I see women collaborating with women, producing powerful innovative work that impacts the lives of others.
Collaboration comes naturally to women.
Child-rearing in indigenous cultures is done by all the women of the tribe or village. “It takes a village to raise a child” is an old African proverb. It speaks to the collaborative nature of women that is powerful, affirming, nurturing and supportive.
In western culture, this innate collaboration by women is not as readily seen regarding children and child-rearing. This is readily seen in the move away from the extended family to the nuclear family model.
However, collaboration is obvious in the way in which women come together for shared purposes. For example, the suffragettes of the early 20th century, the women’s liberation movement of the 1960s. Collaboration is also seen in the #MeToo hashtag calling for the exposure of predatory behaviour by men.
Women used this collaborative gifting to provide physical relief for defence personnel during the world wars of last century. They made up parcels that were sent to the front to cheer the men and remind them that there were people at home waiting for their return. Growing up in churches, I saw firsthand how women collaborated when a family suffered illness. Rosters were drawn up for the provision of home-cooked meals.
Collaboration is a girl-thing
That’s a positive statement. Don’t let anyone tell you that being a “girl” is anything other than positive!
All women have those special women in their lives, sometimes family, sometimes friends. They form the inner circle for support and care. The BFFs, the go-to girls, the hen’s nights, the mothers’ circle, playgroups, nursing mothers. Women know how to support each other so well, and we do it without thinking. We just can!
But…we can be so bitchy to each other. Women are the first to pull each other down. Women love to gossip, often passing on half-truths and innuendo as fact. Movies such as Mean Girls are indicative of the less-then-nice side of this ability to collaborate. We can ‘gang up’ on another, and turn them into an outsider.
This negative collaboration is at its most heinous when it leads to bullying and trolling. It can be real life and online harassment, to the extent that a girl or woman takes her own life.
Collaboration and the “glass ceiling”
I suspect that the so-called ‘glass ceiling’ in the corporate world is another reason why women have a hard time supporting one another in the workplace.
Men have ruled the sandpit for centuries. They have instituted the rules of play and somehow innately know what these rules are. Women don’t instinctively know what the rules are. They have been the outsiders in the workplace for decades and generations.
Even such innovations as a quota system only speak to the fact that women are being allowed a space the workplace. Room must be made for them in the sandpit. This lack of freedom to move easily is a breeding ground for a woman’s less-than-generous side to emerge.
Women can hang onto what they have worked so hard to achieve. They may feel threatened by the up-and-coming females in the workplace. A hard-won position of power is a great place from which to quash the aspirations of other women.
This dog-eat-dog mentality is more aligned with masculine energy than feminine. This form of energy permeates business and corporate worlds and women feel they must use their masculine energy to succeed.
Collaboration taps into feminine energy
However, feminine energy – the feminine ability to collaborate – is the innate gifting of women.
It doesn’t mean that we never operate in a masculine energy space. But we must not do so at the cost of losing touch with our own unique feminine energy. Feminine energy is all about flow. It involves the incoming and the outgoing, the less-than-obvious, and the instinctual.
Feminine energy enables us to connect with others. It helps us meet others in a shared and safe space. At their best and at their most natural, women know how to do this. They don’t have to be taught – they just know.
In the same way as men know the rules of the workplace sandpit because they have absorbed these rules in the schoolyard and from the significant men in their lives, so women know what it means to collaborate in healthy and positive ways, because they have been taught this by other women.
It may appear that this innate ability to collaborate is a detriment to women in the workplace that values individuality and the speak up or be spoken over mentality. But I suggest that by using their collaborative strengths women can produce the most inventive, innovative and powerful work.
Trusting that this is true is the key.
Would you like to know more about how you can use your natural ability to collaborate? Leave your details below and we can talk.