions. If you are in direct competition with another woman for a promotion or a job, we aren’t saying to step down or step back. Go for it. Give it your all. Just don’t push her down or step on her to get there.
Build you up while building her up.
Helping other women is in your own best interest too. There are too few examples of women in leadership and frankly in the workforce. So the more women succeed, the better off they will be to help each other. And the opposite is true, the more we beat each other down, the less advocates we will have in tough environments. You never know where your next job referral or job offer will come from.
Find Spaces That Truly Support Women's Workplace Success
If you are in a toxic situation and are being bullied by a woman, we're sorry to hear it. As Madeleine Albright says, “There is a special place in hell for women who don't help other women." It is a very difficult and complicated situation that is rooted in power or using fear to gain power. Many of us have had our own experiences with this, and we learned to survive and thrive by our own rules.
This article was first published by our partner network member: AVA an action-oriented learning community for ambitious professional women.
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