The calls for gender equality are global, inspiring, and hard to ignore--as they should be. But, isn't it time we also send up a clear and mighty call about something we often ignore that still holds women back: how tough women are on one another?
Over 16 months, my conversations with dozens of women for my book, Mending the Sisterhood & Ending Women's Bullying, kept leading to one unfortunate--and entirely avoidable--conclusion: women's own bullying, blocking, and discrimination keep far too many women from the success and joy we deserve.
Isn't leaning in tough enough some days without another woman tripping you up? In my opinion, not addressing this often-taboo topic in the call for gender balance is like ignoring methane gas in the call for climate-change reforms. We can't rock the world to the degree we want to if we're raging against each other. And what a total waste of Woman Awesomeness!
For months, I've encountered women who said their work, volunteering, health, parenting, and reputation were often undermined, sabotaged, or shredded--by other women. Some of their experiences echoed my own in my professional and personal life.
"Women-on-women bullying is not a simple case of disappointment, in which we look for and fail to find workplace sisterhood. It's as serious, if not as visible, as the wage gap in the battlefield to end inequity," wrote Katrin Park, a former United Nations employee, in the NY Daily News last year.
Some women told me about bullies who'd enlisted other women to do their bully-bidding. One woman, "Naomi," said her female boss and co-worker were "like a wolf and caribou team...One would take a bite and then the other. Never in my wildest dreams did I think I'd be experiencing something like this." A top performer, Naomi ended up resigning her dream job. Many bullied women do, research shows.
Never in my wildest dreams did I think we'd still be discussing this issue in 2015. Did you? Let's face it. Mean-girl ways aren't helping any of us be mighty women. And the world is calling us to be mighty AND magnificent--not malicious. It's calling us to come together and leverage our extraordinary, collective women power.
So in that spirit, here are three things we all can do, right where we are, to ease this issue and lift up ourselves and women around us:
1) CALL BULLYING FOR WHAT IT IS: See where women-on-women bullying persists in your world. Recognize it, see it, end it. Report it to your manager, supervisor, HR staff, and anyone who can help end it. Create zero-tolerance policies. Let's be honest and real with this conversation. We can't change what we won't acknowledge. And we can't acknowledge, what we don't see. We can't end something, once and for all, if we don't admit it's all around us. And call bullying for what it is: abuse.
2) BECOME A GODDESS WITH YOUR WORDS: Words are powerful. They can light up the sky--or throw shade on one another. We can't expect to solve the world's toughest challenges that call for women's unique and fabulous ways of leadership, if we're bickering among ourselves. We can't bring more women to the diplomatic and decision-making tables if our own fighting precludes the peacemaking. Learn and practice how to listen deeply to another woman's ideas, without picking at, dismissing, or judging her. Advocate for conflict-resolution sessions, wherever you are, so normal disagreements don't blow up into overblown or passive-aggressive wars. Don't be threatened by a woman's brilliant proposal--champion it. And with every ounce of your Wonder Woman Self, walk away from gossip groups and bitchfests. Keep remembering, words are a powerful tool we have the privilege of using for a higher and glorious good. Then, channel your words to elevate, collaborate with, and celebrate other woman. Use them to find common ground. It's one powerfully shiny moment when a woman uses her words to sing--not sting!
3) SHINE BIG, SISTERS: Seriously, let your light rip. Don't dull your shine by watching, comparing, or measuring yourself against other women. Show jealousy the door. It's too small to stay in your big and generous world. Then, do what makes you feel inspired, on-fire, and fulfilled. Use your gifts, trust your instincts, blaze big. Don't try to force another woman's tiara on your head or squeeze your feet into her shoes. Be the amazing, magnificent, and truly unstoppable woman you came to be. Love yourself and what you give to the world, and you will lose interest in resenting other women. Work to build bonds with other women around you. Help women and girls around the world. While we're wasting far too much time turning on one another, they're desperately waiting on safe water, human rights, education, and first paychecks, houses, security, and so much more.
OK, so that's three things. But while we're at it, can we also give up the crazy making idea that we should automatically hate or be jealous of another woman because she's rocking her life, lipstick, career, Mom moments--or whatever? What's with that?! Hate and jealousy only tarnish our own glitter. And we want to be women who can toss some serious glitter! So, surround yourself with successful, confident women, who totally inspire and support you. And go light up the world for good, together.
We can do this, women. We can be magnificent. We are magnificent. Women may be the biggest, boldest hope for the world right now. Let's seize these opportunities, not squander them. Let's all live from our own incredible, infinite worth. Let's stop playing it small and subversive.
Let's go big and bold--however that looks for you. One mighty, magnificent woman at a time.
Let's be powerful. Let's be kind. And most of all, let's think and live large. Together, let's be the shining women we came here to be!