For decades, women have fought for equal rights. We have fought to be equal to our male counterpart. We have worked to show that we are enough, that we are worthy. We have asked for what should rightfully be a birthright for every single human being.
But we have ignored something very important. I propose a different solution…
As women, the power to change all of this lies within us. We don’t need to wait for others to pave the way for us or to give us permission to create a better world. As women, we contribute to this inequality.
Women compete, compare, undermine and undercut one another. I’m exhausted from going through this, watching other people go through this and trying to figure it all out. It’s considered exceptional, and shocking, when famous women like Amy Schumer and Beyoncé acknowledge that other women are talented, and frequently work with those other women without being competitive about it.
Why should this be the exception instead of the rule? This makes them feminist heroes, which inherently is a great thing but this type of behavior should be the norm. We shouldn’t be shocked or surprised when women help and celebrate other women. There is immense amounts of research conducted on women and competition.
In 2013, Tracy Vaillancourt, a professor and researcher at the University of Ottawa in Canada, found that women express indirect aggression toward other women, and that aggression is a combination of “self-promotion,” making themselves look more attractive, “derogation of rivals” and being catty about other women.
Why? Because we want to be more attractive for our potential partners? Because we want to feel more worthy than what the world tells us we’re worth? Because we want the world to continue to feed off of our cattiness and expand the gender gap even more?
What would be possible if we dropped our notion of competition? What would we be able to create if we chose collaboration over competition. What kind of a world would we live in if we chose abundance instead of scarcity and kindness instead of judgment?
1. Empower Each Other
As women, we already have enough to do…and we keep taking on more. Why not empower other women in your life to help you? Especially as entrepreneurs, we need to learn to ask for help and delegate. We can only go so far on our own.
Sheila Wellington, a Professor at New York University says, “Mentoring is as vital a training tool in the small business arena as it is in the corporate world. Established women business owners who share their knowledge and expertise with the next generation of women entrepreneurs are providing them with real-world experience that simply cannot be taught in the classroom or a textbook.”
Teach a skill that you have to a girlfriend and have her take over that task for you. Empowering others empowers you. It not only teaches valuable skills to the other person but also frees up time in your schedule so you can do more of the things that drive profits in your business. Working together means growth and success for everyone involved, at any level in the game.
2. Form a Counsel
Having a group of people that have your best interest in mind in a very powerful thing. You’ve heard the saying that you are the sum of the five people closest to you. In fact, some of the most successful people say that having the right people around them has been the key to their success. As women, we have the unique advantage of being more compassionate. Studies have shown that we are more likely to care for the collective. When women form partnerships, the results are beneficial for everyone involved.
You already have many amazing women in your life. How can you bring 4-5 of them together to form a counsel group? Think about what the strengths of each person are and how the collective group can benefit from that. Every single person has something unique to offer to the group. This group works together in perfect harmony for the same purpose: the higher good of the group. By forming this counsel, each member gets to tap into the collective mastermind formed by the group that otherwise would not have existed.
3. Give Other Women Permission to Lead
Something that a lot of women forget is that good leaders also need to be good followers. The key is identifying when you need to lead and when you need to follow. Think about the last meeting you were in which had people with very strong personalities. Did people graciously collaborate or were there a lot of arguments? People clash when they don’t give others permission to lead, and when they don’t want to follow anyone else.
When you work with others, allow them to come up with solutions, ask questions that lead them to think in different ways and allow them to think differently. Tell them the what and give them the opportunity to come up with the how.
When you give other women the permission to lead, you empower them to take ownership of their work and in turn, they will create better results for you and for themselves. More importantly, they learn to extend that same permission to someone else.
It’s time we take this into our own hands. Instead of trying to be better than one another, we need to work together to become better, stronger and more just. Years ago, I took myself out of the battle and so can you. Instead of openly hating women, I used hate’s sneaky little sister, jealousy, and told myself that I envied women who worked hard to be attractive, who had jobs that utilized their feminine allure, who were outspoken and who who were “too girlie.” I looked up to them and decided that they are a symbol of what is possible for me. I became friends with them, did everything in my power to help them. I celebrated their wins, used that energy to better myself and reached back to pull those who were behind me to right next to me.
In the pursuit of our dreams, we can’t forget to reach back and pull another sister up with us.
The research and evidence is overwhelmingly clear, we need women to collaborate with each other. We need to start shifting our thinking from competition to collaboration; we need to see each other as members of the same team. With over seven billion people in the world, there is enough to go around for everyone. No one is taking a piece of your pie. In fact, your pie can get larger when you choose to collaborate.
We are stronger together. It’s time to shift our thinking to abundance, instead of scarcity. We’ve tried everything else, what do we have to lose?
Zee Najarian is an entrepreneur, women’s advocate and online educator teaching multi-passionate creatives how to take their passions online so that they can have time for what they love most in life. Follow her at @zeenajarian on IG and FB.