The Daily Juggle
The Daily Juggle
Why do we continue to blame other women for our career setbacks?
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There's nothing more disappointing than to be blamed for something you didn't do. Especially when it's another woman pointing the finger at you just because you happen to be another woman.
Some years ago I was a senior manager in an organisation with only a handful of senior women. One of them was terminated due to a decision made by a group of the most senior men. Her manager was a man and he issued her the news. I worked alongside her in the organisation and was the only other senior woman in our division. Even though I had nothing at all to do with her demise, she blamed me, to all of her friends and colleagues, some of who were also my friends and colleagues. That's how I found out about it. I was the least likely person in the group to have been involved as I actually ran another part of the division that didn't in any way overlap with hers - but I was the only other woman around. So naturally I was to blame.
We read about this often in women's magazines, we hear women lament the fact that women target other women but until it happens to you it's difficult to believe that it could be true.
The woman pointing the finger in my example was otherwise considered a feminist. She worked hard and fought even harder for gender equality in the workplace. She made her way to the top of her field at a time when doing so earned women the 'trailblazer' tag. For much of her career she was the lone woman sitting at a table of men.
When I joined this predominantly male company, the woman at the centre of my story was initially wary but then within weeks she wanted to be my closest ally. The need for an ally seemed odd to me because I had worked in female-heavy organisations for a good decade prior so I was far more used to being one of many women at the table. Contrary to the public perception of women's magazines as one big bitchfest, my experience was always one of collegiality with female-only or female-mainly teams working together for a common cause: business success.
I don't do the ally thing at work. I'm not interested in working with an 'us and them' scenario within an organisation. Save the competitiveness for our business competitors and lets get on with building great organisations together is my theory. So perhaps my reluctance to hook-up as an ally was the reason I was later tarred with the backstabbing brush.
When women engage in pettiness like this we don't do our gender any favours. By behaving in this way we actually perpetuate the myth that female opportunity is different to male opportunity. Rather than thinking that only a woman would want my job I'd like to think that men and women would be eyeing it off. The pipeline of potential successors to any senior position should be gender neutral. That's how we will succeed in getting more women into the top jobs.
We need to lift our sights and keep our eye on the bigger prize: more women in senior roles and more women at the Board table. Let's not get side-tracked with pettiness and let's stop blaming each other for our disappointments.
Have you experienced blame from another woman in your organisation? How did you handle this?