Achieving equal rights starts with treating one another as equals.
It's common to hear women talk about how poorly they're being treated by men, but what about how women at work treat other women? Women speak of wanting equal pay, equal treatment, and so on. Yet, if we really want to achieve equal status to our male counterparts as women, then it needs to begin with us; Women need to support women.
Treat others the way you wish to be treated
Women can treat other women at work badly; I've seen it happen. I've had female clients call me to seeking advice on how to deal with their female manager who was harsh, demanding, mean, and borderline harassing. I've seen women gossip and talk poorly behind their female co-workers' backs. I've seen women call other women derogatory terms for their bold requests and firm beliefs, but consider such actions normal for men. I've had female co-workers refuse to be open to ideas from other women (even if they were great), and yet jump at the chance to take on ideas from male counterparts. I've even heard women accuse other women of sleeping with their managers to get ahead, calling each other nasty names, and yet they say nothing about the guy in the situation (not that I think anything should be said about anyone in such a situation).
In my second round of graduate school, I was taking a media studies course that really opened up my eyes to how poorly women are represented on TV and in the media. Not only are we represented poorly, but it's also often women who talk poorly about other women on the news and in the media. I was also floored in class one day when a woman — without a second thought — called another woman a derogatory term after hearing a story about her and a man. She seemed to come to the conclusion about the woman without hearing the whole story, and she did not comment on the guy's behavior when he had done the same thing as the woman. It made me realize that much of what we say about other women can be ingrained in us on a subconscious level because we've heard such comments so often from others.
It's time to support each other
If we want gender equality in the workplace and beyond, how can we achieve it if we have to dodge comments and bullying by other women? The heart of the women's movement was and is about supporting women to achieve positive results — and that support needs to come from both men and women alike. In researching the topic, I wasn't surprised to read in the NY Times that 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.
Though I've seen this poor behavior of women towards other women at work, I have also seen several women who are amazing leaders and very much support other women in the workforce and other areas of life. These women are often the most successful and represent the kinds of examples we need to set for other women in the work arena. Below are some of the traits or approaches I've seen these successful women take to support other women at work and in life in general.
They're compassionately honest
Being honest and dealing with issues in the workplace as they happen is important. However, that doesn't mean we need to attack each other when we make mistakes. I like to encourage people to be compassionately honest, which means telling the truth and being honest while also being kind about it.
They're supportive of other women
The more we encourage others, the more support and encouragement we receive in return; This is what I see happen for women leaders who support other women.
They take the high road
Don't gossip or badmouth others, as it will only make you look bad. Take the high road during trying times, and you'll be glad you did in the long run.
They don't compare themselves to others
We are often critical of other women when we feel bad about ourselves. Experts say that in comparing ourselves to others, we are only creating a scenario that makes us feel inferior. In choosing not to compare yourself to other women, you'll be supporting your own well-being and mindset, putting you in a better position to support others.
They have other women's backs
When you hear people talking negatively about other women at work, don't participate. If appropriate, you might even offer up some positive points about the individual being discussed.
They know there's enough to go around
When we come from a place of scarcity — or a "there's not enough" type of behavior — we operate out of fear. There are lots of opportunities out there and plenty of money to go around. Successful women know this, so remind yourself of this anytime you feel otherwise.
They refer other women
If you know of women looking for work or a better position, get their information so you can refer them if/when an opportunity arises.
They don't make assumptions
Everyone has a story and reason for doing whatever it is they're doing. Don't assume you know someone else's reasons, and don't spread rumors or gossip about as a result.
They encourage other women
To help increase opportunities and pay equality for women, it helps when women hire and support other women when they're in a position to do so. It also helps to highlight and encourage other women when the opportunities arise. What goes around, comes around.
Per the Institute for Women's Policy Research (IWPR), women earned only 79 cents for every dollar earned by their male counterparts in 2015. If change continues at the same rate that it's continued at for the past fifty years, it will take another forty-four years for women to finally receive pay equal to men — that's not until 2059! We need to do better. Maybe we can help close that gap faster as women if we treat other women as our equals. Women need to be lifting, supporting, and celebrating other women instead of trying to bring them down. In doing so, we all benefit with a healthier workplace for men and women alike.
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