I’ve never identified as a feminist. Perhaps that is because I was taught by the men in my life that it was a dirty word.
I might have even learned that being a feminist would damage my reputation and opportunity, assuming the doors to those opportunities had to be opened by a man, which is still largely too true. It could have been because the media of my time portrayed feminists as nerdy, angry, and unlikeable – three things that I aimed not to be. Perhaps it’s because I have often experienced my own gender being unkind, judgmental, and deliberately demeaning. Perhaps it’s because women have ripped off my ideas without giving me credit. Men have, too, but these women are in women’s professional support groups. I have not embraced nor been embraced by these groups.
Why is that?
This week, I attended a Future Works Alliance event led by its founder, Anne Gemmell, called Women, Work and COVID: The Future is Still Female. During that event, the question was asked: Why aren’t women women’s biggest allies in making it to the C-Suite?
Why do we find that more often than not, women are apt to not let other women shine too brightly?
Sharon Clinton, Deputy Executive Director of Culture, Compliance and Organizational Infrastructure in the Philadelphia Mayor’s Office of Community Empowerment and Opportunity, who led the breakout room discussion on racial and gender bias on the path to C-Suite, asserted that perhaps it’s because women at the top have scars from the battles they fought to get there. Perhaps there is a potential resentment for women who achieve the same without or with fewer scars.
When I likely needed it most, I avoided mom’s clubs. I tried them, and they were exactly as I feared – a bunch of women judging other women.
Since we were young, we have sacrificed each other to save face, tearing each other down hoping it would lift us up. These were the dynamics of female dominance that we learned. We rewarded each other for making fun of each other whether it was through prank calls or whispers. Gossip was like social capital. If you had some, everyone wanted to talk to you. It’s even worse now with social media.
I have to be honest – I don’t think I would have made it out of middle school alive had there been social media! I knew very few nice girls who did not succumb to these twisted power games. These girls usually, smartly, were well-liked by all, but not super close with anyone. It was as if the closer you got to a friend, the more drama ensued. We dealt with our own insecurities by redirecting people’s attention to the flaws of others.
You’d think we’d all grow out of it.
Some of us have. Some of us, honestly, have not.
I gave up vying for popularity in high school and sought out diverse relationships instead; I joined clubs. There was always so much drama among my girl friends (and that didn’t change much even as we aged). Sometimes I felt more comfortable with guy friends – equally loyal, less dramatic.
I’m a sorority girl, and from my impression of women’s groups, you may not get that. I did not intend to pledge a sorority; I was recruited by a friend from high school. Those girls got to know me and, not only accepted me for who I was, mistakes and all, but also appreciated and celebrated my uniqueness. The sorority I chose and that chose me still has an active alumni association. In fact, we will meet virtually this weekend for our annual luncheon. Pledging, for all intents and purposes, was like training in how to be the most sister-like friend you can be. Was there drama? Yes. Did everyone like each other? No. However, groupthink influenced a sense of loyalty and collaboration that superseded personal conflicts. It was actually a GREAT experience in working in harmony with other women, and I wish more women had the same type of experience. From what I discern, not all sorority pledging and sisterhoods accomplish this, but it seems Vice President Kamala Harris has enjoyed such an experience.
My first job in recruiting was in an all-female boutique executive search firm. I hadn’t realized how well women could work together and nurture each other without men around until I had this experience. How I missed those days when I had been psychologically bullied and bad-mouthed by “mean girls.”
When I started my company, most of my clientele were men purely because I was coming from technical recruiting, and technology is dominated by men. My mentors were men. I had a male business coach advise me to put my picture on my website to leverage my (much younger) appearance to attract more of my target audience. (I didn’t – that was never for what I wanted to be valued, especially by clients.) I had known women more experienced than I, but they didn’t really do much for my career. In fact, they usually took more than they gave.
The Harvard Business Review found in 2010 that women are over-mentored yet under-sponsored, and that remains true. Men continue to get promoted more than women. There are also deficiencies in other kinds of sponsorship, such as childcare support.
