I had the great honor recently of facilitating a high-level discussion at Executive Networks between Dr. Marcia Reynolds, best-selling author of ‘Wander Woman: How High Achieving Women Achieve Contentment’ and senior women leaders from large corporations. The discussion turned to women’s support to each other, and the popular myth that women just don’t help other women in their careers in today’s organizations. The pervasive belief that women who make it to the top pull the ladder up after themselves and somehow act to prevent other women from getting ahead was firmly dispelled both by Dr .Reynolds and those present..
In her interviews with 100 top women business leaders, Dr. Reynolds in fact discovered quite the opposite. In what she terms ‘Positive Conspiracies of Change’ she has seen, repeatedly, women supporting other women in projects, mentoring, networks and sponsoring, in major and minor ways. This is also our experience at Executive Networks, an organization linking men and women at the most senior levels in global billion dollar companies to exchange information and experience. On countless occasions, online and in person, reaching out individually and through our communities, junior, mid level and senior women are helping each other. We saw this again in action between the women who joined our Executive Networks Global Diversity & Inclusion Network online meeting this month, where the topic was Succession Planning. According to Executive Networks’ D&I Executive Director Mary Farmer ‘the genuine willingness to share valuable without vested information, self-interest, is something I’ve encountered frequently in communities and networks of professional women, and is a hallmark of Executive Networks. I really don’t know where the idea comes from that corporate women try to undermine each other, this is something I’ve never experienced. Do some women not like some other women? Absolutely, just as men don’t always get along., but my own research totally corroborates Dr. Reynolds’ findings, that women can and do join forces to create positive change and facilitate gender balance in today’s high-performing companies’.
As part of their own on-going positive conspiracy of change these women joining our virtual conversations at Executive Networks frequently have not yet met each other in person, nor have they had years of opportunity to establish relationships — still they show up and share with each other what is working to make a difference in their organizations, sharing extremely valuable tacit and explicit knowledge, to collaborate, to share and to learn together in order to drive business results. It’s true, it happens throughout the year and it’s very common – women really go out of their way to support each other. These women will share their stories in panel discussions, during virtual knowledge share events, offer to welcome a new member to our global network in an effort to build their own positive conspiracy of change and give back. Additionally, they enjoy checking in with each other for support around topics of common interest. They join conversations to seek the advice of their network colleagues, just as women do everywhere. That is the glue, the power and the real deal of support in the positive conspiracy of change. Let’s put the ‘women undermining other women’ myth to rest, once and for all.
Mary Farmer & Michael Tirrell contributed to this post.