There’s a Special Place in Hell for Women Who Don’t Help Other Women

I started a career in corporate America a few months ago. Before entering the workforce, I assumed that men were the ones standing in the way of female advancement. I soon learned, however, that women are a huge part of the problem. Let me tell you how this manifests itself in the workforce. It starts with a glare on the elevator when someone does not like your outfit; it is the laugh that you have at someone else’s expense; it is the gossip that you spread about someone, even if you don’t know that it is true. It is not making time to help each other; it is the constant competing against each other to be the thinnest, the best-dressed, the smartest, and the hardest working female in the office. It is the decision to choose me over we.

I encountered the phenomena of women not supporting other women when I tried to start a female mentorship group at my company. When I first approached two female leaders about the idea, they were completely on board with it. They were going to give me free reign to work to bring women in the company together. I thought if we could just foster the type of relationship that men have on the golf course with each other, we’d really have a shot of bolstering more women into leadership positions.  I was naïve to think that this would be easy. One morning, I was called into an office by the same two female leaders that had initially supported the project, and told they had killed the project. It was decided between the two of them that if I moved forward with the idea, I could potentially damage my career at the company, because the CFO does not support women in leadership and the idea of a women’s group was a touchy subject for the company. They did not feel that people would feel comfortable with a group like this. They agreed that women have unique challenges in the workforce, but we should not really address them. I was completely stunned. At that moment, I realized two things. First that the glass ceiling exists. I knew this because my voice of advocacy for women was suppressed. Second, it is not just men that are keeping women down, it is other women. My idea was killed because neither female leader wanted their name attached to the project. Starting a group that addresses the unique challenges that women face would mean disrupting the subtle sexism that we call harmony in the office.
I want to tell you about another experience that I recently had to further illustrate my point. A few weeks ago, I had a one-on-one meeting with my boss. It was here that I learned that a female coworker had told her something about me that was untrue and damaging to my character. Although I tried to defend myself, the damage had already been done. For days I tried to fathom why someone would do something like that to me. Why would someone go out of their way to attack my character? At the end of the day, I settled on that answer it’s because women can be bitches (for lack of a better word). That is not to say that a man would not do the same thing if given the chance, but my point is that this is a prime example of women standing in the way other each other’s growth. Instead of building me up, she tore me down to make herself look good. If we ever want more than 14 percent of top executives to be women, we need to work together, because the odds are already stacked against us. Instead of using our energy to compete against each other, let’s work together to fight for gender equality. Only then can we start to move the barriers of sexism that have kept women out of top positions, and from earning equal pay. And if you want to stand in the way of this change, as former U.S. Secretary of State Madeleine Albright once said, “There’s a special place in hell for women who don’t help other women.”

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