This article, written by Laura Ip first appeared in the St. Catharines Standard on Friday, March 17, 2017.
As a vocal feminist in Niagara, one of the things I hear repeatedly is that women need to do more to help other women; women need to stop saying and doing awful things to each other.
Frankly, whilst I consider this to be one of the less troublesome things in the quest for equality, I do agree that it is a problem. Again, one of the smaller ones, but a problem nevertheless.
When I began my career, I immediately found that women a generation ahead of me were difficult to collaborate with, especially if they were suspicious of my ambition. I have never gone into a job thinking that I would or even could take the job of someone who was my manager or who might otherwise be a mentor to me, but this suspicion persisted. Too often, I heard friends and colleagues say, “She’s threatened by you.”
As I have continued in the career world, even with the turns my own career has taken, I am now hearing women a generation behind me say similar things. They talk about women who are further into their careers or who are in leadership positions not wanting to help them. I know how frustrating this can be and how isolating it can feel, so I have made a commitment to myself and to women around me to take women with me.
I have a colleague who, through her position at YWCA Niagara Region, has just taken her first career-related job. My job and hers overlap quite considerably and she is eager to learn not just about all that we do at the YW, but also about the communications and fundraising roles. I take her to meetings, I encourage her to bounce ideas around with me and I try to introduce her to other community members who might be of assistance to her when her contract with us is up. She likely could do my job, but I don’t see her as a threat.
There is another young woman who I have met through community projects that I work on who has an interest in getting involved in politics. Though I never won an election, I learned a lot during three campaigns, particularly as the only woman running in a ward twice. She and I discuss what she might encounter and how to deal with it, as well as various municipal issues and what she might consider doing once she starts to campaign.
In keeping with the Be Bold for Change theme of International Women’s Day, I will continue to ensure that I do what I can to take other women with me.
What will you do to take other women with you?
And, men, this isn’t just for the women to do. You can help as well. What will you do to ensure that women are being seen and heard and have opportunities to participate the way their male counterparts are participating?
You might consider taking a junior woman to a sales meeting and not tasking her with taking notes. When you see an all-male panel for an event, suggest the organizers add a woman you know has the expertise. If a female colleague is speaking in a meeting and someone interrupts her, say, “I’d really like to hear more about what Sarah was saying.”
These are easy things all of us can do to close the gender gap in our workplaces and the wider community. It’s easy to bring women with us.