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Pat Mitchell Headshot

Get Your 'Posse'!

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Watching the "fab five," as the 2012 U.S. women gymnastics team was known, dominate at the Olympics last week, and watching them cheer for each other and genuinely support and celebrate each other's victories, I was reminded of one of my favorite philosophies: no matter who we are or what we do in the world, we can do it better if we have a posse.  

Some of you, like the "fab five," are probably too young to know what a "posse" is, so let me give you a little context. A posse is a group that comes together around a cause, which in the case of the posses in old western movies, was to capture the bad guys. The good guys would saddle up and ride together after the bad guys or to rescue the girl in distress. The point of the posse, as I interpreted it, was that it was easier to do the right thing when you had back up, when you had other people riding along beside you.

Certainly we watched those amazing gymnasts watch each other's backs as they cheered each other on and offered hugs of support and congratulations after each stunning individual performance. I had the feeling, watching them, that the dynamic of being a team, having their own posse of support (which included their coaches and parents, of course), was one of the key factors in their medal wins.

Everyone needs a posse. We need them now more than ever, as we are navigating both the best time to be a woman, in terms of opportunities, and one of the worst time, as violence against women escalates in nearly every country. The number of women who are striving to fulfill their potential is not matched by the number who are actually getting there, whether to the top of companies or countries. I can't help but wonder if part of the "leaky pipeline," as it has been dubbed by gender theorists, is really a product of women not having a strong enough posse to support them through hard times, build up their resilience, and problem solve together.

I know my posse of good friends has gotten me through many competitions, winning and losing, helped me think through career transitions, celebrated big successes with me and cried with me when things didn't go so well. Knowing they "had my back," that they were "in my corner," ready to saddle up and ride, or offer a comforting word or a big hug just when I need it, has made all the difference.

We may not all physically leap off of uneven bars or do back flips on a balance beam, like our remarkable "fab five," but metaphorically, we do back flips for each other every day. We line up at the edge of the mat to offer support. We look out for the opportunity to saddle up and ride together for fun, friendship, and a good cause.