Any classic romantic dramedy movie involving women in a workplace always features two prominent character types: the no-nonsense boss who has stopped at nothing to get to where she is and the optimistic new employee who wants to take a successful first stride down her just-beginning career path. It has always pained me to watch as the cold and cruel CEO drains every last bit of hope and dreaming from the doe-eyed new girl. It hurts to watch on the big screen, because I've seen it happen in real life.
As professional Christian women, we can and must do more to support each other in the workplace. We should feel led to uplift our female co-workers, not tear them down to get one rung ahead on the corporate ladder. Is getting the corner office really worth tossing aside any and all office friendships?
Women in the workplace need to collectively set down their "mean girl" armor and offer each other support rather than strife. Why? First, because it’s the right thing to do; and second, because women need sponsorship and support in the workplace. Research shows that having a sponsor or sponsors at work directly impacts future professional success. This study by Catalyst shows that sponsors—people who will advocate for you—can make a critical difference. The study also shows that despite great advancement, women statistically still lag behind equally-qualified men at work.
My friend Mary Ann is an extraordinary business woman and real estate broker. (In fact, Crain’s named her one of the 50 Most Powerful Women in New York.) A few years ago, Mary Ann saw a need in her industry- she kept encountering bright young professional women and kept thinking, “these women should know each other!” So Mary Ann did something about it! She invited about a dozen women to lunch one day. Since then, the lunches have become regular, and Mary Ann also mentors each of the women personally.
As professional Christian women, we have been supplied with God-given gifts meant to edify those around us. These gifts can be especially effective in the workplace. Think of ways you can support other women in your workplace or industry. Invite a group of co-workers to grab a morning coffee on the way in to work. Take the time to truly get to know the woman three desks down from you. You will never know the impact you will have on a person until you say, "Hello."
This is one of the main reasons why I am so passionate about the 4word Mentor Program. Across the world, professional Christian women are able to come together in a mentor/mentee relationship and foster a true support system that mutually benefits both women. Every year, dozens of women go through the 4word Mentor Program and emerge with a renewed sense of focus and professional rejuvenation. Imagine what your workplace could be like if a system like this was in place?
If you’ve reached the C-suite and realized your entire professional journey has been an inwardly-focused one, it is not too late for a fresh start. Take the knowledge and acumen you've gleaned over the years and invest that into a younger woman just starting out. Help her settle in and find her rhythm. Organize a monthly lunch for women in your office, building, or industry. Not only is this a nice thing to do for others, but it’s also likely to increase your own job satisfaction.
If you’re more in the “just starting out” category or somewhere in between, you can make a difference too! Take this time in your career to build a support network from the bottom up. Your female co-workers desire the same success and satisfaction that you do. Why not make the professional journey one that all of you will come away from happy and supported? Be sure to offer support (appropriately) in areas of their lives outside of the workplace as well. Be a true listener when you need to be, and be prepared to offer advice when it is asked for.
Take a step back and analyze your workplace role. Are you the office mean girl, stomping your competition down with your stilettos? Or are you the ambitious office heroine who recognizes the value of a support system and willingly provides it to everyone around her? Make the conscious decision to put down the Prada and offer support instead of insults.
How can you support other women in your workplace or industry?