"Strong women don't hate, they collaborate." Unknown
Over the past two decades I have run several successful businesses and I have been awarded the NatWest Everywoman Athena Award. I can honestly say much of what I have accomplished would not have been possible without women. From my late grandmother and mother, my sisters, girlfriends, staff, mentors and colleagues; they have been crucial to my growth. I constantly seek ways to celebrate womanhood and sisterhood.
Last week, I hosted my bi-monthly Be and Beyond 'Dine To Climb' supper. I established this event to learn and share and simply 'be' with diverse and like-minded women. It was incredibly empowering to be surrounded by such inspirational business women, mothers, presenters, writers, students and entrepreneurs. Together, we are capable of so much.
This is why it saddens me to hear experiences of women competing, comparing, undermining and undercutting one another.
"If you want to go fast, go alone. If you want to go far, go together."African Proverb
I always listen closely when women speak about their life experiences as I find it to be galvanising. A commonly shared experience is that as women endeavour to accomplish their goals and negotiate life in a 'mans world', they are also struggling with women who seem set on competing or sabotaging them.
For decades women have struggled to gain autonomy and recognition in industry's that are founded on institutionalised sexism.
The Independent newspaper reported last year that nearly nine in ten women in the UK believe that being a woman is a barrier to their professional progress.
The study of 2,000 women, commissioned by Stylist magazine, quizzed women on examples of sexism they had experienced personally at work. Making tea and enduring sexual innuendos was at the top of the list. This is where I believe women can be each others best allies and support network.
This issue is sadly not only limited to the workplace. Large numbers of women compete with other women physically, materially and for a mate.
A psychology today report has revealed that data shows that about 47% of men have been poached from a current partner by another woman. Popular poaching tactics include seeking out the women's flaws and insecurities and exploiting them to her advantage by bringing them to the man's attention. The psychology here is that by making another woman look bad she will, by default, make herself look good.
Whether in the workplace, a nightclub or in a friendship, this competitive behaviour often boils down to insecurity. This, to me, is the most unfortunate of excuses for a bad attitude.
When a woman meets another woman she has a number of choices in how to respond. If someone is coming from a place of insecurity they are far more likely to respond with envy rather than with solidarity or admiration.
Once more, this is where my firm belief in wholeness comes into play. Feeling confident and whole is the solid foundation which allows us to hold onto our own unique identity, flaws and all, without reacting negatively.
This is a topic that has been in the spotlight this week as recently Tom Fletchers (of boyband McFly) wife expressed her humiliation when she was publicly taunted by another woman over her baby weight just eleven days after giving birth. Incidents like these are just not conducive to our growth. We stand on the shoulders of women who fought for the privileges we enjoy today.
We have achieved so much: I also hear stories about women being mentors and supporters to each other. Catalyst recently reported that women are more likely to develop other women. I know that we do it, I just wish we would do it more.
This week marks International Women's Day. It is a day that celebrates our global growth and acknowledges our lack of progress. It has been allocated as a day when we contribute to take action and accelerate gender parity. This journey to gender parity will only be slowed down if we are weighed down by negativity towards each-other.
I want to implore us all to support each-other in every domain.
Celebrate the social, economic, cultural and political achievement of women.
I truly believe that there is enough space in every arena for each of us to thrive and flourish. Jealousy and competitiveness is such a waste of energy and is actually detrimental to our wellbeing. Let's face it, we've survived so much and achieved everything we can now lay claim to despite obstacles. If we can overcome being threatened by our sisters, we can stand together and achieve even more.
We are, after all, one team. Let's learn to join hands, stand on each others shoulders and simply be.
"We need women at all levels, including the top, to change the dynamic, reshape the conversation, to make sure women's voices are heard and heeded, not overlooked and ignored." Sheryl Sandberg