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Why don’t women support other women enough?

Paradigm SHIFT founder Rebecca Morris says more women need to support each other in the workplace to promote equality.

There seems to be a shining light on women at the moment. There is an exponential amount of marketing targeted at women around diversity, equity, gender and bias in the workplace, leadership journeys, and how to juggle and let go of stress.

There is no shortage of women’s groups, tribes, and communities who seek to offer support for other women. The media can portray this to be just a male-driven problem, but in my observations and experience, some of the worst behaviour is by women towards other women.

I want to know why, with all this online and offline focus, is it that some women don’t support other women in business enough?

As I have developed my practice and increased my profile, I have been astounded to see how other women react negatively. I have had two instances recently where other women’s behaviour has made me stop and ask the question, “why?” Both examples were driven by personal agendas and were actually quite nasty and emotionally draining.

I wanted to substantiate my experience, so I asked other people who I knew to see if they, too, had any similar experiences. I was surprised to see that this seems to happen quite a lot, but women just either brush it off as a side comment or isolate themselves from that particular woman. If this is a business relationship, it can become incredibly stressful. There’s the deflection of “never mind. It doesn't mean anything.” But here’s the thing: it actually does. And it’s unnecessary.

Here’s what I do when I see this behaviour play out now. I used to say “karma: the big hand always comes to the 12.” Now it’s a simple “I understand why you are behaving like this. I get it. And I have compassion for you. I hope you get the chance to see what you are doing and why so you can choose to take behavioural action to lose the resentment, the fear and jealousy.”

All these feelings are wasted emotions. They harbour dysfunctional energy and create a negative result, usually with ourselves continuing to be unhappy and others continuing to succeed.

The world is an interesting place right now. Surely the right connections and more meaningful support would be a great place to start.

I’ve taken a stand this year to step up and speak up about the topics that we sweep under the carpet. I want to create change through action at an individual, organisation and community level because when we do this, together, the paradigm will shift and real change will occur.

I read an interesting article on Linkedin this month by Shane Snow, who went through a really, really bad time. He noted that “the best way to make progress when the going gets tough is with each other. And as Sheryl Sandberg and Adam Grant write in the final line of their book Option B: “By coming together and supporting one another, we can bounce forward and find joy again.”

So, the next time you see or hear another colleague, peer or friend doing something courageous or taking action to be the best they can be, embrace them and tell them how much THEY inspire You.

But only do it if you really, truly mean what you say. Otherwise, say nothing. As I say regularly to my children: “If you don’t have anything nice to say, then don’t say anything at all.”

Rebecca Morris is the founder of Paradigm SHIFT.