“There is a special place in hell for women who don’t help other women.” Madeleine Albright, former United States Ambassador to the United Nations
This famed 2006 quote from Madeleine Albright to the Women’s National Basketball Association expresses what so many women feel and eleven years later it still hits a nerve.
Our modern workplace is complex and changing by the millisecond. Input comes from every direction – not only from our managers and co-workers but also virtual colleagues, friends, family, and the relentlessly proliferating social media platforms. Given this landscape, does anyone really have the surefire fool-proof road map to guaranteed success?
I certainly don’t.
What I do see is that women now comprise more than 50% of the American workforce and more women than men are earning college degrees. In addition, more women than ever before (including former Executive Assistants like Ursula Burns of Xerox) are joining the ranks of leadership in both companies and governments. Regardless of what you think of her, it was a very big deal for presidential nominee Hillary Clinton to have gone where no woman has ever gone before. Another glass ceiling is broken. My sincere hope is that other women are inspired to run for office and that they are strongly supported and celebrated by other women as opposed to being torn down. There is much at stake in the 2017 landscape.
It is important to note that this issue is not about women vs men. We should be on the same side working towards equal pay and fair maternity/paternity policies. After all, don’t men have mothers, wives, daughters, and sisters? The very best outcome will be when both genders can be mentors for one another and work together in partnership and collaboration. However, we still have much work to do.
If the Women’s Marches that took place on January 21 not only in Washington, DC but all over the world are any indication, it seems clear that women are wide awake and eager to share their opinions on issues that matter to them in the workplace and in their homes. Men were marching right alongside them too which is very good news.
In my work speaking and teaching all over the world, I understand Madeleine Albright’s concern and see the issues between women everywhere I go. When Sheryl Sandberg, COO of Facebook, appeared on the cover of Time Magazine in 2013, the headline was, “Don’t hate her because she’s successful.” This idea alludes to one of the points in her groundbreaking book “Lean In” which is, that the more successful a man is, the more he is liked but the more successful a woman is, the less she is liked. This reality is chasing talented women away from powerful positions because they feel ostracized, ridiculed, and alone. Worse, the situation discourages talented women from even trying in the first place which accounts for the low numbers of female CEOs.
As women, a bright future means liking and strongly supporting successful women and doing it openly, proudly, generously, and without apology.
Here are 10 reasons why it is a no-brainer for women to reject the old stereotypes and for women to help other women succeed at every level.
- Today’s co-workers could be tomorrow’s managers. More and more women are being promoted into executive roles so do not underestimate any colleague’s ability to rise through the ranks. Build respectful, strong and authentic relationships with everyone – women and men. These relationships are like money in the bank that builds interest over time.
- You’ll make more money. Enlist the support of female mentors who understand the ways to negotiate salary packages and have them help craft your own strategy. According to the Wharton School of Business, only 7% of women will negotiate a salary once it is offered. Why? One of the main reasons is that women fear not being liked if they negotiate. Let’s eliminate the fear and choose to like them, support them and admire them for pursuing the compensation they deserve. What I see is too many women barely able to make ends meet in part because they don’t know how to ask. It’s time to close the wage gap.
- Your powerful network will grow upward, laterally and exponentially. Men have been doing this on the golf course and at cigar bars for a long time. People do things for people, not companies. Need a new job? You will have plenty of women to call. Your son or daughter needs a connection? Ditto! Need a resource fast? Shoot out a LinkedIn, Facebook or Twitter message and watch how fast the answer comes back. Your network is where the real power lies.
- Giving kudos privately and publicly is smart to do. Raising other women up and calling out their achievements elevates you too. In fact, it makes you look great, in part because it is done so seldom. Recognize the accomplishments of women in authentic ways and they will never forget it and others will notice too. Isn’t it nice to know that someone is noticing your hard work? Send a group email, a handwritten note, make an announcement at the staff meeting, but do something.
- Women will like you. Be the woman who runs towards a problem, not away from it. Be the one who can be relied upon to stay late to hit a deadline and to do it with a smile and a positive attitude. Be a mentor. Speak truth to power. You are respectful, professional, discrete, and do not gossip. Do these things and you will be the woman who is not only liked but sought out when promotions are in the wind.
- Paying it forward feels great. Women are nurturers by nature and gain gratification from feeling useful and needed. Offering help and support to another woman is still a fairly new experience for many who had been socialized to think that the way to succeed was to put your head down, stay isolated, and rise to the top by back-door manipulation. Now that more women are in charge, they see through these behaviors in a heartbeat and are opting for inclusion rather than exclusion. Train other women to be calmly assertive and direct rather than passive/aggressive.
- It’s fun. Going out to dinner, having a spa afternoon, or working out together at the gym is not only smart business but great for friendships, not to mention chicken soup for your heart and soul. Sharing life’s problems over a meal or a treadmill can be cathartic as we allow other women to shine a light on possible solutions. The two magic sentences are: What do you need? How can I help?
- Woman are great leaders. When the U.S. government almost shut down in October 2013, the crisis was averted by a group of Democratic women who pulled together with a group of Republican women to carve out a workable compromise. Learn from the best and then be a positive role model for others.
- Women don’t forget – ever. Women will forgive but they will rarely forget. It’s in the hard wiring. Think about it. If you have ever been bullied or sexually harassed, you can most likely remember where you were, what you were wearing, and what was said – verbatim. Conversely, if a woman extends herself to another woman in a generous and selfless way, it will be remembered. The rewards come back in unexpected ways. You never know how these acts reverberate in the universe but bounce around they will.
- Women helping other women is the right thing to do. While not the only factor, it is most definitely one of the major arteries on the road to success. After all, what are we all doing here if not to help one another? The old stereotypes about women are tired and frankly, boring. Life is hard. Work is hard. Let’s cut one another a break and give the overly competitive, passive/aggressive and martyr behaviors a permanent rest. It’s time.
Read the news to see our world that is filled with strife and one tragic story after another. As Madeleine Albright said recently, “To put it mildly, the world is a mess.” As natural leaders, women are quite used to handling messes and we happen to be really good at it.
Sometimes women express their frustration to me about another woman behaving badly. My response: We didn’t get here in a minute so it’s going to take a while to get us out of this situation. Every day we have a choice to be mentors and role models and cheerleaders for other women.
I believe in the magnificent power of women. Let us help one another to continue the work of Madeleine Albright and make her proud of us.