by Judy M McCutcheon
I am writing to you today from the skies and as I pulled out my computer, I got very excited at the prospect of writing for you.
While going through security at the Grenada airport, a female guard asked if I had stopped writing because she looked forward to my articles. I love the very essence of my audience and you looking forward to my articles is a big responsibility and one I take rather seriously. The company I work for Go Blue Inc. just recently concluded a leadership conference and judging from the feedback, it was a conference that provided great value to the participants. Why am I telling you this? Well apart from the fact that I don’t want you to miss the conference in 2020, I want to tell you about the power of the female tribe. I must admit that sometimes I am left with a sinking feeling in my stomach at how we treat each other, at how we rejoice at the mishap of other women. But when we come together, magical things happen. I have some of the most amazing women in my circle, ones that push me beyond the limits I’ve created for myself. I remember when this conference was just an idea I discussed with one of these women, then I remember calling another one to tell her about it and she said to me, “ For you my sister, I will do anything for your success.” Writing this brings tears to my eyes, as I think about the enormity of that statement.
As the planning for the conference got underway, I remember waking up one morning with this woman on my mind, she wasn’t a friend yet, so I wondered how I was going to sell the idea to her. I called her and before I could finish explaining, she had committed to be a part of the experience. I also want to tell you about another one of these women, whom I’d never met in person, she didn’t even know I existed, but I’ve been following her — well it was more like monitoring her movements on LinkedIn. I got her number — after all this is the Caribbean right? I sent her a text message, she responded acknowledging receipt of my message. We then had several back and forth about the conference and she committed to hosting the conference. As I finish this article, I am sitting in a café in Jamaica, waiting on this awesome woman to finish her interview so that she can assist me. I could have never thought that a mere week after the conference I would be flying to Jamaica on an emergency. This experience has left me wondering why are we socialised to compete against each other? At what point are we going to realise that there is enough of whatever it is we are fighting each other for?
As females, we compete on fronts that when you think about it does nothing to advance us. There are enough men, trust me on that, as a matter of fact, there is no form of scarcity, what we need is a mindset adjustment to come to that realisation. After all, we cannot believe in God and not have an abundance mindset. Growing up my mother used to always, boys and books don’t mix, when you are done with school, the boys will still be there. I am done with high school eons ago and guess what, boys are still there. Are we jockeying for positions at the office, are we vying to be the boss’s pet? Come on ladies we are bigger and better than that. What about supporting women own/led businesses? Why do we not feel the need to support each other in business?
There is a situation I’m watching unfold, it involves one of the Caribbean’s top female bloggers and while none of us knows the entire true story, the nastiness that has been meted out to her by females has left me wondering if we have indeed come a long way. The creators of Women’s International Day are calling for equality and indeed we should be given equal pay for equal work; but are we the ones helping to contribute to the inequality that exists?
From an early age, we are taught to be in competition with each other. Teenage girls are some of the meanest girls around. The cliques start from as far back as prep school. You are discriminated against because you are too pretty, too smart, too ugly, too “boyish” and a host of other foolishness that they dream up. Very early in the game, we are taught that women gossip and bitch about everything and that men are confident. Men it seems are more valued in society than women, so we believe that to get a seat at the table we must behave in a certain way. As women, we buy into that foolishness and it translates into us not liking or actively supporting other women. It’s difficult for me to understand why we view each other as enemies. I don’t think that women are my enemies, but I do have a hard time trusting some of them. I know lots of women, but I don’t feel especially close to a lot of them, it’s hard for me to be vulnerable with them because of that underlying fear of betrayal. And I am not too far off with those feelings because we have become famous for betraying each other’s trust. But how do we break that cycle? Are there stories about each other that we need to reframe? I’ve seen women who as they climb to the top in their organisations separate themselves from the women at the bottom. Is this necessary, or is this behaviour in response to the inequality that is happening at the top?
Madeleine Albright said that there is a special place in hell for women who don’t support other women and I am very inclined to believe her. I believe in supporting women whether they are in business or on the job. As a boss, I did everything I could to support and push the women on my team, yet it was some of those same women who tried their best to pull me down. I have made it my duty to support women-led businesses and I will continue to advocate that we support our tribe. There is so much for us to gain as a gender, in supporting each other. We shouldn’t feel threatened by each other. We need an inner circle where we can safely discuss our challenges at work, or at home or simply to celebrate each other. If there is a hell, I have no intention of going there because I did not support other women.
Some of my gravest moments have been because of other women, but some of my proudest moments have also been because of women. Some of my strongest supporters for my business are men, why? Is it that they see the value in the service we provide? I had one of my friends say to me that she is jealous that I had the balls to go out and start my own business, why be jealous, why not be proud of me. I’ve had one tell me all the reasons, why she will not support my business. I am not daunted in any way by that, I simply smile and move on and when I know of anyone who wants the service, she provides I recommend her. We have so much other crap that is thrown at us to deal with, I don’t think that we should also have to deal with not being supported by our tribe. I will continue to support women in all their endeavours. I do it because I know that there is enough to go around for all of us, I do it because I know we are much better when we support each other, I do it because there is strength in unity. After all, if we don’t break the cycle, who will?
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Judy McCutcheon is a partner in the firm Go Blue Inc, a Human Development Company. www.goblueinc.net
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