This is a problem that impacts us all. Data shows huge economic losses linked to racial and gender disparities and lack of sufficient childcare.
Over 2.5 million women lost their jobs during the pandemic. In December 2020, 100% of people who lost their jobs were women, according to data cited by Congresswoman Lisa Blunt Rochester (D-DE) this past Tuesday.
Our current climate of rugged individualism has proven to be not only toxic to overall mental health, but has proven to be devoid of any benefit even to the individual. Shared prosperity has not been shared by all, as the Congresswoman also pointed out on Tuesday. Data shows that even prosperous people would be that much more prosperous if populations who have been left behind were given the opportunity to catch up.
A McKinsey report from August of 2019 explains the economic impacts of closing the racial wealth gap. Their data shows that by closing the gap, the U.S. GDP would rise by 4-6% in 10 years.
A study by the International Monetary Fund also links higher growth to industries and countries with more women in the workforce and greater gender equality.
Keeping all of this in mind, it seems logical to me that enabling more people to prosper by eliminating their obstacles and challenges to doing so is beneficial to everyone. By empowering people with education and training, and ensuring that they have equal access to resources and opportunity, you have fewer people needing financial support from the government and more people contributing to innovation and progress. Growth is accelerated when efforts are focused on the populations with the most challenges and least access.
Growing up, we made ourselves susceptible to feeling as if we deserved the criticism of boy/men. I bought into it. I let the men in my life define me as a woman and I rejected female influence because of how bad it made me feel. Well, I have two daughters now and that ends with me! The gender revolution is far from over. I see now how much my resignation has hindered ALL genders and races. It’s time I stand up for women!
So, I proudly declare: I am a feminist!
Women have not stepped up fully because hurt people hurt people. Women, it’s time we heal ourselves to heal each other. It’s time we fully step into our divine feminine power and be in awe of ourselves and each other. It’s time WE define what being a woman is, intentionally. While we demand respect and recognition from our male counterparts, we need to do this for each other as well. Let’s heal together.
From the 1980 Motown album, “diana”
Karen Huller is the creator of the Corporate Consciousness Ripple Blueprint and author of Laser-sharp Career Focus: Pinpoint your Purpose and Passion in 30 Days. She founded Epic Careering, a leadership and career development firm specializing in executive branding and conscious culture, in 2006.
While the bulk of her 20 years of professional experience has been within the recruiting and employment industry, her publications, presentations, and coaching also draw from experience in personal development, performance, broadcasting, marketing, and sales. Her solutions incorporate breakthroughs in neuroscience, human performance optimization, bioenergetics, and psychology to help leaders accelerate rapport, expand influence, and elevate engagement and productivity while also looking out for the sustainability of the business and the planet.
Mrs. Huller was one of the first LinkedIn trainers and is known widely for her ability to identify and develop new trends. She is a Certified Professional Résumé Writer, Certified Career Transition Consultant, and Certified Clinical Hypnotherapist with a Bachelor of Art in Communication Studies and Theater from Ursinus College and a minor in Creative Writing. Her blog was recognized as a top 100 career blog worldwide by Feedspot.
She was an Adjunct Professor in Cabrini University’s Communications Department and an Adjunct Professor of Career Management and Professional Development at Drexel University’s LeBow College of Business. As an instructor for the Young Entrepreneurs Academy, she has helped two of her students win the 2018 National Competition to be named America’s Next Top Young Entrepreneurs, to win the 2019 People’s Choice Award, and to land in the top 8 during the (virtual) 2020 National Competition.
She is board secretary for the Upper Merion Community Center and just finished serving as Vice President of the Gulph Elementary PTC, for which she received recognition as a Public Education Partner and Promoter from the Upper Merion Area Education Association. She lives in King of Prussia with her husband, two daughters, and many pets, furry, feathered, and scaly.business > confidence > conscious leadership > corporate leadership > emotional needs > empathy > empowerment > female leadership > help women > Learning > mindfulness > personal growth > positive change