Happy International Women’s Day blog readers. Today for #IWD2017 we’re talking about our campaign #bemorebird. When asked, 80% of the millennials we spoke to stated they would rather work for a man than a woman. This made our hearts sink… Women as bosses were described as ‘bitchy’, ‘mean’, ‘overly demanding’ and ‘unrealistic’.We did some soul searching and had to admit, we had at times described female bosses in these terms ourselves. Why do we do that when male bosses can be equally difficult? Why do many women default to using derogatory terms in response? We believe that women should in the first instance help other women and we are calling for all women to pay attention to how they describe each other, especially when annoyed.
We see it in the workplace, the media, social media and even in government. The leather trouser-gate spat between Nicky Morgan and Theresa May’s team back in December was depressing in many ways. Would anyone have commented on the price of David Cameron’s suits? No. Did Nicky Morgan regret saying it? Probably yes. Was the response from Fiona Hill (Theresa May’s Joint Chief of Staff) equally petty? Yes. Would it have created such a big media story if it hadn’t been two women involved? Of course not.
One of the key issues here is that if women don’t help and support each other how can we expect our male colleagues to? For women to get to where we want and deserve to be, we need all the support we can get right?
In our Valentine’s day blog we examined the research and psychology behind this behaviour. In the spirit of the #beboldforchange theme for IWD2017 what can we do about it?
Birdsoup was born out of an experience of working in an all female management team, we weren’t all best friends, we didn’t agree all the time, but we did support each other and we also recognised that as a team we were hugely effective and an unstoppable force.
Experience (ours and others) tells us that women can take things more personally than men, they often invest emotionally in their work and therefore may take things to heart if their ideas or opinions are not implemented or heard.
Women can find competition with other women more challenging than with other men and often judge that competition differently. There is still an expectation that men are competitive by nature whilst it’s unusual for women.
Resilience and staying power are important here (more on this in another post!) but we need to get real here. I’ve never worked in a company where there was no politics, so we need to recognise it and navigate it (that’s not to say we can’t try to improve it at the same time) Women are competitive, they may not always display it as blatantly as men, but we wonder if women aim their competitiveness more at other women?
We won’t “like” everyone we work with men or women, but we should judge them by the same standards. If a woman we work with does or says something we don’t like then we need to have a respectful and adult conversation about it, not go and bitch and moan to all our colleagues about it, that’s really no better than the awful behaviour we witness on social media. To quote author Sophia Nelson “Gossip is still one of the most nasty rampant things we do as Women to each other. And it hurts, it really damages Women” Gossip can pass the time on a boring day but it’s addictive and negative.
We should help to educate our male colleagues on the situations in which different standards are applied to Women and Men, whether that’s evaluation, recognition, progression or just basic expectations or behaviour.
I read that Christine Lagarde the MD of the IMF keeps in her purse a list of 10 great women that are potential CEO’s so she has suggestions when someone complains they can’t find any qualified women. Let’s channel that!
What can you do?
Encourage other women around you, big them up, help them find their confidence.
Don’t let women undermine themselves, no pre-apologising or not speaking up.
Help other women celebrate accomplishments and make sure the boss hears.
Don’t tolerate bad behaviour or bullying, call it out.
Turn competing into collaborating.
Judge men and women equally, fix don’t bitch.