I tend to hate women’s organizations. In fact, my growing experience with female groups has almost directly correlated with a dwindling belief in their efficacy. In this view I know I am not alone.
It began in 2002, a few months after starting my first job on Wall Street. Clad in a navy pinstripe suit, no nylons, copious pearls, Mademoiselle nails, and subdued Ann Taylor pumps, I attended my first women’s networking event. I was twenty-one and naively excited; free food was involved, after all.
Unfortunately, that was the beginning of the end, and not just because of the wilted lettuce cups paired with overtly oaky chardonnay. Which begs the question, by the way, who likes lettuce cups anyways? Either give me a salad or give me a taco, but there is nothing that sogs one's excitement more than a wilted lettuce cup. Alas, I digress.
From that evening on, I began to notice that few of the women I met under the guise of “helping us break the glass ceiling” or “get ahead as a woman in the workforce” actually had any interest in helping at all. They would purposely add roadblocks to other females’ advancement, myself included, from requiring more busy work than the men to hyper scrutinizing work output. In fact, throughout my entire post collegiate life - seven years in corporate America and twelve in the entrepreneurial realms - the trends I witnessed as a young buck have only grown stronger, trends I truly believe do not help us ladies get ahead in any way.
First and foremost, anger. Why does one have to implicitly be angry to be a female? And would not all that angry energy be better spent on focusing on how to solve the problem at hand or get ahead?
Second, rampant false camaraderie. No, b*ch, admit that you actually have no intention of helping me and let us move on, I have wanted to scream no less than a thousand times. Do not effervescently hug me and say you will be there to champion me, or introduce me to a valuable contact, or help me prepare and then straight up ghost me like a tween on TikTok.
Which of course leads to the inevitable third, stereotypical but real b!tch!ness at large. At a recent reunion for one of the businesses I worked in at the Bank, the men all greeted me with excitement and curiosity. “Congrats on the exit!” they exclaimed as I entered the bar. “What was the bigger challenge - building the brand or the business?” they inquired. “What’s the next move for you?” they probed as we chit-chatted over real tacos and full bodied red wine. Meanwhile, the women at the very same event asked, “Did you serve smoothies with a mini skirt on?” and “Did all those clients help you get flexible?” and my personal favorite, “Are you still spreading your legs?”
Studies routinely show that women act like this towards other women as a result of feeling threatened or jealous, or because of how hard they have worked to get where they are, or that because of their past journey, they feel other women need to suffer just as they did. From my shoes, heels and kicks alike, this merely reflects a straight up gap in the system, which is why I currently feel like a hypocrite.
As contradictory as it may appear to my innate feminist non-feminist self, I am now focused solely on growing female leadership and helping women advance in their careers. Enter, The Association. Less pink Kool-Aid and insipid vegetables and more real world action. After all, as all the strong women in my family have taught me, if you want to drink something good, you need to pour it yourself.