In the United States, women are 51% of the population and 49% of the workforce, yet they comprise only 4% of the Chief Executive Officers (CEO’s) in the Fortune 500 companies. Globally, women cap out at 18% of middle management in every industry, in every country, across the board. In other words, women are not making it to the top anywhere in the world. Indra Nooyi, the CEO of Pepsico, who is also considered one of the most powerful women in the world, was asked, “When do you think women will finally break through the glass ceiling?” She answered, “When women start helping women.”
Nooyi explained that her experience in the corporate world demonstrated that men routinely offered business assistance to both male and female colleagues, but women were neither willing to give help, nor receive it. She found that not only was constructive criticism and helpful insight withheld from women co-workers but when she tried to offer advice in support of other women, if was flatly rejected as either an insult or demand. She observed, generally speaking, that women do not value opinions or suggestions from one another as respected and qualified peers.
This is not a new phenomenon. In the 1800’s, Susan B. Anthony, one the original leaders of the women’s movement in the United States, was often the subject of ridicule and scorn for advocating for women’s right to vote. In a speech she delivered at the National American Woman Suffrage Association convention she urged, “If we do not inspire in women a broad and [inclusive] spirit, then we will fail, when [when we do receive the right to vote] to constitute that power for better government which we have always claimed for them. Ten women educated into the practice of [generous] principles would be a stronger force then 10,000 organized on a platform of intolerance and bigotry.”
Other countries around the world have elected women as their highest ranking officials. In the USA, we are on the precipice of having a female candidate win the nomination from her party for the Presidential election. It is certainly a start, but is it enough? Can just a few key women in top positions shift such an antiquated epidemic?
Studies show that middle school age girls are twice as likely to be involved in bullying as boys. When boys bully, they typically use physical force or aggression. Girls, on the other hand, are more likely to utilize the subtle methods of verbal and emotional abuse. They typically employ methods of ostracization and exclusion to isolate their victims. Or they will use demeaning language to harass and belittle others. They are often targets of cyber-bullying and nasty rumors, especially involving sexual gossip.
In this day and age of unlimited freedoms and opportunities in the industrial world, we still tend to compete constantly with other women. What, in our subconscious, is perpetuating this destructive behavior? How is this the norm in the 21st century? For thousands of years, a woman’s worth was based solely on her ability to marry. Her survival was totally dependent on her husband’s status. Therefore, women were in vicious competition with one another to secure the best mate and future for themselves. Unfortunately, these beliefs have been unconsciously passed on for millennia and driven deep into our psyches, causing women to continue to unnecessarily compete with each other in every aspect of life.
What are some ways to begin to transform these false core beliefs and limiting patterns? We can shift our focus to programs, activities, thoughts and ideas that build us up and bring us together. Join a sporting team, club, scouting organization or volunteer charity group that has the same mission. Work together to accomplish a goal that everyone can celebrate. Challenge yourself to compliment 3 women a day for 30 days to establish a habit of looking for what’s good in other women, instead of what’s wrong with them. At the end of each day, write down 3 things that you did really well, so you are shifting your internal dialogue from one of self- criticism to self-appreciation. Seeing the good in ourselves will help us to see the good in others.