I believe there was a time in not too long ago that my insecurity would have suggested that the lack of interest by fellow women to engage with my projects was personal. And perhaps still may be the case, however`oblivious to it I may be. I’m often blinded by my unrealistic Utopian expectations whereby women can sit cross legged and braid each others hair in the metaphorical sense. So you can imagine when there was a call to my fierce women posse to assist with building a network of culture and support I was equally as optimistic that they would flock to the opportunity.
If you have ever had the pleasure of being in a women’s washroom at a wine festival, you will understand the energy and spirit I am trying to harness. There is such a genuine expression of love, appreciation and unbridled desire to build one another up within the confines of this little sink space empowerment. I’m sure many women can attest to entering the public washroom of a Wine fest, head hanging low with regret, then leaving this magical space tall, proud, and ready to conquer the world. I ask myself why is this so hard to recreate on a website platform or in real life, surely we are also kind and supportive humans sober too?
So I began to do a little bit of research into this and found that there isn’t any simple answers. Gender related topics can be a challenging and slippery slope to tackle as the term “Gender” becomes more fluid in society and negates many of the explanations I came across. However, I’m never one to back down from considering certain components and came across a few worth exploring.
I came across this book Hardball for Women: Winning at the Game of Business which aims to decode the male business culture and show women how to break patterns of behavior that put them at a disadvantage. Initially I had to put my feminist pride aside so that I could revert back to 1952 whereby my “femaleness” was the problem that required change so that I could consider what it was Pat Heim and colleagues were trying to teach me about gender. I went to the website where they hail to be “The Gender Experts.”
I’ll save challenging this for another day…or perhaps never.
However, the book claims that there is a natural law in the female “culture” that allegedly shapes how women interact with other women at work and in their personal lives. They call this the “power dead-even rule.”
It claims that this is a subconcous process whereby the rule governs relationships, power and self esteem.
” For a healthy relationship to be possible between women, the self-esteem and power of one must be, in the eyes of each woman, similar in weight to the self-esteem and power of the other. In other words, these key elements must be kept “dead-even.” When the power balance gets disrupted (such as a woman rising in status above other women), women may talk behind her back, ostracize her from the group or belittle her. These behaviors are to preserve the dead-even power relationship that women have grown up with their entire lives. “
How did Alanis Morissette not include a phrase from this rule in her hit song “Hand in my Pocket”?
As Jagged of a pill that this is to swallow, I can’t say I disagree with some aspects of this. However, I feel like this suggestion falls short as it considers that all women were born with vagina’s, therefore all had the same experiences growing up that shaped this governing rule. If this may be the case how do we account for trans, non-binary, gender fluid population and the space they hold in the world of power inequality?
Feeling unsatisfied with that explanation I moved onto the concept that relates to our emotional intelligence (EQ). In my quest for answers, I came across an article by Dr. Shawn Andrews who brought up the book The Power of Perception, which states “that women at higher leadership levels tend to display more male-specific EQ competencies, such as assertiveness and confidence, and leverage less female-specific EQ competencies, such as interpersonal relationships and empathy. ” The book goes on to state that if a female leaders put less of a premium on the value of relationships, that she may not spend the time necessary to cultivate relationships with junior women.
“This is also called the Queen Bee Syndrome, when women behave in ways more typical of men to display toughness and fit in. For women at the very top, part of their success is convincing men that they aren’t like other women.”
I’m sorry, in my world there is only one Queen Bee and she goes by Beyonce!
Dr. Shawn Andrews, who wrote another article for Forbes called “Leadership, Gender and the Power of In-Group Bias.” explaining the third reason. To summarize, Dr. Shawn explained that when the competition for “spots” in favored in-groups increases, women are less inclined to bring other women along. This can happen when there are few females in an organization or few females in leadership roles.
They go on to say a fourth reason is that because of obstacles women face in their career and corporate environments, and the achievement of hard-fought success, their attitude toward other women is “I figured it out, you should too.” Executive women are often overly encumbered with daily duties and responsibilities and don’t take the time to mentor and support young women.
I’m sorry…. I’ve watched women in my field of social work be extremely “overly encumbered” by duties before, during and after hours and take on mentor roles.
However in that fourth statement, it speaks directly to the reasoning to why my Feature Friday was created. There is a reason why there were “Men’s Only Clubs” that sought to foster wealth from within a privileged group. If you have ever stepped foot into the Petroleum Club in Calgary you’ll understand even though it members are welcomed from both men and women. However historically membership was help by high ranking oil and gas executives which were positions typically held by men. I myself have witnessed the undying culture of brotherhood called “The Old Boys” within my private school of Shawnigan Lake School. I had arrived only 2 years after they went Co-Ed so I understand this concept well. I’ve watched them publicly grope and make the young girls serving them uncomfortable at times on Alumni weekends with nothing said to prevent it from occurring. I’m guilty as well of participating as I said nothing and just glared feeling somewhat powerless in a room full of Old Boys who were “Just having fun.”
Who was I to spoil that?
But within that moment of regret, I also remember better times when one of the first girls to attend the historically all boys school became Head of School in her grade 12 year. I was privileged to be surrounded by a Kaleidoscope of brilliant young women who worked collectively to navigate within this old patriarchal system and go on to take their place at the top. When I look at what the formula was for this success, it was really quite simple. A unified and loyal sense of sisterhood whereby we were only as strong as the weakest link and if one of us was floundering, we all surrounded her to rebuild and carry her to the finish line. Shout Out to all my School House Gang! Woop Woop!
With that being said, perhaps my motivation is based in nostalgia, or perhaps a deeper desire to debunk the hard truths discussed above. The whole preface of my blog platform is to spread and celebrate B*P*E. I identified within my own frustrations and experiences a huge void that needs to be filled for women to begin supporting one another in business. I continue to urge my colleagues, readers and blogging community to apply for the next Feature Friday so we can celebrate you and inspire others alike! Blogging strategy is often based on building higher Blog traffic in order to allow typically invisible small businesses to be brought to the forefront of Search Engine Optimization. So Share, Share, Share!