“There is a special place in hell for women who don’t help other women.” — Madeleine Albright, 1937-2022
Politics and controversy aside, Madeleine Albright had a remarkable career. She’ll be remembered by this generation for her ‘revolutionary’ declaration that women must support each other – or a special place in hell is reserved just for them.
I’m not sure I agree about that place in hell, but as a woman and a founder I believe that women should lift other women up – in all aspects of life. There’s no denying, though, that we live within a culture which supports the stereotype that women don’t support other women. The ‘cat-fight’ so widely portrayed in fiction is alive and well in real life.
Within the female-led industry I’m a part of I’m offered plenty of opportunities to help and support other women, but it isn’t always reciprocated. There are plenty of ‘mean girls’ and ‘queen bees’ (not to be confused with strong, ambitious women – which we are all for) in Allied Health who are quick to push other women down. In fact, the health industry has the second highest incidence of workplace bullying in Australia.
Why does this culture exist?
If you create more inequality in work arrangements, the temptation to abuse power becomes greater and greater.’ – Michael Quinlan
Bullying in the workplace is rife, with an increasing number of women reporting being bullied – more often by other women. Organisations are built to encourage it. The larger the organisation, the more likely it is to be structured with built-in scarcity of power, influence and opportunity, which in turn leads to women competing against each other for position and recognition.
In other words, women are still struggling with systemic inequality. We’ve had to fight for every ‘right’ and we still have a long way to go. We’re expected to perform work which is below our abilities and we have fewer opportunities for advancement – the pressure is huge. It’s no excuse, but it is a very human thing to fight for resources.
The cost to individual women of ‘queen bee’ culture can be devastating, but the cost to women, collectively, is greater – we’re all familiar with what those costs are.
What happens when we lift each other up – what’s the collective benefit of a ‘sisterhood’. We know what the ‘boys club’ has done for men, but what would happen for us if we joined forces instead of vying for position and power?
The impact that women can have on the world when we work together is far-reaching and more important than ever before. New research shows that women thrive when we have each other’s backs. In fact, a close, trusted circle of female contacts are critical to women in leadership positions. The kind of circle that women can trust to discuss private issues that only affect women.
I see the power of women helping women in action in my own business. ActivOT has more than 45 women practitioners – all strong and successful women. ActivOT practitioners thrive because of our culture of support. When one of us falls down, the others are there to lift them up. It goes further than that – we’re all committed to collaborating with other women in business as well as learning from them. Together, we really are stronger!
How do you feel about supporting other women? Have you experienced support from other women in your work life? What impact has this had on your career? I’d love to hear about the ways other women have made a difference in your work life. You can comment on the original article on LinkedIn.