I was sitting amongst a group of local female leaders recently having a glass of wine and chatting about issues that affect us in our own businesses on a regular basis. The topic of women competing in the workplace came up, and memories of just about every corporate position I’ve ever held started flashing before my eyes. I used to feel like I was being singled out in the past – for some reason there was always a female figure (never male) that made it their goal to stand in the way of my advancement. I never understood it to be honest. I’ve always tried to be supportive of other women and raise them up for recognition whenever possible – as a gender we need all the support we can get! Especially in male-dominated fields like what I was in at that point in my career (aerospace!). The ladies around the table at this “League of Extraordinary Women” weVENTURE event felt the same. As a matter of fact, that’s what brought us all together in the first place – having the desire to raise the profile of successful women in our community and provide tools and recognition to those that were working on advancing in their industries, or who had the desire to start their own businesses but would thrive even faster with the support of other successful women!
Yet, I was surprised to see nearly every women in the group raise their hand or voice when it came to being a victim of this type of competitive behavior at some point in their careers. What the entire group had in common was the drive to become a leader in their profession. So what is it that causes women to sometimes be so competitive in the workplace? In an environment where we have worked so hard to get a seat at the executive table, why would we stifle other women trying to reach those same goals?
I don’t really know the answer to this, but in our group discussion we talked about how we might begin to combat this issue. It has to start somewhere. I think groups like what we’ve formed through weVENTURE are a great start. We have to set an example for the younger women in the workplace to follow. If they see us publicly recognizing each other’s achievements, nominating each other for awards and contributing to the advancement of other women for non-selfish purposes, perhaps others will follow that lead. I think it has to start during the high school years to be honest – there is so much competition among women at a young age and I’m afraid it just intensifies as we grow older.
Our group started a mentoring program recently where we were each paired with a Florida Tech student (a female). In addition to mentoring them about their careers or entrepreneurial aspirations, we also hope to influence these young women to think about competition differently… to also lead by example within their own circles of influence, and hopefully create a movement within those microcosms.
It won’t happen overnight, but we each have a role to play in this movement. Please consider being an agent for change in your own work environment! It starts with you.
Tina Lange, APR is the owner and chief strategist of Strategic Ink Public Relations in Melbourne. Strategic Ink handles PR and social media programs for a wide range of local, regional and national nonprofit and for-profit companies in the medical, arts, aerospace, high-tech and BtoB sectors. Tina is a graduate and mentor of the weVENTURE IGNITE 360® Business Mentoring Program as well. To learn more about Strategic Ink, visit www.strategicinkpr.com.