Artemis, the Greek Goddess of the Hunt, refused to follow the traditional female role of wife and mother. Instead she asked her father, Zeus, for a bow and arrow so she could roam free in the woods with her circle of nymphs. Artemis and the nymphs were self-sufficient, hunting and supporting each other. They created a circle of collaboration.
Ever felt like you were getting shot down in the office… by other women?
This is an unfortunate complaint that I hear from some of my clients and friends. The glass ceiling is still there, as demonstrated recently on the political scene – although now women are waking up and becoming more assertive at poking holes through it.
Other women I talk to, however, are concerned about getting caught in what I’ve come to call the Pink Net. Corporate women are finding themselves entangled in the male culture of competition and dominance. In order to climb the ladder some tend to turn on other women by holding them back and keeping them down.
To succeed many of my corporate clients have worked hard to become more like men – tough, competitive, driven! For men this style obviously works. There’s a reason the “old boys club” has been around so long.
There is a big difference, though, in how men and women play the competitive game. Men dwell mostly in their heads and are less ruled by emotions. They like to compete – be the top dog – yet they don’t personalize the battle. They go out for drinks after a heated conference room clash of priorities and ideas. There they shift from their recent board room battle to hashing out the latest ball game as if they’re the best of friends.
Women, however, are relational; we are more in touch with our feelings. While this has some obvious benefits, it also makes it tougher for us to keep our emotions out of the equation. We tend to personalize disagreements – business or otherwise. After a conference room battle, our emotions can be stirred up. They can linger and fester. Internalized, women can turn their negative emotions on other women in the male hierarchical tradition of keeping others down to build themselves up. Or they dampen down their emotions and become the dragon lady boss. (I had one of these once. It was not pleasant!) This personalization of boardroom disputes hurts women individually and collectively in corporate life.
Women’s cultural and natural inclination is to form circles of collaboration where we can support, listen to, and encourage one another. As a result, when we start throwing punches like the boys, there’s an internal cost. It’s hard to divorce ourselves from our feelings and stay in our heads like the guys. And in an effort to stay one-up, the cost can mean projecting our frustration and fear on other women.
So what’s the solution? One is for women to build on what comes naturally: circles of collaboration.
Instead of buying into the competitive game, women might focus on building networks of support, encouragement and guidance within the corporate structure. Men have a system of mentoring. Their mentees are advised, guided and encouraged through their development. Then the mentees are brought with them up the ladder. Or the mentees move on to become colleagues in other departments or companies.
There is a growing tradition of female mentoring in US corporations. There just aren’t enough of them YET! Are we really too busy or too competitive to stop and help one another through the ranks?
Mentoring could be the type of collaboration women can embrace. I know this is happening in some of the younger newer and savvier companies. Yet we still have a long way to go in the larger more male dominated corporations.
If you feel you are not getting the support and encouragement you need from other women, then I encourage you to find a women’s circle that encourages feminine empowerment, fosters supportive relationships, shares feminine wisdom, and honors feminine ways of knowing and being in the world. Women’s wisdom and feminine influence has the potential to change the world. We can start right in our own community.
There are many women’s groups out there – some are business related, others support personal growth and development, and still others focus on spiritual development. Search out the kind that you feel will support you best.
I currently lead two such women’s circles that focus on personal and spiritual growth. One is “Circle with the Divine Feminine” in Fair Oaks CA, the other is the “In Her Name Circle” in San Mateo, CA. I personally invite you to check us out. We would love to welcome you.
If you are feeling challenged with how to show up with confidence and strength as a woman, then contact Joy to find out how she can help YOU be more authentically YOU. Phone 415-819-8769 or email Joy TODAY!