“Freedom is never voluntarily given by the oppressor; it is demanded by the oppressed.” –Martin Luther King, Jr.
How are we as women showing up for other women? Are we competing? Are we supporting one another? This question has become my fascination in the last ten years since leaving Wall Street.
I have always had a lot of men in my life. I have all brothers, all sons, and worked in a male dominated industry for 20 years. I am comfortable being around loud, aggressive behavior. Not that I necessarily like it – but I’m used to it. As a young girl, I learned how to fend for myself when my brothers wanted to play rough and as the oldest child, I was comfortable being in charge of the boys. My parents’ expectations for me was always higher and more stringent than my brothers – but growing up I thought this was because I was the oldest and they wanted me to be a good example.
And, I had a successful 20+ year career on Wall Street. When someone got tough with me, I knew how to stand my ground – whether it meant dealing with egos or being tough back. One of my biggest lessons was how men seemed to help other men. Now, I could go off here and talk about men not helping other women but that’s NOT where I’m going.
Ladies – what I want to talk about is how we show up for each other.
In the last ten years, I have had many more women in my life – bosses and clients. And I have had some of the worst experiences of my career. I have been lied to more than at any other time in my life. I have been strung along with false promises. I have been screamed at, yelled at, and called names. The week my mother died, my female boss was yelling at me because I couldn’t travel that week. I even had a female boss eavesdrop on my private conversations with my husband – through a hotel room wall! - and then later confront me about them. In fact, ten years later, I would have to say that when I compare the leadership effectiveness of the men and women bosses in my life, the men in my life have generally been better leaders, more clear about what they wanted, willing to be direct, and far less manipulative.
And this makes me sad.
Because I know how awesome women are. Women are smart, intuitive, creative, compassionate, collaborative, incredibly resilient, and more. In fact, in a study by John Gerzema and Michael D ’Antonio published in “The Athena Doctrine” they report that in today’s highly interconnected and interdependent economy qualities like aggression and control are considered less effective than the feminine values of collaboration and sharing credit. And that the qualities needed to solve today’s and tomorrow’s problems are predominantly feminine qualities.
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Take a look at the qualities on this list. The feminine qualities are a woman’s birthright. These are innate for us. Yet many of us have rejected these aspects of ourselves. We may have put these away as “soft”, "less than", and pursued developing the masculine qualities.
I’ve been there too! I didn’t have anyone in my life telling me that my empathy was a strength. Or that my intuitiveness was a valuable way of knowing. Instead of being encouraged to be expressive, I was often being told to be quiet. And not just at home. This was boardroom behavior too. Even in the field of leadership development there is a whole set of qualities like communication skills and emotional intelligence that are referred to as “soft skills”. Is it any wonder we rejected these parts of ourselves that just didn’t seem to fit in?
Here's another thing I’ve learned the hard way.
These rejected parts of ourselves sit in our shadow where they become distorted. And the interesting thing about the Shadow, is that when we reject a part of ourselves and people show up in our lives who have embraced what we have rejected, they become irritants to us. That’s just how the shadow works - like a mirror showing us about ourselves through others.
For so long, women have hidden their wonderful talents, denied who they are and felt “not enough” because they’re different from men. At times, we have even fallen into darker habits to get what we want from behind the scenes. And far too often, we see each other as competition for the approval of men.
We are the ones we have been waiting for.
The issue I’m speaking to today is not about how we got here (though I think it’s important to embrace and understand our own unique biography), but where do we go from here? How can we as women, begin to show up for each other? How can we bring our innate feminine qualities out of the shadows, develop them, and share them with the world?
Here are some steps you can begin today to show up for yourself and other women.
- Identify how you balance the feminine and masculine qualities within yourself. Do you have more feminine or masculine? Which feminine qualities do you easily express? Which qualities might you develop more? Which qualities do you reject? Click here for a list of feminine qualities and definitions.
- Celebrate your accomplishments. Far too often, we are so busy taking care of the people and responsibilities of our lives, that our accomplishments get little attention even from us. When great things happen, when you reach a milestone, when you have a moment that says “this is what I was born for”, mark it in your being with a ritual celebration.
- Celebrate other women. When a woman at work gets a promotion or an increase or the job of her dreams or moves to a new adventure or leaves her job to start a family – celebrate her too! Invite other women into the celebration.
- Mentor other women. If you’re a mid or senior-career woman, look at how you can mentor younger women. Notice the women at work who look up to you and ask your opinion. It doesn’t even have to be formal. Set up coffee and get to know some of the younger women in your company. Learn about their dreams and challenges and share from your own heard-earned wisdom.
- Sponsor women’s development programs in your workplace. We’re often afraid of being labeled as “one of those” (you know—feminists). Find ways to gather support and interest for a women’s mentoring program, or a women’s conference, or a women’s book study. The most important element is to find ways to bring women together and show your support and solidarity for one another.
- Stop undercutting other women. Even if you don’t agree or understand the behavior of another woman whether she is a peer, superior, or direct report – now is not the time to vilify other women.
- Stop giving away your own power. Every time you hide your brilliance or think you’re "not enough" or get caught up in drama – you give away your power.
At WomenConnected.net we stand for the unique qualities and strengths of women. We are teaching a new paradigm for women - that women can learn how to live in a new way with each other. This new way of being encourages women to collaborate rather than compete, to trust rather than mistrust, to value each other as much as they value being with a man and to honor and value themselves. We do this through Women Connected Circles, Releasing the Need to Please, and a range of private coaching programs.
Contact Terri: womenconnected.net and firstname.lastname@example.org