The sisterhood

Empowered women empower women

We’re all in this together. But do we stick together? Do we support each other? Do we have each other’s backs?

Whenever I ask a group of managers to name a famous woman leader, invariably Margaret Thatcher’s name comes up.

There’s no denying her achievement in becoming the UK’s first female Prime Minister, but her lack of promotion and advocacy of women in her workplace is often referred to as Queen Bee syndrome.

Now, whether women are truly more aggressive towards other women in the workplace – or whether women are just judged more harshly for their behaviour because there’s an expectation that women will be ‘nice’ at work – an oft-stated claim is that women don’t actively support each other sufficiently at work.

Group of businesswomen

MADONNA

'Seek out strong women to befriend, to align yourself with, to learn from, to collaborate with, to be inspired by, to support and be enlightened by.'

Too quick to criticise rather than encourage. Seeing other women as challengers for their positions. Over the years I’ve often heard talk about women who pull the ladder up behind them.

Is this true?

Maybe if you work in an environment with fewer career opportunities for women, that setting increases the likelihood of taking a self-protective approach towards anyone else considered to be competition?

Or maybe this is an out-dated myth and you feel your own organisation or generation fortunately doesn’t have this outlook.

SisterhoodEither way, working in a male-orientated business can potentially leave a woman feeling isolated and as a result she may well follow the prevailing culture and norms, rather than being her authentic self as a manager.

In those circumstances, both the woman and the organisation lose out – the woman feeling she’s not being true to herself may leave for pastures new; the organisation meanwhile loses the benefits of a broader perspective and more diverse leadership style.

Joining a network in your organisation or industry – or setting one up in-house if no such group exists – can help build a support network of women managers working through similar issues and challenges. It can provide a space for social and professional discussion – including meetings and talks, open to all colleagues, not just women – to broaden understanding of the benefits of diverse management approaches.

We need to support and back each other; we need to understand that success for women in management careers can be a team sport, not just all about individual success; we need to be a sisterhood.