When I was younger, I never paid much attention to International Women's Day. I wondered why we needed to celebrate being women; why did we need to single ourselves out? So the day used to come and go with me wondering what the fuss was all about. Perhaps it was because I grew up in a business environment of extreme competition and a time when women were just beginning to break through glass ceilings. Women weren't supportive of one another but were trying to fit in to a male model of business where competition was the dominant model. As Leora Tanenbaum discovered in researching her book, Catfight, female rivalries are common. Naomi Wolf writes about female rivalries and the intensity with which they can occur and devastate the women involved. I have seen it too; and have been the victim of it. Those experiences were very painful.
As I've grown in my career and in myself, along with so many women around me, my appreciation for the sisterhood has grown. Where women were my rivals they are now my supporters; where they competed in a win/lose environment they now look for mutual success. When and how did this shift happen in my life?
I look around at the women in my life and realize that with maturity has come a sense of security, wisdom, reflection and the realization that we can do more with each other than alone. When women come together to share what they know with one another, then they each grow. With maturity comes the wisdom of knowing that we each have unique gifts and by sharing those with other women we enrich our own lives. So much of what we say and do is driven by fear which colours our lives and our perception of what we see around us. What a loss to let that dominate.
In my work with women, I have been privileged to hear the stories of so many women. Their willingness to bring me into their lives has humbled me and has helped me appreciate all their journeys. None of their journeys have been easy and many of the women have walked with fear inside and courage outside. Women carry many burdens and their lives are never as they appear to be. There is always more depth, more complexity and more compassion than I can imagine. We also don't give ourselves enough credit for our successes.
My favourite quote from the movie The Help is when Abilene says "You is kind, you is smart, you is important." We need to tell ourselves that more often. So ladies, on International Women's Day, repeat Abilene's words to yourself. And remember, the sisterhood will always have your back.