Do Women Really Support One Another? 10 Successful Business Women Speak Out

12/14/2017 11:51 am ET Updated Jan 01, 2018
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I admire high-achieving, confident women who are successful in their chosen careers. Even more, I admire women who are visible in their support of other women who are also striving to leave their positive footprint on the planet. The question is, are we all committed to being our sister’s keeper, or is this an every woman for herself journey through life?

Shortly after I began to write this article, I came across the following message on Twitter:

This tweet is another reference to how some women have lost sight of the importance of compassion when it comes to one another. While there are a number of critical reasons why this is happening, many women believe that the lack of support for one another is a key reason why we’re still bumping our heads on the glass ceiling. Others have stated that it is because of the glass ceiling that women are less inclined to be concerned about another woman’s career growth.

Following a 20 year-corporate career, I took a leap of faith into the coveted world of entrepreneurship. Shortly after, one of my first Facebook posts read, “Do you want to find out who your true supporters are? Become an entrepreneur. I very quickly learned that not every woman whom I had considered a friend or acquaintance truly understood my new journey and in conjunction with that lack of comprehension, I observed a sense of reservation on their part. Waiting to see if I was serious, waiting to see what I would do next and unfortunately, some were waiting to see if I would fail and go running back to my comfort zone.

Fortunately, the latter of the group was in the minority, and subsequently, eliminated from my inner circle. Long before I came across a very poignant message from Oprah Winfrey regarding this needed action, I learned to take responsibility for my own energy as well as the energy that I allowed into my life.

For this article, I reached out to successful women in business to obtain their opinions on the subject. The volume of responses was overwhelming. I selected 10 of them to share their experiences.

A common thread in some of the feedback is the competitiveness among us. But when we engage in this behavior, are we competing against one another, or with ourselves and how we think of ourselves? Are we caught up in believing that for us to shine individually, we must dim another woman’s light? What makes some women more committed to being supportive than others? In light of the growing list of allegations of sexual assault and harassment in the news, will women be more conscious of the need to be supportive of one another on a more consistent basis?

While, I have been fortunate to cross paths with some amazing women who truly understand the meaning of support and sisterhood (p.s., it has to be more than a hashtag to be genuine), the conversation surrounding women and their support (or lack thereof) for one another continues.

Dr. Froswa' Booker-Drew: Author, Rules of Engagement: Making Connections Last

I think a lot of women from childhood feel like there is this competition, a competition for attention. I think with the onslaught of social media, a lot of women feel as though they are under a spotlight. There is pressure to look your best, to be the smartest and the most accomplished. As a result, competition can place some women at odds with one another. I think instead of seeing women as competitors; we should begin to see each other as collaborators and co-creators. The ability to do this is often contingent upon our self-perception. If we see ourselves as strong, powerful and unique, then we don't feel intimidated and threatened when another woman is walking in her truth, power, and brilliance. It is at that moment that hopefully, we are capable of seeing how important we all are and that each of us has something significant to contribute.

Apryl DeLancey Founder & CEO, El Porto Shark

As a woman entrepreneur, I have surrounded myself with supportive women. In fact, there is a massive movement that believes that there is a special place in hell for women that don't support other women. Many realize that bickering over who has better hair, clothes, or whatever other “competitive” things just helps the "boys club."

Gina Argento: CEO and President, Broadway Stages

We see articles all the time about the glass ceiling, and how women will never make it to c-suite positions at the rate that men do, and we charge those failures to society. And while yes, it’s true that women are definitely at a disadvantage in many fields, I also find that women are each other’s worst enemies when it comes to success in the workplace. If you’re a working mom and can’t attend every PTA meeting, or you can’t attend every after-school activity that your children participate in, then you're considered a bad mom by some. If you’re a stay-at-home mom, you’re deemed lazy and criticized for not helping to provide for your family. Whether a woman chooses to work a full-time job or to be a full-time mom, it's her choice. Women need to stop tearing each other down and learn to motivate and encourage each other to succeed at whatever it is they’re doing, Both options require a great deal of effort and are exhausting. Whichever option is chosen, women should be applauding each other for their hard work and commitment.

