Women, It’s Time To Stop Undermining Each Other

How can we help further a feeling of empowerment among our fellow women around the world? By making a stand against how women treat each other, both at work and in their personal circles. Michelle Quinn, Senior Advisor at Constellis, wraps up her time with us by talking about how women are hindering their own progress toward feeling empowered by buying into the false idea that success has a finite supply that must be fought for.

You can listen to this entire conversation with Michelle on our podcast, Work, Love, Pray! Listen below or click here to find your preferred listening platform.

What role do you see mentorship playing in female empowerment? 

I think it’s critically important. I can name many women who I worked with earlier in my career who absolutely just filled my sails. They were the wind beneath my wings. When I was working at the White House, I remember someone saying, “You don’t just get to go to the White House.” I replied with, “Oh yes, you do! With a full heart, keen intellect, and a passion and commitment to a long workday, I can go to the White House.” When I got to the White House, I was able to be mentored by women who were more senior and advanced in their professional careers, who told me, “You got this, and if you ever have a questions or are struggling, my door is open. I will never be too busy to have lunch with you or go grab a cup of coffee.” Hearing that from these accomplished women really meant the world to me. It absolutely empowered me.

In the United States, women in the workplace often feel like they’re pitted against each other, or that they need to be extra competitive in order to fit in with their male colleagues. What effect is this mindset having on empowerment? 

It’s absolutely devastating, and one of the things that really breaks my heart. For many years I was a stay-at-home mom with five kids and a husband who was traveling around the world on critical missions or programs. When I would get together with women who were accelerating and advancing in their professional careers, I felt like I had kind of just evaporated to them because I had chosen to raise my kids over advancing my career at the time. On the other side of that, I would be at a party with all of the stay-at-home moms, and they would very readily disparage the women that had chosen a childcare option and were driving up 95 to focus on their careers.

One of the things I sadly learned during this time in my life is that women can be very vicious toward other women. It’s like we think there’s a finite supply of power or professional achievement or goals that is very constrained so we have to compete against each other to achieve those things. When women start to compete against other women, it’s really very ugly. In male dominated industries, this behavior allows women to be marginalized, and we can’t say that male leaders have caused it.

I encourage all of us, from those who are staying at home and homeschooling to those who are CEOs of companies: recognize that there are responsibilities that fall uniquely on a woman. We have to count on these parts of our lives as a privilege, not as oppression. We should respect all of those roles and find a way to lift up and support women who may be in a different season. They’re on a different track right now, and they may return to the workforce. They may choose to leave the workforce. They may have a struggling parent and hospice has just been called, and they may decide to punch out entirely. There is dignity in all of these choices. It’s incumbent upon us to find ways to lift up and support women in the current seasons of their lives, and in the career choices they might make at any certain time, rather than look to each other and think, “I’m going to draw her down because somehow I think I’m in competition with her, and only one of us can succeed.” That’s never the case. 

In what ways do you see empowerment helping make being unstoppable more of a reality on an individual level? 

Where we store up our treasure, there our heaven is, right? As women, we need to be very cognizant and keep in mind that if our treasure is where we are in the corporate ladder, that would be a pretty sorry heaven. At the end of our days, even the incredibly fierce, capable, and accomplished women, all we want to hear is “well done, good and faithful servant.”

It is time well spent to consider how we spend an hour, or how we spend a day, or how we spend elements of our career. What kinds of things do we need to do on a daily basis and in career choices and in community choices that will empower us? With some prayer time and solitude, and with some mentoring time with other women of faith, I think we can get really good guidance and a good sense of what it is we might do next that will support God’s vision for each of our lives. When we do that soul-searching work, how much we might accomplish when we encourage, support, sustain, empower, and enable the women around us? 

What are some ways anyone can get involved in the movement of empowerment? 

4word is a great forum! I joined 4word through a dear friend and mentor who was part of 4word and encouraged me to join…and I’m so grateful for that. I would encourage anyone reading this to consider joining 4word. It’s a great network and fellowship and affiliation of incredible women. I can be sitting with a woman who was a senior leader of Service Master and a woman who is running diversity programs at American Express or leading things at Google and Amazon but with all humility and laughter and joy in a woman’s heart, we meet and sit together and figure out how we’re going to charge the hill and move out smartly at the end of a gathering and accomplish great things. We like to say to each other, “If not us, then who? And if not now, then when?”

I would say to a woman reading this blog, get engaged, whether with 4word, or a local Bible study or fellowship, or an organization in your community. Find ways to work with others and spend some time in prayer asking, “What does empowerment look like to you, God, and what can it look like to me in the work that I do?” At the end of the day, we are all world changers and we’re all women of the Bible when we spend time in prayer and then move out smartly and find ways to bring change and love to other women, especially those so in need. 

What is one thought or piece of advice you want our readers to remember most from everything we’ve talked about this month?

We are all made in the image and likeness of God. God wants us to understand the beauty, dignity, and loveliness of that. When we hold that knowledge close, we don’t worry about competing with other women or undermining our own roles or our own success. Our faith as Christian women tells us that God lives and dwells within us, so how can we doubt that God will work miracles when He’s within us? Embrace the journey as you charge the hill, and remember there is a larger, God-given message that we all need to receive. 

Michelle Quinn has worked in high-threat theaters and post-conflict operations for more than twenty years, providing a broad scope of security, operational, Logistics, and training solutions for the Department of Defense, Department of State, Department of Energy and Other Government Agencies. At Constellis, Michelle is focused on critical U.S. Government missions and programs, both CONUS and OCONUS. In all of these roles and across the years, Michelle has led on the imperatives of Women, Peace, and Security (WPS), and has been an unwavering voice asking, “What might be possible in building peace across the globe, if we engage, include, empower, and give voice to the other half of the world’s population?”

Michelle joined at Constellis in 2021; previously, she served as Senior Vice President at Patriot Group International; Vice President at VxL Enterprises; Vice President of International Programs at A-T Solutions; Operations Manager for a multi-agency Counter-Terrorism program at the FBI National Lab; and Manager of Operations and Training for DOS’ Worldwide Protective Services Programs at DynCorp International. Michelle has also worked on Capitol Hill, supporting the House Banking Committee on legislation tied to work and funding of USAID, IMF, World Bank; at the White House Office of Management and Budget (OMB); and at several private family philanthropies.

Michelle currently serves on the Board of Directors of the International Code of Conduct Association (ICoCA), holding the Americas Security Industry Pillar/seat for Private Security Contractors. She also serves on the Boards of The Friends of the American University of Afghanistan and Eagle Online Academy, supporting the undying educational needs and dreams of Afghan women and girls. Michelle chairs the International Stability Operations Association’s Women, Peace, and Security (WPS) Working Group and stewards ISOA’s formal WPS Certification program for the private sector. Michelle is privileged to be member of www.4wordwomen.org.   Most importantly, Michelle is the proud mother of four fearless, fierce, world-changing daughters, all out-and-about the world accomplishing great things.

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