- Isabella Lenarduzzi

Are women working with or against other women?

It’s commonplace to say that women are jealous by nature and are incapable of working together or helping each other. We’ve probably all suffered at some point in our careers from the “Queen Bee” syndrome, which illustrates perfectly the propensity of some to want to be the only one at the top or the only one next to a powerful man. I continue to suffer myself because it is often other women who prevent JUMP from developing (see the article that I have written on the subject). But is this phenomenon as widespread as all that? Or has this behaviour had such a detrimental affect on us in the past that we are blind to the reality now? Catalyst devoted one of its recent studies to this issue.

The conclusions of the study have challenged our preconceptions and put things into perspective… It seems that there are more women willing to help colleagues develop their careers than there are men willing to do the same. This is particularly true when it’s a question of a woman supporting another woman!

So what form of support do they provide?
– Careers advice: how to progress in the company; the unwritten rules; who is influential; and how to negotiate.
– Sponsoring: speaking highly of someone to other influential colleagues; arranging it so that their female colleague gains a more visible role; and introducing her to key people.
– General support: lending a listening ear and friendship.
– Role models: acting as an inspirational role for junior members of staff.

The Catalyst study confirmed that those who had benefited from such support themselves were more likely to support others. This is particularly true for 65% of the women questioned in the study, compared to 56% of men! Women are more likely to help other women in their organisation, with over 73% of them doing so, compared to 30% of men providing similar support! And it pays off! Women and men who support their colleagues have much to gain including greater visibility, promotion as well as financially! Helping others develop also has its benefits for their own career advancement.

To sum up, women help their colleagues, particularly female colleagues, to develop their careers. While men prefer to support the development of other men. The perception that women block other women in their companies is just that, and not the reality. Catalyst reveals that malicious behaviour from men is often overlooked as it is considered part of that guy personality. For women, such behaviour is taken as an example of how all women behave whereas in reality it is only a minority who behave in such a way.

If you witness a lack of support at the heart of your organisation you should ask yourself if your company is actually promoting such an attitude. Is it accepted by the top management? Is it recognised? Is skills development considered an essential quality of a good leader? It is also essential that as part of any equal opportunities policy, men are actively encouraged to support women’s careers.

In this week’s newsletter we are publishing a number of articles on mentoring, sponsoring and other examples of empathy and support. In a world that is becoming more and more difficult and frenetic, this empathy is intrinsic to our mental health. JUMP subscribes to such values and actions. Is this the way to incorporate feminine values in company leadership? We hope so.

Together with organisations such as DIANE and mabizz, JUMP is engaged in a project that sees experienced female entrepreneurs mentor other entrepreneurs who are starting up in business and who have a willingness and potential to grow. We are organising an event on the globalisation of small companies, which is held in the European Parliament on 21 February 2013 from 18:30. The event is open to everyone. Male or female you are all welcome!

JUMP also supports an absolutely amazing women’s initiative… that of Eve Ensler, the author of the “Vagina Monologues”. With her project entitled “One Billion Rising”, she calls on a billion women on the planet to dance together against violence towards women. It’s a subtle, yet powerful revolution. It’s a revolution of women who take a stance against all forms of violence of which females throughout the world are victims. Take a look at this magnificent video that calls on us all to get up and dance. I have also made a similar video appeal in French and in English. To find an event near you, check the website of One Billion Rising. If every woman refused to accept violence against others and fought apathy and indifference, nobody would dare lay a finger on us ever again! Let’s show our way to change the world.