I’ve been going through challenges on several fronts this year. Health wise, personally and career wise. The other day, as I was reflecting on the fact that not only am I still here, and feeling good about my future, I realised part of the reason is the tremendous support I have received from the people in my life. Particularly the women. Quite the opposite of that often quoted phenomenon; “Pull Her Down” (Phd) Syndrome. This is when women allegedly work to derail other women’s careers through gossip, slander, obstruction or denial of opportunities and unfair treatment in the workplace. Apparently this syndrome affects almost all women and few women want to see other women succeeding.
In my view this categorisation creates unnecessary barriers, suspicion, and defensiveness between women in the workplace and other public spaces. To be clear, in a competitive world, there may well be women who are sabotaging and pulling down other females in order to advance their own personal interests and preserve their positions at the top. However this is nowhere near as universal as we are led to believe.
Often when Pull Her Down is mentioned, it is also suggested that men are more supportive of the advancement of women than women themselves. I would argue however that men are as likely as women to be engaged in these Pull Her Down practices. Female advancement also threatens age-old male privilege and rights on political power, financial resources and social status. I know. Sure It’s “Not All men” who do this. But isn’t it funny how (at least in my own personal experience) more often than not, it is men who remind us that “You women are your own worst enemies”. The numbers of women in leadership are growing and these women are thriving partly due to support from other women which looks nothing like PhD syndrome.
There’s “Pull Her Up” where women in leadership are pulling other women up the ladder in many different ways. Mentoring and coaching or when they get an opportunity to advance, bringing other women with them. Sharing or offering opportunities, recommending other women and general professional advice.
Or “Lift Her Up” where women support one of their own by pushing other women to grab opportunities, encouraging women to believe in themselves, to know their worth, understand the market. And when they need to, giving their female peers the nudge to go for that job or opportunity that they may feel unprepared for. Perhaps this could also be called “Push Her Up”
My own favourite is what I call “Hold Her Up”. Once a woman has attained a top position or whilst she is pursuing her goals, other women help her to understand if she doesn’t already, the space she now occupies so that she can thrive and prosper. Let’s face it, many public institutions and workplaces are still unprepared and unaccustomed to the presence of women and there may be the aforementioned resistance and competition. Holding her up means believing in her, encouraging her, correcting her, affirming her, celebrating her, reminding her that she belongs. And thus helping to keep her in that position. We can also call this “Keep Her Up” Women are doing all this and more for each other every day.
At institutional level with organisations or programs that are specifically created and designed to promote the well being and welfare of women or at personal level too in their social and family networks. And whilst there may still be incidences of Pull Her Down going on, there is more of #Pull Her Up, #Push Her Up #Lift Her Up #Hold Her Up and #Keep Her Up going on out there. Let’s highlight and celebrate that!