When we talk of women supporting other women we talk in generalities. We assume that women's behaviors are black and white. Build up versus tear down. Collaborate versus compete. But it's not that simple. Women are just as guilty as men as passive aggressively blocking other women.
Women bury their actions. Miscommunication. Inconsistency.
Women expect that other women will assume that they misunderstood the other person. They expect the benefit of the doubt. And we need to stop. We need to start calling other women out on these behaviors. And here's why.
Coincidences are rarely that. I learned that watching Sherlock. More specifically, The Sign of Three (Episode 2, Sherlock: Season 3(*affiliate link)
) taught me that.
The two Holmes brothers are having a discussion:
- Mycroft Holmes: Oh, Sherlock, what do we say about coincidence?
- Sherlock Holmes: Universe is rarely so lazy.
Last year I was excited to repeat Marie Forleo's B-School program. My first year through I had an accountability group and I was looking forward to having another accountability group my second year through. Unfortunately I misunderstood that the accountability groups were only for those going through B-School for the first time. I apologized to my teammates. Sadly, the program had begun and I was unable to find alumni teammates to work through the live program with. Without accountability partners I fell behind and let day-to-day business take priority. For 2016, I was determined not to make the same mistake.
In 2016 I apparently once again misunderstood how accountability groups were supposed to be set up. I thought I was following the guidance from 2015 and set up my own smaller group of B-School alumni.
Today, on International Women's Day, I received an email that I had once again misunderstood. I could set up an accountability group, but I needed to disband the group I'd already reached out to. Now just to clarify I'm not charging anyone to study with me. Everyone I'm studying with has already purchased Marie Forleo's B-School program to which alumni have access to in perpetuity. I have no plans to be a Marie Forleo B-School program affiliate. I only wanted a handful of dedicated study partners who saw the value of working through the material, but also needed and wanted support.
I struggled with what to do. Why? Because the person asking me was someone I looked up to. I regularly refer people who asked me for helpful resources to her and her programs--including her B-School affiliate program even though I don't earn anything from those referrals. And now I had not once, but twice, misunderstood her community guidelines. And not once, but twice been corrected after Marie Forleo's live program had begun. After it was harder to find committed study partners. Had I known ahead of time she preferred us not to find study partners in her community, I would have reached out to the broader B-School alumni group (something that is not prohibited as far as I can tell in their community guidelines).
I reached out to a few people to find out how they'd respond (thinking that I must have obviously been in the wrong both years). After their responses, I started thinking about how women support other women. What we do consciously. What we do unconsciously. And I started looking at strong women who had been part of the community--who were vocally active--and who were now no longer visible.
And then I knew. I knew I needed to speak out. I needed to challenge all women to stop just talking about building up rather than tearing down, collaborating instead of competing. I needed to remind women that when we're purposely obtuse. When we're inconsistent and we call another on acting on what we last said, we're not helping. We're worse than the establishment. We're passively aggressively attacking the very community we're seeking to build up.
So, what can we do? How can we build up?
If we're inconsistent, admit we're wrong. If there's a timeliness element involved, let the person know we made a mistake and let them continue for a set period of time--especially if we think their heart was in the right place.
Why let them continue? Because they may have already made an investment of time. They may not have the option to reach out to a new group of people and make timely connections. And, if their heart was in the right place, they weren't trying to sabotage you. So, before telling another female to start over once again, think about what you really want. Because you may unintentionally turn a rabid supporter into an opponent. And female leaders. Female entrepreneurs are used to people telling them no. They're used to having to scrap plans and start over again.
What they're not used to, is having a female passive aggressively do it to them. But fool me once, shame on you. Fool me twice, shame on me.
I didn't want to write this post. I didn't want to believe that I wasn't misinterpreting what was happening. But after more than a few people--male and female--weighed in, I had to stop being so naive.
To any female whose first inclination is to think they're misunderstanding another female's intention. To any female willing to give a female the benefit of the doubt over a male. Stop it. Stop being the victim. Stand up and fight.
All women lose when we're passive aggressive. None of us are building up when we fall into that routine. We're all tearing down.
Sadly today on International Women's Day I lost a female mentor I strongly identified with. Luckily, I'm used to not having female mentors, having started blazing a path in male dominated fields almost two decades ago. Luckily, I'm used to misunderstanding what male mentors are recommending. So I know how to carry on.
I now know that just because a female isn't tearing down, it doesn't mean she's willing, or actively, building up other females.
To those that don't know me, this post comes across as passive aggressive. I'm specifically not calling out the female mentor--a Marie Forleo affiliate--because I don't want to appear that I'm only interested in her "Google juice." She won't read this because she doesn't follow me and without her name this won't come across her feed. And that's ok. This post isn't for her. This post is for those who look up to female role models and blindly follow them. Automatically give them the benefit of the doubt over male counterparts. For those of us who do that, this post is a warning and a reminder. Just because someone is not tearing females down, does not mean they're actively supporting us.
Credits: All layouts designed by and images taken by Eden Hensley Silverstein for The Road to the Good Life.
DISCLOSURE: This post contains an affiliate link, followed by (*affiliate link). I feature products that I own or that I am considering purchasing. I own the Sherlock TV series. All opinions presented are my own.
The Road To The Good Life is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to amazon.com.
I am not affiliated with Marie Forleo's B-School program. If you decide to join her mailing list and sign up for 2017 when registration opens, I don't receive anything. I believe in the program and found it incredibly beneficial to my business. I wholeheartedly recommend finding an affiliate who offers small accountability groups with regular facilitated check ins. The program facilitated by an affiliate that I first went through Marie Forleo's B-School with is no longer offered, and as affiliates change each year I cannot recommend an affiliate.