We all Lean In

A screenshot of http://leanin.org/.

A screenshot of http://leanin.org/.

What happens when a group of college and recently graduated women in communications get together?

We found out on Wednesday evening. Six women — tied together by the fact that we’ve all worked at the University of Georgia independent student newspaper — met both in person and through video chat to talk about issues we face as women in communications and how we can move forward. It’s called a Lean In circle, based on Sheryl Sandberg’s book Lean In about women in the workplace.

One issue that was brought up at our meeting was that female allies who work in the same industry are hard to come by. I’ve thought about that point a lot since then.

Besides the women from the student newspaper, I can’t think of any female friends who are also in communications. It’s a cutthroat industry, and women, especially in the same age group, regard each other as the enemy. We go after the same jobs, so we must prove ourselves better than every other interested female.

Side note: Women don’t feel this way about men in the same industry. It’s only women they’re after.

This idea seems ridiculous. On some level, it’s true that there are only so many communications jobs out there, so we must beat competitors. But that doesn’t mean we can’t be proud of each others’ accomplishments rather than scornful. And women should not be cut down just because they have similar goals.

I wonder if men get this kill drive in the same way.

After realizing I don’t have female friends in the same industry as me who didn’t work at the student newspaper, I thought about older women in the industry. You would think since they’re 10 or 20 years our senior, they would be more willing to help out those who come after them.

Not so. In a generalization, most women in journalism who I’ve worked with did not offer much support, even when I approached them multiple times. I’ve had women ignore my emails and requests for advice and give me a hard time. Of course, there have been women in the industry who have helped me along, but out of all the women I’ve encountered, they are the minority.

Compared with their female counterparts, older men in the industry have been a lot more receptive. When I have a journalism-related problem, I can think of three or four men I’ve looked to for answers with success. I can think of about two women. That isn’t to say that there are no men who have ignored my requests for advice; by and large, they have just proven more receptive than women.

I imagine this behavior among women is not unique to my industry. For some reason, we as sex (generalizing here) feel like we need to get ahead of other women if we’re to succeed. Historically, only so many positions in a company were set aside for women. That is no longer true, but the cutthroat instinct is ingrained in us.

Discussion in groups like our Lean In circle is the first step to acknowledging and dealing with women’s professional issues.

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2 comments
  1. Men do go after other men, but women make it personal.

    I agree with your observation. I generally don’t see women do this to men or men do this to women.

    I have watched women destroy each other in the workplace. I do not get it at all.

    What I would suggest as someone in senior leadership who has navigated the corporate world for awhile. Just find some allies and don’t worry about their gender. If someone wants to advocate for you, help you, or teach you then gender doesn’t matter.

    Not to contradict myself, but your “lean in circle” sounds like a great idea. Especially with that common experience.

    • Good insight. I agree that allies are helpful, no matter what the gender. It’s also beneficial to have people who are going through the same experiences rooting for you. Allies are good in all forms.

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