Collaboration Among Women Shouldn’t be a Foreign Concept

equal signThere was a meme on LinkedIn that pictured a group of happy women all fraught in togetherness. Emblazoned over the smiling faces were the words “Successful women don’t compete, they collaborate.”

It was one of those girl power/chick power/women power moments—everyone had a comment—most of them about empowerment. I did, too. I responded based on my own experience, beliefs, the way I operate in the world. Of course women support each other, I commented indignantly. We have mothers, sisters, girlfriends, and daughters—of course we support each other. “Collaborate and mentor!” was my feel-good battle cry.

But it wasn’t true for all women, not by a long stretch.

Once when I was working on a project, a woman told me nobody would be interested in it because women don’t support each other. We’re all out for ourselves, she said. Women don’t like other women—they compete for men, jobs, deals, beauty…

“What are you talking about?” I said. “I have a little sister. Every time I see a smart young woman, I see my little sister’s face. I always want to support young women, and I’ve been mentored by countless women.”

We see the world as we want to see the world.

But it’s a prevalent belief among men and women of a certain ilk that women hate each other. I think it’s based on this notion that we are sex objects, that we have no value outside of our ability to have sex, give birth, and clean house.

Older women, these Haters believe, don’t like young women because of their youth and beauty. In fact, not that long ago I had a jarring conversation with an acquaintance on the topic. I had stopped to talk to two lovely young women on the street who were advocating for the Human Rights Campaign. Again, their bright intelligent faces, their earnestness, using their Saturday afternoon to make the world a better place…what’s not to like? Of course I wanted to support them.

“That’s really great that you weren’t intimidated,” this acquaintance said sympathetically. It made me sick to my stomach. There is just so much wrong with that remark…in my world, in my experience, in my belief system.

I’ve heard of men in sales tell female sales reps to put on a short skirt and go close the deal. We’re teaching it from the cradle—it’s in our schools, how we are raising our sons and daughters. More evidence—a friend was telling me about PBS special that focused on the fact that underage sex these days is primarily girls giving boys oral sex without reciprocity—young girls do it to become popular.

Another sickening piece in the media recently was about a tweet a former Playboy Playmate had posted. She’d taken a picture of a woman in a gym shower, spliced it with a picture of herself snickering, with the caption “If I can’t un-see this, you can’t un-see this either.” And apparently 91% of women hate their bodies.

Today we commemorate the anniversary of women’s right to vote with Women’s Equality Day. It took too long to get it—the 19th Amendment wasn’t ratified until August 18, 1920, though it had been introduced in 1878.

We can vote—awesome—but we still have a major problem. And it’s a lot like this nation’s race problems—it’s so ingrained in our society, on social media, in the utter crap put out by Hollywood that it’s hard to know where to begin. How do you fix broken belief systems?

Maybe a good starting place is to face the truth. Some people believe that black lives do indeed matter and that the idea is worth fighting for. Some successful women practice collaboration and mentoring with other women. Some men see women as equals and respect their daughters, mothers, sisters, wives, and girlfriends. But until these segments of “some people” are the majority, we still have a long way to go, baby.

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Showing 2 comments
  • Rob

    Spot on Ms. Fleming!

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