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Compete With Yourself
and Not Other Women
By Debbie Christofferson, CISSP, CISM

On TV reality shows like Big Brother and Survivor, women compete against and back-stab each other. This pattern often repeats itself in business. Are we killing off career opportunities by tearing down our own support structure?

“I prefer working for a man”

Proclaimed Laura, “… I’ve never really gotten along with women I’ve worked for.” We were participating in a musical-chairs inclusion activity, to kick-off a mentoring program for women in technology. Laura was talking to the event’s sole male, seated at our table of four.

It appalled me that an intelligent woman and a member of this group’s leadership board would speak so negatively, at an event charted to support women.

I asked Laura if she ever managed women, and she said no. She was re-careering in mid-life and nearly finished with a technology degree. When queried on her future, Laura had no plans to manage. She wasn’t going to drink the water, but Laura was poisoning the well for the rest of us. Do you know a Laura?

In my junior supervisor days, a colleague “Mary” complained about a co-worker during a meeting with our manager. As she told me later, “Marcus” then asked Mary about getting along with her six co-workers one-by-one.

“No” was affirmed for each. Marcus followed this path, asking one-by-one if the co-workers got along with each other. “Yes” was repeated each time.

Marcus asked Mary from the facts she presented, did she see herself as being the Least Common Denominator, in not getting along with the others.

Do you see a common denominator in tearing down relationships with other women? Does everybody but Mary get along? As Judge Judy says, “Rotten apples don’t improve the barrel-they rot the apples around them.”

Laura can become more conscious of her thoughts and behavior and what’s driving them. You can’t change Laura or Mary, but you can help others while also helping yourself. When the tide rises, all boats float higher. When it goes out, we get to see who’s swimming naked.

Helping raise the tide:

  • Support the creation of success for other women. Mentor another female, or someone seeking a new career. Work with students in career development.
  • Pass on leads for jobs, clients, or positions.
  • Mentor or coach another women, or put yourself in the passenger seat.
  • For managers, create a succession plan for key roles that opens new doors.
  • Build relationships. Share credit and positive feedback every time you get a chance. Listen more and talk less. Speak positively when discussing others.
  • Join a professional association for women supporting other women. Get actively involved and seek ways to develop and grow your business relationships. Participate on the board or a committee. Groups exist in every field. Try out a few and find one that fits.
  • Speak up when you hear negative rhetoric that blackens every one of us with the same tar. Silence implies agreement and feeds the lie.
  • Seek active opportunities and training. Become more conscious of your own choices and behavior, and commit to make a difference.

Just like United States Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O’Conner, as the frequent swing vote, one person can make a difference, and that person is you. Get started today.

Coming Next: What are the opportunities in the biotechnology field, and how do you find or prepare for them? Join us and find out!

Listen to a free audio interview with Debbie.

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