While the world’s attention is rightfully focused on COVID-19 and its many lasting implications, it’s so important now more than ever that women in our industry protect, promote and support one other, albeit virtually, for the time being.
About a year ago, the three of us were humbled to be honored at a prominent industry event. We walked in knowing of each other mostly by reputation and sharing similar orbits. At some points over our expansive careers in communications, we likely had competed for the same jobs or distinctions, even if we didn’t explicitly know it. Even more telling, we had heard some stereotypical descriptions of one another from "pushy" to "aggressive" to "intimidating."
Yet, as we got to know one another for the first time, it ended up being the beginning of a beautiful friendship - one of sisterhood and comradery. It’s not an overstatement to say we’ve helped one another thrive in this last year - and we haven't had to be in the same room to do it. Would this have been the case ten years ago or even three years ago? Likely not. But, culture has changed and women supporting women are driving that shift.
A recent article in Fortune, entitled "Debunking the Myth of Workplace ‘Mean Girls,’ therefore had us enthralled: "In the gender diversity realm, there are a few myths that simply will not die: and this whopper: that women are, by default, mean to other women in the workplace."
A recent Harvard Business Review article concluded: "The caricatures of women as bullies or backstabbers who are inherently hostile to other women have nothing to do with their actual psychological makeup and everything to do with the stereotypes and biases they confront at work."
Now is the time for everyone to leave the "Mean Girl" stereotype behind. As COVID-19 is teaching us, we are more powerful together than apart. This is especially true when women step up to help one another. With 70+ years of experience between us, here are some tips on how to continue the momentum:
Work together to solve an issue
The great news is most agencies and companies have a women’s resource group already, with varying degrees of engagement. To be most effective, they need to go beyond recognition day gatherings and, instead, harness that collective #girlpower toward actions that benefit women in the workplace. These groups should continue to meet via Zoom while many of us are now working from home. Critical issues still need to be solved. As an example, let’s take on the salary pay gap by sharing salary information, setting specific parity milestones for your organization and enlisting a partner from leadership to sponsor change. Knowledge is power and there is nothing more powerful than coming together to help right a societal wrong.
Cultivate a diverse external network NOW
Take a step back and look at the network you are creating as a collective. Does everyone look like you with similar experiences? If the answer is yes, you’ve got some work to do. Building a strong support team requires time, effort and inclusion. Now is the time to step outside of what feels comfortable, to think to yourself, "who do I want to meet, what do I want to get out of the relationship and what am I willing to pour back into it in exchange?" We can almost guarantee that, in doing so, you will learn something new and enriching. As many people are now working from home, use what would have been your commute time for video networking.
Leverage conferences far beyond the opening & closing remarks...& any postponements
Normally, there is no lack of women’s conferences and leadership events to participate in. While onsite, the time goes quickly. Yet, these gatherings are a prime opportunity to deepen relationships and establish new ones. Women coming together to help one another overcome a challenge is always a good reason to find time on the calendar. In fact, that very opportunity is what brought the three of us together. With events being canceled and having to work from home, consider inviting someone to join you for a cocktail over zoom [#quarantinis, anyone?]. And, with Cannes Lions postponed to October, reach out to the people you were looking forward to meeting in June on the Palais...and book video meetings over rosé instead.
None of us would be where we are today without the fierce partnerships and sense of collaboration that we have with our tribes. And we are so grateful. Consider the women around you as partners not competitors and act accordingly. This can look like advocating for her even when she is not in the room - or conference call; actively seeking her collaborate on projects; asking her opinion; and committing every day to take an action, no matter how small, to connect women in business.
There’s a reason "Mean Girls" - the film and the musical - has enduring appeal: it hilariously promotes a powerful message of female solidarity, a lesson just as important in the workplace as the classroom and everyplace in between. We think Convene Girls has lasting appeal too. And, if you need an excuse to convene some of your favorite women why not co-stream "Mean Girls" on your favorite platform? Now that we’re #togetherathome, the three of us plan to rewatch it together because supporting other women in business is the "fetch" we‘re making happen and we’re the better for it.
Co-authored by Founding Partner of Have Her Back Consulting, Caroline Dettman; Founder and Lead Creative Strategist of Cheryl Overton Communications, LLC Cheryl Overton; and Founder and President of The Sway Effect, Jennifer Risi.