Women’s History Month seems like a great time to appreciate women I admire, and those who are wonderful to work or volunteer with.
Whether they are helping poor people in our community get back on their feet with dignity, teaching kids at home or in schools during a pandemic, plugging in from home or the newsroom and control room to keep the world informed, cooking yet another meal because it’s too dicey to go to restaurants, making sure my family and I stay healthy, ringing up my purchases while wearing a mask and standing on their feet all day, keeping their businesses going strong, delivering my packages and takeout, or participating in dozens of Zoom calls to stay connected… women are showing just how amazing they are.
The overwhelming majority of women in my sphere are and always have been kind, helpful, supportive and — in the cases of the bosses among them — empowering. Recently, in some pandemic-induced organizing, I found a note I’ve been holding onto for almost 15 years. It was from a female executive at CNN, congratulating me on a promotion I’d just received. She expressed confidence in me, and said she looked forward to her department collaborating with mine. As a brand-new manager, that really meant a lot. As my career progressed, I tried to emulate her and other female managers I’d known who encouraged me and gave me opportunities. I wanted employees to know I was behind them to help them be their best. I knew how good it felt to be trusted as an employee, and I wanted people under my watch to know I had faith in them.
Over the years I’ve participated in a number of initiatives geared toward women building one another up. Some were formal mentoring groups. Others were less formal, but no less valuable. And now that I’m in job search, I’m humbled and sometimes bowled over by the support women are giving me. I’m not shocked by this. During my career in news, it was rare to come across someone who was so ambitious or just plain mean that she wanted to tear other women down.
But it happens, even to the best of us. Take Barbra Streisand, for instance. In 1983, Ms. Streisand made history. She became the first woman to produce, direct, co-write and star in a major motion picture, “Yentl.” It was a movie she’d wanted to make for more than a decade. During a Women in Film awards luncheon, she said she saw the movie as a “celebration of women.” She emphasized the importance of women working together instead of resenting peers’ success. Streisand denounced what she called “women versus women.”
“When Yentl came out, I was most anxious for women to review the movie — that is, until I read the reviews. I was shocked because the sharpest, most vitriolic comments were made by women. It started me thinking about the way women view other women’s success or failure. Is it because we’ve been raised and trained to compete for men, and so we bring the same mentality of competition to our view of other women’s achievements?” She likened the mindset to adolescent girls, competing to date a football player.
Supermodel Paulina Porizkova, in a recent interview with NewsNation’s Ashleigh Banfield, agreed. “I do think it is a competition thing. Like there’s only enough space for a certain amount of us to be in the spotlight, and it seems that we have to dim someone else’s light in order to be spotlit.” She also experienced some harsh criticism from other women after posting flattering, even provocative photos of herself on social media. “The nastiest comments seem to come from women, oddly enough. And that’s where I get a little disheartened. I think, Really? You’re going to go against your kind? Against your sister to tell her that she should stay in her place?”
Streisand also believes women should stick together, that they are sisters. She told Playgirl magazine, “We must have a bond between us.” She added, “I am constantly shocked by either women who are jealous of other women, or women who try to act like men: women who are trying so hard to be part of a man’s world, but in doing so are taking on the worst qualities of men. I don’t want to be a man. I enjoy being a woman.” (That last line is classic Streisand!)
And who could forget the famous quote from Madeleine Albright: “There is a special place in hell for women who don’t help each other!”
Well, I can say the vast majority of the women I’ve ever worked with are heavenly, not hellish! No “mean girls,” no “catty b-words,” no “queen bees.” Only women who are ready to help each other or call out unfair treatment.
Being in job search is a roller coaster. Yes, I know that sounds cliché (particularly from a writer), but it’s the closest description I have — flying high one minute, plunging to disappointment the next. You go from “I just got some great contract work while I apply for full-time jobs!” to “I’ve been totally ghosted.” The only way I’ve made it through the ups and downs without getting woozy is that I have some incredible friends cheering me on, encouraging me every two steps up and one step back. Every time I say, Well, I guess I’m not going to hear anything, they say, Don’t give up!
And, I should add, I haven’t seen most of these women in months (some, a year). They persist in their amazing support to keep me on a positive track. I’m more grateful than I can express.
Still, we all have to deal with people who care only about themselves or who are intent on making us look bad so they might look better. It is unwise to waste time and energy on those people. Instead, surround yourself with positive people to keep your positivity intact when you hit inevitable bumps. You’ll be very happy to repay their kindness if and when they hit their own bumps. It makes for a smoother journey for all of us.