Dear women: it’s time for some truth about what’s holding us back. The problem is not the patriarchy. It’s us.
Today is International Women’s Day,
a global day celebrating the social, economic, cultural and political achievements of women. The day also marks a call to action for accelerating gender parity.
The theme of IWD this year, #PressforProgress (yes, with the hashtag) seems perfectly positioned to capitalize on the momentum of #MeToo and #TimesUp. It appears that the women’s movement is on the cusp of a big moment.
I feel like I should be excited today…? I feel like I should be all rah, rah, yay, women!, #girlpower…?
But to be honest, I’m not feeling it. I’m not feeling the momentum. I’m not feeling that this is a movement that will actually lead to change.
It all feels hollow. Empty.
Who Are We Fighting?
What I see and hear is a movement focused on rallying cohesion around a common external enemy: the patriarchy that has long subverted us and held us down, through sexual harassment and abuse, denying opportunity, unequal pay, and other means.
These are certainly conditions that we must change. I’m all for what the movement stands for.
The Patriarchy is Not the Enemy
Where I’m left feeling empty is in process: the fight, and the choice of enemy. No doubt the “patriarchy” has played a role in how we got here, but the the biggest enemy is not external.
The thing that is keeping gender parity from becoming a reality, the force that is pushing back against the #PressforProgress, is coming from within.
The biggest enemy of the women’s movement is women. Specifically, how women treat each other.
Cliques. Cattiness. Competitiveness. Cutting each other down. These are not the actions that will lead to gender parity.
The patriarchy doesn’t need to push down women. We do a great job of this on our own.
What We Can Learn From the Patriarchy
Rather than tearing down the patriarchy, maybe we can learn from them.
Here are two things that I see in the boys clubs that I don’t see in the sisterhood:
The “old boys networks tend to have that is all inclusive: the guys look out for each other, no matter what. Single, married, kids, no kids. It doesn’t matter.
Women tend to maintain the clique mindset that they adopted in middle school, or before. The only thing that changes over time are the sub-groups: Single. Married. Kids. No kids. Older. Younger. Each faction is separate.
(2) Access, Action, and Opportunity
The men’s networks are about action. Guys hook their bros up with opportunity. They get access to the job before it becomes available. They hook up their brothers with the inside track.
Women’s networks, at least the ones I’ve experienced, tend to be more focused on support and teaching. It’s more talk than action.
We Need More Than Support
Support and skills are important. But the best support is action, including:
- championing a woman’s work to others
- making an introduction to help a woman get a foot in the door
- helping a woman get a project off the ground
- opening doors
- creating opportunity
When I look back on my career to this point, and I look at the people who have believed in me, mentored me, championed me, and gave me opportunities to prove my abilities, the vast majority have been men.
The people who treated me harshly and unfairly, who withheld opportunity, undermined my efforts, and caused me to doubt myself and my abilities have all been women.
The Mindset Shift
I realize that part of this dynamic comes from a mindset of scarcity. An older generation of women had so few opportunities available to them, so they developed a competitive mindset. They fought to preserve the best opportunities for themselves.
It can take years of deconditioning to undo those patterns. But we won’t see real progress until we change this mindset. As long as women believe that opportunities are scarce and must be fought for, we will continue to fight. And the problem is that we are fighting each other. The only winner in that fight is the status quo.
It is time for this dynamic to change.
We don’t need more rallies and marches and lobbying. These activities give our power away. We need action.
The only way women will advance in the #PressforProgress is if we clean up the culture in the sisterhood first.
Progress will come when we stop fighting and undermining each other and start lifting each other up.
We must operate with the belief that there are plenty of opportunities for women. Because there will be, when we create them for each other.
What You Can Do Next
So, how do we put this into action? Here are three things you can do to create real change in the #PressforProgress:
(1) Champion another woman
Pick a woman whose work you appreciate and promote her to your tribe. Not because you’re an affiliate or because you stand to gain, but simply because you believe in what she does and want the people in your world to know about her. Encourage others to subscribe to her list, or enroll in her program, or buy from her store. Tell people why you think her work is worth their time and attention.
(2) Open a Door for Another Woman
Make an introduction for a woman to someone who might be helpful for her to know. Offer her an opportunity. Suggest an opportunity that can be created for her. Don’t wait for her to ask; do it proactively.
(3) Give a Woman an Assist
Take a woman under your wing and assist her in meeting a goal. Help her launch a project. Walk her through the steps on her first deal. Show her the ropes and walk the path with her as she navigates it for the first time.
Do this for another woman and notice how you are also elevated. This is what it means to lift as you climb.
We can do this ladies. Are you in?