January 26, 2017

On the heels of the Women’s Marches across the country, it seems as though pride with, for, and among women is at an all-time high. And yet, despite the fact that we are witnessing women standing up and speaking out for inclusiveness and rights, I am still hearing many say that women don’t support other women in business.

Recently, I heard from a colleague who has been promoted; she is now one of the highest-level women in a male-dominated business and industry. She is mystified by why some women are not acknowledging her promotion and success, some even refusing to speak about it. Their silence sends a loud and clear message – one that lacks encouragement and support.

Unfortunately, her story confirms what I hear often when I speak on candor – there is a lack of open, honest communication among women in business. Women are struggling to be positive, supportive and respectful of each other in our successes. This is opening a gap that is leaving us farther behind.

Why do we do this? Consider these possibilities:

  • We are our own worst critics. Our insecurities make us worry that we – and, therefore also, she or they – are not good enough.
  • We may believe opportunity is limited for women and that one woman’s success is a lost opportunity for the rest of us.
  • If we are working in an environment scarce on female peers, we may feel isolated and disconnected.
  • The good old green monster: jealousy.

It’s time for us to stand in a different place, with a larger perspective and learn to support our sisters-in-business. Men do this very well with other men (and many also do it very well with women colleagues). We need to borrow their playbook and build a net of camaraderie, support, encouragement and respect.

Here are five ways to change the conversation with women and about women in the workforce:

  • Mentor other women or ask a woman you admire to mentor you.
  • Create or participate in working women’s social or special-interest groups.
  • Take a high-potential woman in your organization to lunch on a regular basis and discuss common challenges and opportunities.
  • Encourage other women – vocally, visually, and sincerely – when they are considered for or selected for all positions, including in the boardroom or the executive suite.
  • Reframe your own thinking (and help others) to come from a place of abundance, not scarcity. When one wins, everyone wins.

Margot Lee Shetterly, author of Hidden Figures, wrote about Katherine Johnson (one of the African American women at NASA during the space race)Her unencumbered embrace of equality, applying it to herself without insecurity and to others with the full expectation of reciprocity, is a reflection of the America we want to be. She has been standing in the future for years, waiting for the rest of us to catch up.

Women in business must embrace equality, confidently apply it to ourselves, and expect the same of others if we are to grow our success in the workplace.