Women supporting women: hooray for sisterhood!

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Women bitching, gossiping and putting each other down in the workplace. The stereotypical image of woman versus woman is not very positive. But is it really true? And why is it so important that women support and inspire each other? We say instead: Hooray for sisterhood!

Women are always jealous

“There’s a special place in hell for women who do not support other women,” as Madeleine Albright once said. And although we don’t like to drive our fellow ladies into the fiery depths with pitchforks, there’s certainly something important about “sisterhood”.

Unfortunately, our sense of sisterhood isn’t always there. It’s a cliché perpetuated by many Hollywood films, but women seem to be easily jealous of each other. We look at each other’s figure, gossip behind each other’s back, and put down every woman who threatens to have some sort of success.

Is slut shaming only a male thing? Not really! We’re pretty good at it too. Research on American campuses in 2004 showed that the slut stigma among young women was alive and well. By the way, the respondents were not necessarily concerned with sexual behaviour, but more with class differences. By calling disadvantaged girls sluts, the slut shamers helped secure their own place on the social ladder.

Bitchy in the workplace

After graduating, these same young women enter workplaces and offices, where the toxic dynamic can easily continue. According to American research, no less than 70% of female managers feel bullied by other women in the workplace. These female employees, in turn, have little desire to work for other women.

Why? Some researchers point out that we expect different things from women than we do from men. They are asked to adopt supposedly “masculine traits” to become successful. In a male-dominated world, this means that some women apparently feel compelled to take on a “bitchy” role: whether it’s outright dominant and aggressive or a sneakier passive-aggressiveness. Huffington Post even suggests that women need to be bitches to achieve anything.

That’s why it’s not surprising that some women find themselves in an identity crisis when the doors to the top open up for them. As soon as they climb the ladder, they “toughen” up and work to keep others down, as the female worker bees sit around gossiping about what a bitch their boss is. Of course, this is not a good foundation for positive sisterhood.

Aligned power structures

That’s a shame, because we women have worked hard to address and transform skewed power structures. Of course, throughout the ages women have been  kept down, but we’re now higher than ever on that ladder and breaking more and more glass ceilings.

Unfortunately, we’ve somewhat lost sight of the underlying reason behind all our emancipatory efforts. When society individualised, we individualised with it. Sisterhood? That’s no longer as obvious as it once was.

Still, it’s desperately needed, because although we’ve achieved a great deal, women still have less room to grow and flourish. In a society where women often lose out, we should be supporting each other instead of competing.

Women in an old boys’ network

We benefit much more from collaboration than from competition. Especially when we work together with other women.

Harvard University research shows that women who gather other women around them are more likely to have good jobs and thriving careers. Why? Because as women, we can give each other advice, share experiences and support each other when we encounter obstacles. Every woman who encounters cultural and systemic bumps in her career can be a source of experience for those who come after her.

Speak up

We’re stronger together than alone, it’s that simple. It’s still difficult for women to gain access to certain networks, especially in the many places that remain under the control of an old boys’ network. Women need to raise their voices even louder to be heard and their ideas are taken less seriously than those of their male colleagues. As women, we often also get less support from senior leaders in the business world, but we can compensate for that by building strong, professional relationships with other women.

Women as sponsors and mentors for other women, that sounds better than a catty bitchfight, right?

Sure, you could try to be a lone ranger, but imagine how much better it would feel with a group of strong, supportive, and inspiring women behind you! A group of women who will cheer you on with every success you achieve and who will be there when things get tough. Nobody knows better what it’s like to be a woman than other women. A listening ear or a kind word from someone who’s been in your shoes can do wonders for your self-confidence. You’re never alone.

Women have been supporting each other for centuries

Women supporting women is not a new idea. In fact, it’s been around for centuries. In the past, we took care of each other’s children, gathered food together and handled the farming for our families. We did all this together. Our common bond was strong, making each other stronger and more resilient.

It wasn’t until we got caught up in our fast-paced, demanding and, most importantly, self-centred lives that it became “every woman for herself”. Our support networks faded away as we went full steam ahead pursuing our own ambitions. But if we want to be successful, we have to bring back that old support system. We need to help each other, instead of pushing each other down.


In a network with other women, you will feel stronger, more confident and less stressed. Our grandmothers who looked after each other’s children and stood side-by-side along the washing lines knew this well. There’s nothing more motivating than an arm around your shoulder, confirmation that you’re on the right track, or someone who shares your experiences, ideas and ambitions.

This is how you can help each other grow and develop and bring out the best in each other.

Doing things together is a way of life and work that we must embrace again. It’s a serious misconception that a successful woman is a threat to the women around her. Our relationships are stronger than that. Sure, it’s easy to criticise each other, but if we actually encourage each other, we’ll find ourselves feeling stronger and more harmonious too. Should we be each other’s cheerleaders? Yes! Both when there are successes and when there are “failures”, because that’s what a serious support system is for.

How can you support other women?

Fortunately, things are moving in the right direction. Various movements have emerged in recent years, such as #MeToo and The Women’s March, in which women are collectively demanding social change. But also in the workplace, women’s groups are springing up like mushrooms. That we need each other to move forward is slowly but surely being realised.

But how do we achieve this? How can we support other women and make each other stronger? First of all, we need to invest time and energy in networks. Gather women around you with whom you can build trust and work together. Then connect these women with each other and build meaningful relationships together. Don’t let the connections fade: keep them strong! This way you will help each other grow.


Next look beyond your network. Do you see that a colleague has achieved something? Acknowledge it and give her a compliment. Support other women in the workplace: don’t undermine them. For example, has a woman made a strong point during a meeting, but isn’t being heard? Repeat it and give her the credit she deserves.

Oftentimes, women’s ideas or remarks go unnoticed because men automatically get the attention. Many women are afraid to speak up and remain quiet during meetings. Support them by asking for their opinion or by talking to them afterwards. Did you notice that they had valuable ideas which they were afraid to express during the meeting? Then come back to them at the next meeting.

Shine together!

Bottom line: rivalry is so unnecessary. There’s more than enough for everyone, and we all contribute to the big picture. Working together can make us happy, so let’s embrace each other and make each other stronger.

When a woman helps another woman, we all benefit. And when a woman cheers another woman on, it uplifts and strengthens us all. Together we can do more, go further and change things. Support other women so we can all shine.

And remember, there’s a special place in heaven for women who support other women!


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