Before I became a single mom, I didn’t think much about the value of sisterhood.
While I’d had plenty of female friends over the years, I hadn’t had close trusted relationships with other women in a long time. Not since high school, really, when we’d bind together for comradery and sanity in the often crazy world of teenage angst.
It wasn’t until I found myself drowning in the act of trying to raise a child, work full time, and keep up with the volunteer work I do that my female friendships took central stage again. Yes, they helped me with childcare and I helped them, but our relationships were more about us sharing the struggles and triumphs of a similar life experience.
Recently, I read an article that got me reflecting about the broader implications of sisterhood. It was highlighting a study that revealed how “women in leadership roles often do not support other qualified female candidates as potential peers,” blaming a “lack of sisterhood among female executives” as a major contributing factor for the scarcity of women CEOs among top companies.
In a work environment, almost all the women I know have experienced this lack of support from other women. I certainly have, and it made me consider whether I might also be unsupportive of my female peers. Sure enough, when I looked deeper, I soon began to see blind spots in regard to other women, and ways I lacked genuine care for their success.
All of this got me wondering about what really creates sisterhood among women.
Then on Thursday evening, I went with my sister (the biological kind!) to see a screening of Miss Representation that the firm she works for, Deloitte, was hosting here in Seattle. Deloitte is the largest client services company in the world and a trailblazer for their ethnic- and gender-diversity initiatives.
Their Diversity & Inclusion Initiative is as much about the higher value of human rights and dignity as it is a pragmatic business move. As we heard in my interview with Dr. Wanda Ward of the NSF last week, the American demographic is changing. In 20-30 years, those who are currently classified as underrepresented minorities will, in fact, be the majority of our population. Here’s to progress!
Even with their already impressive track record, I’ve been inspired by Deloitte’s involvement in the Miss Representation movement, which centers around a documentary about how mainstream media contributes to the under-representation of women in positions of power and influence in America.
Seeing the film was informative, enlightening, and heartbreaking, as I was unaware of just how much the mainstream media’s portrayal of women in such sexually explicit ways detrimentally impacts young girls and boys as well as our perceptions of women in powerful leadership roles. But I was mostly impressed by the surprising sense of intimacy and sisterhood that emerged during the conversations at the reception immediately following the film.
Since then, I’ve been wondering: Why did this film trigger such an emergence of sisterhood among women who barely knew each other?
Perhaps it’s because Miss Representation reveals an experience that we all share, having grown up with the media messages we did, which were almost as bad as they are now. I can remember as a kid looking through the Victoria’s Secret catalogue— which casually laid about my house seemingly innocent like the women it portrayed—comparing my own maturing physicality to theirs, and basically believing that that is what I ideally should look like. Then there were all the sexy MTV videos that we all loved. Really, after watching Miss Representation, it’s a wonder I turned out as sane as I did!
It was amazingly liberating and uplifting to speak with other women about these things.
Who knows—if more women in companies like Deloitte take on this kind of investigation together, maybe we would start to see a lot more sisterhood emerging in the corporate world.
Now, that would be a game changer!