“It’s a dirty little secret among women that we don’t support one another.” – Susan Shapiro Barash
Despite still being in the early stages of my career at the age of 27, I can recall many times when I have felt unsupported by women in the workplace. Whether it was the instant judgement from my female peers as I entered a male-dominated industry, or whether it was the abrupt, sharp manner in which I was instantly challenged with when working with a new female marketing manager. Or perhaps the time a fellow female worker made lies up about me to our boss and eventually forced me to leave.
I am hugely passionate about women in business and the work that there is still left to do around closing the wage gap, such as getting women to ‘sit at the table’ and recognising and redistributing women’s unpaid work like household chores and childcare. With the odds against us it seems only natural that we support each other and give each other a ‘leg up’ on the career ladder. Unfortunately through both a mixture of life experience and research I have come to realise this is not always the case. So I am here to call out the signs that prove you (as a woman) aren’t supporting your female colleagues enough (consciously or unconsciously), and to reiterate why it is so important that you change this.
1) You think of women at work as your enemies rather than your closest allies.
2) You ignore the opportunity to mentor another woman at work who you see has potential.
3) You’re afraid – as a female leader – of appearing biased towards other women and showing favouritism.
4) You bully other women. Yes, it happens. A study showed “that female workplace bullies targeted other women about 70% of the time”.
5) You find yourself thinking things like this: ‘If I had to pull myself up on my own, why should I help anyone else?’ (For more on this, see ‘D.I.Y. Bootstrap Theory’.)
6) You act jealously towards other women, such as general gossiping and being unnecessarily ‘catty’.
So why should we women in business support each other? Well, the facts speak for themselves:
- Women make up only 4.6% of CEOs in S&P 500 companies.
- Approximately 70% of people in national minimum wage jobs are women.
- Today, women earn 77% of what men earn and at current trends it will take 70 years to close the gender wage gap (as of new reports in 2016).
- Women who work, with or without children, spend 15 hours a week on average doing chores, while men on average only spend five.
“It is a common misconception that workplace equality is only the domain of HR leaders and CEOs of organizations. The reality is that this is the responsibility and concern of every single person on this planet.”
If you are in a job role where you have a say over who gets a job, who is promoted, recognised, mentored and developed, then you are part of this conversation and critical to the movement of women’s advancement and equality. If you are not in a managerial position you still have an opportunity to be supportive by sharing knowledge and expertise.
As a director of a sales consultancy business in the technology industry, I make it a personal mission of mine to support, recognise, mentor and guide other women when I have the opportunity to work with them. Unfortunately the truth is in the type of work I do, it still means I work with men 80% of the time. Every company and sales director I have had the opportunity to work with in the past 2 years have been male.
I urge you to reflect on your interaction and engagement with women at work and ask the question: How can I better support them? Who in my team would benefit from guidance?
Here are 4 suggestions on ways you can support your female colleagues:
1) If you hold a senior position, you could sponsor or mentor a female employee so that they can make the right connections and become visible throughout the business.
2) Join or start your own ‘circle’. Join a women’s network within your company or sector to get engaged in the debate.
3) Rather than judge or penalise other women for their choices, support flexibile/home working. This could encourage more women to advance further up the corporate ladder, because they know that there is a way to balance family commitments later on in their careers.
4) Men can also play an important role in empowering women within the workplace. Men must be part of the conversation as well: We cannot do this alone, ladies. Get your male colleagues to ‘lean in’, we need both men and women supporting change together or it will never happen.
Written by Rebecca Woolford – Founder of Fanny Pack.
Please take note of Fanny Pack’s Comments Policy before commenting on this article.