by Judy M McCutcheon MBA
I was engaging in one of my favourite past times, browsing shoe websites, and I found this guilty pleasure site for the true shoe lover – Gilt. On the site, there was a phrase that said, “What a girl needs” and I started thinking to myself – What does a girl really need? Does she need new shoes and clothes? Yes, she does, but what else does she need?
So, I did what any modern woman would do when searching for information – I googled “what a girl needs” and I must confess that the internet is full of distractions. I found literally everything that people thought girls needed. We live in a society where everybody else knows what is good for us. Sometimes we have a very good idea of what we want, but it’s not all the time that we know exactly what want. So, I started thinking, do we need love? Do we need support, and if so in what context? And from whom? And where should we expect to find this love and support, if indeed it is what we need? Of course, in our home environment, we expect all the love and support from our families. But what about at work, in the corporate environment?
A few weeks ago, we celebrated International Women’s Day (IWD), with the bold theme pressing for progress, and I am always heartened when I see women taking bold strides towards their future and blazing the trail for other women and girls to follow. 2017 and thus far in 2018, we have seen women being very courageous in the face of threats to their basic fundamental rights. We have seen the absolute dreadful story of sexual abuse in gymnastics and the American Gymnastics Association’s systematic attempts at covering it up. We have seen women bare their souls, so other girls don’t have to go through what they went through. We have also seen the rise of the #MeToo movement.
This concept of women supporting and uplifting other women is crucial for the empowerment of other women. We are moving forward on a steady upward trajectory and I like it. So, then my question to you is, why are we forever prosecuted by our own kind in the workplace? I have two very good female friends who are in top positions in their jobs and they are forever being undermined by their female peers. It’s almost as if they get together and have a takedown planning session. Then there is the other side to this where women have reached in executive positions and it’s like they have morphed into monster-like creatures, where they think that it is necessary to systematically eliminate the competition. None of this behaviour is really necessary. There is so much we can do to encourage and help each other shine in the workplace, and it does not dull our shine. We can become role models and give other women the permission to lean in so that they can lean back and be themselves.
I am elated with all the progress we have made, and I am very proud to see that we have been breaking barriers and creating new records. But I want to put forward that our progress would be much faster if we decided collectively to help and support each other. There are little changes that we all can make in our quest for gender equality; we can help to give each other a voice by standing up and supporting each other. How many of us would not support a female-led business, simply because it’s female-led? When we see a sister faltering do we offer her some kind words and our support, or do we contribute to her faltering? Do we just criticise instead of offering guidance? Do we mentor other women in the workplace? What about at school? My daughter is very interested in pursuing automotive engineering and design as a profession, and she was telling me that when she expressed this at school, a teacher told her that was too much of a “manly” profession for her. This is utter foolishness. I do not subscribe to gender roles and we really must teach our sons and our daughters, that anything is possible – because the possibilities are indeed endless. I am not asking you to support a sister in any wrongdoing, what I am asking you to do is to support her on her rise to the top. And sisters, when you get to the top, I am asking you to pull other sisters along with you. This is the only way our progress can be assured. And teachers, please, do not teach our girls nor our boys about gender roles, they do not exist. We are no longer made only of sugar and spice, we are also made of intelligence, strength, toughness, grit, and lots of gentleness. We must tell them that it’s okay to dream and dream big, we must tell them to imagine all that’s possible. #WeAreBetterTogether.
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Judy McCutcheon is a partner in the firm Go Blue Inc, a Human Development Company. www.goblueinc.net