Farrah Parker: Branding Consultant, FD Parker & Associates

The adage “Women don’t support each other” is a myth fueled by exclusion. Because women are excluded from so many male-dominated spaces, a narrative ensues, creating a division based on the “lucky” woman who has "cracked the code." Just as men compete, scratch, and claw, some women go for the gusto no matter who or what is at stake. Nonetheless, as an entrepreneur who has been hired by mostly women, I witness first hand the beauty of female camaraderie. To those who promote the belief that women don’t uplift, I always ask, “Are you part of the problem and who is the last woman you lifted?"

Samantha Osburn: CEO and Executive Producer, Atlanta Media Pros

As a producer in the film industry, I find that most women stick together. There has been an increase in coverage of the "men's club" that is prevalent in the film industry. Because of this scrutiny, I'm observing a greater sense of support, with many more women on set forming deep bonds. Many are now openly swapping horror stories about things regarding sexual harassment, discrimination, and other critical work-related issues.

Shavannah Moore: The Empowerment Expert

Unfortunately, I think a lot of women portray to be supporters of other women and are truly NOT. Many still don’t want to see the next woman win or surpass their level of success, due to them feeling a sense of entitlement and or/competition. I think that women who think this way have been conditioned to think this way since childhood and they never reconditioned their minds to be sincerely happy for other women. It’s somewhat a form of envy, jealousy, and may suggest underlining issues in their own life. However, I do believe that there is a multitude of women who truly do support one another and many of us have created a culture through movements, which bring women together to embrace our individuality. We provide a space for Women to support one another on all levels and understand that when one win, we ALL WIN!

Alli Owen: Engineer & Life Coach

Professionally, I think women support each other. Socially, I believe that we can do a better job. As a female engineer in a male-dominated field, I have been on the receiving end of support and encouragement from many other females. My boss is a female and has championed our company for more female engineers for years. I have seen female engineers support each other even when they disagree socially. Being a female in a male-dominated field has been an advantage for me because of the strong ties women have and the desire to see each other succeed professionally.

The time that I witness women not supporting each other is when their social structure is threatened. I observe women competing with other women for the best hair, best body, best wedding, best trips, etc. If the women are single, I also see them competing for available men. Petty stuff in my opinion.

Robyn Mancell: Co-Founder, Girls Gone Forex

In our business, which caters to women, we have developed a large sisterhood of women who encourage and support each other. Perhaps this occurs because women run our business, or because we set a culture of empowerment from the beginning. We are collaborating with other women in the financial sector, and referrals are given equally to each other. Many of the financial sectors are dominated by men and knowing that we are trying to even the playing field has created a bond with our students that they eagerly share with other women.

Ashley Mason: Social Media Consultant, Dash of Social

I do believe that women support each other. It has helped me in my business because I work primarily with women, and many women are constantly referring people to me to work with. My business wouldn't have grown as much as it has if it wasn't for these incredible women. I do believe that there are some women who don't support others because they are jealous and don't want to see another woman be more successful than them.

Juanika Dildy: Founder & CEO, Ladypreneur Academy, LLC

Women don't offer full support because they're always reminded of the challenges they face to reach their own goals. It's unfortunate because the glass ceiling will usually break faster if multiple high-heels are banging against it. In my career, I've found that many women have no problem becoming a "cheerleader" for a cause that is mutually beneficial, but few will become a sponsor solely for the benefit of someone else.

In my career, I've experienced both. I've had a sponsor that would fight for me to ensure I wasn't being mistreated, but I've also had cheerleaders that would share my sentiments, listen to me gripe, but take no action. I felt empowered to remain hopeful because of my sponsor, but it became clear that my cheerleaders only encouraged, but never shared real secrets of success in business. I've even paid for a business consultation, but the greed of my female mentor kept her from sharing the truth behind her success and cost me almost a year of wasted time and thousands of dollars.

The lack of support hurts business because it's a universal principle of growth. You'll limit your increase if you refuse to expand. Zig Ziglar said it best, "You'll get all you want in life if you help enough people get what they want."

What have your experiences been in your career? What suggestions do you have to offer on the subject? Feel free to share in comments.

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