By: Victoria Santoro, Guest Blogger
In a recent discussion with colleagues, we had a meandering conversation about gender equality that covered many topics. As we jumped from latent sexism, to pay equity to the sobering statistics on the number of women in leadership roles, my colleagues wanted to talk about the why’s. Ultimately, we came around to a common refrain: why are women mean to one another if they want each other to eventually reach equity, especially in the workplace?
Whether or not women are “mean” to one another is a conversation in and of itself, but I think we can all agree that there is sometimes very fierce competition among women. And as I was giving my thoughts to my colleagues, it came down to scarcity. If there is only one partnership at a law firm that is available to a woman, we have no choice but to fight for it. (Yes, sadly, less than 20% of law firm equity partners are women). We can also agree that fierce, aggressive competition among women can come off as “mean” or worse.
When speaking with women, it’s very common to hear them express both the desire for professional equality and, relatedly, that their female colleagues and friends should have professional equality and success as well. And yet we’re stuck fighting for the few positions available to women at the highest rungs of our respective careers.
We can all look back and see that this dynamic started earlier in our lives. Mean Girls, the movie, made light of the competition in high school, although it’s mostly related to social climbing. Unfortunately, similar things can happen in the workplace. In the face of some difficult gender realities, how do we fight the urge to be mean to our fellow women?
There is no easy answer to these questions other than to remember that one woman’s success is every woman’s success. When a woman wins the race for student body president, or is awarded a coveted promotion, we should cheer her on. Acting otherwise only perpetuates harmful stereotypes. One of the most powerful things any young woman can realize is that our presence in the world has an impact. It has an impact on those around on you, and spreads outward from there.
Being a cheerleader – for teammates, classmates, or officemates – does not diminish your own accomplishments but serves to elevate all of the accomplishments of the other women in our lives. A victory for one is a victory for all. How we treat one another paves the way for the younger generations and makes our future brighter.
YOU can do your part to reverse the effects of mean girl culture: collaborate, connect, cheerlead whenever you can!
- Next time you feel you're in competition with another girl, adjust your mindset to view her successes as YOUR successes too. See what happens when you make that shift!
Victoria Santoro is a trial attorney who practices law in Boston. She is also a teacher, speaker, and writer, maintaining her personal blog The Limber Lawyer, and contributing to various legal publications. Victoria is passionate about helping young girls and women not only succeed but also find contentment and purpose. In her free time, she can often be found training or competing for half-marathons and triathlons.
Image via winterparktherapy.com