It hasn’t always been easy for me to be friends with women. I remember when I was a girl, I felt more comfortable with male friends, than female ones. They were just easier to be around.
Looking back on this, I think the reason it was easier to be around the boys, was because of how competitive and judgmental young women can be.
As young women, we learn to compete against each other for boys, attention, and recognition and estimate self-worth by comparing ourselves to others. As all women know, this competition can get ugly and downright mean. Even into my late 20s, I can think of many times I felt I was treated worse by my women “friends,” than I was by men. Although it was often because of men, that we clashed.
In a way, it seems that we’re pitted against each other. Forced to compete, like gladiators, for the attention of lovers and more. Worst of all, we don’t even realize that’s what’s happening. Every time we notice people comparing us to one another, we have a choice to look at it as competition, or acknowledge that we are in it together and the ones we were compared to are our own support network of Worthy Women Club.
In my speech for the Women’s March, I made the statement, “The idea that women can’t work together is bullshit!” I deliberated over that line, more than any other line in my speech, worried that the language was too strong. After a lot of thought, I decided “Bullshit! That’s exactly the punctuation it needs.” Interestingly, it is the line I hear got the most applause and that stuck with people the most. So much so that the group BichitaICT made a meme about it for social media.
I strongly believe that the way for us to truly own our power, is to stop competing and start practicing our skills of collaboration. This truly is the most effective way to make change happen, in our personal and professional lives. I’m not saying this is easy. Many people don’t like group projects, for lots reasons. But the excuses to avoid the occasional discomfort that comes from collaborating, become meaningless when we look at the payoffs. By working with co-teachers at the Finishing School, I’ve been able to offer classes I couldn’t have done on my own and have made many new meaningful friendships with amazing women who have become valued members of my Worthy Women’s Club.
To really be good at this, we have to learn to dance the Give and Take Tango. Collaborating is as much about giving responsibility, as it is about taking responsibility. Being willing to let go of control and delegate tasks. Realizing that not only can other people accomplish the project as good as we can, they may be able to do it even better! We also can’t wait for someone to ask us to take responsibility. We must be willing to give our time and talents when it matters.
I don’t think collaborating comes naturally to us. It takes diplomacy, the ability to recognize and value the needs of others, and communication skills. These are things we learn, through studying, practicing and learning from our mistakes, if we’re lucky. I am constantly amazed at the things we expect ourselves to know automatically. We aren’t born knowing how to drive a car, so why do we expect ourselves to automatically know how to be an effective communicator? Since my speech at the Women’s March, I’ve been giving a lot of thought to how we can learn to be better collaborators and have started working on content for a new class for second quarter.
As I’ve gotten older, I’ve learned to appreciate my women friends in a new way and love having more of them in my life. We don’t compete. We support. As I look around me and see all my strong, women friends, I know why I am who I am today and what we can accomplish together.