Everyone I know is talking, posting and raving about Sheryl Sandberg’s new book, Lean In.
I have a huge amount of respect for Ms. Sandberg and everything she’s accomplished. The way she articulates the process behind her success makes it easy to understand why she’s the ultimate role model for career-driven women.
Lean In has initiated some compelling conversations around the world. We’re guzzling this much-needed Kool-Aid and waiting for the next generation of women to take the workforce by storm. But we need to iron out a few details first. Because it’s tremendously frustrating to see women laud this success story and its philosophies, while remaining total bitches to other women.
Some of the most brilliant and successful women I’ve worked with are true all stars–absolutely killing it professionally–but are held back from Sandberg-level success by mean girl tendencies and a lack of rapport with other females. For some reason, be it biology or that darned glass ceiling, women don’t always play nice at work.
A few months ago, a good friend and I had an exchange about this, and her words struck a chord because I’ve experienced the very same thoughts.
Do women hold each other back (or maybe hold us back as an entire gender) at work because of how we/they interact with each other? Generally, we haven’t broken through the glass ceiling, we haven’t made a Good Ol’ Girls Club, etc. I blame that mostly on biology, as we cannot make men have babies. But, are there other forces that we can control? Women are competitive at work, but is it always in the right way?
Why do some women I work with perpetually throw me under the bus to a boss? Why are many girls so overly fake and nice to another girl’s face, but say the worst things about them behind their back. That doesn’t make her look professional; it makes both girls look bad. Shouldn’t we be better about congratulating every (okay, most) women’s achievements, for the sake of our gender’s success?
What is it that makes some women so unwilling to trust each other, and downright disdainful of their female colleagues? Are we just competitive on our way to the top, or do we fail to recognize that we can be each others greatest asset?
Rosalind Wiseman wrote about this in Queen Bees and Wannabees, the inspiration for the movie Mean Girls. The funny thing is, the book and the movie focus on girls in high school. HIGH SCHOOL. What about the ones who drag these behaviors into Corporate America?
Well, there are plenty of books that that, too.
There are a lot of different opinions on this, and for me, it’s a general observation–a gripe–and certainly not the rule.
For as many challenging female coworkers I’ve encountered, I’ve had twice as many who’ve become mentors and lifelong friends. I credit them for helping me get to where I am today, both professionally and emotionally. They’ve inspired me to continue the cycle of positive female support that I pay forward whenever possible.
Because it’s the right thing to do. Because it’s easier to be nice. And because we’re stronger when we’re united. With this type of mentality, women won’t just ascend the rungs of the corporate ladder, we’ll start to shatter the glass ceiling.
We don’t have to bake cupcakes and be cheerleaders to do this. We just have to play fair and be nice. If not, we’ll continue to limit ourselves with competition and the wrong motivations.
Giving a little often yields a lot, so as we continue to lean in, I hope it’s toward mutual respect and empowerment.