If you’re a woman in a male-dominated field, chances are high you’ve encountered them. Maybe they plaster smiles on their faces, gossip with you at lunch or talk gleefully with you about where they bought their latest outfit. But then, in the shadows, they’re the ones doing their best to bring you down. They smear your name, spread lies about you to others, question your actions and integrity. Maybe they’re more upfront with their seemingly unexplained dislike of you; they tell you to do this or that or be this way or that way, and throw obstacles in your path that seem insurmountable.
As women in sports, we want to believe that everyone is just like us: driven by the notion that we can grow as a gender in this profession, that we have so much to add and, using each other as buoys, we can become equal.
But the painful truth is that not everyone is like us. Some women are threatened by other women, scared that their power and status will be taken away by another feminine presence, or nervous that they’ll be stereotyped when someone comes along who’s not afraid to wear their gender like a badge of honor.
We’re not saying that every woman has to be as staunch in their support of advancing the gender in this profession as we are.
But if those women who are threatened by your power are winning, don’t let them. Please know that how they treat you, how they look at you with their fake smiles and whispers and their generally unsupportive behaviors, that’s not your fault. That’s not on you; that’s on them. Somewhere along the line, they were led to believe that women can’t be a force in the profession and that to rise, we have to tear each other down and then climb upon the backs of others to get to the top. That couldn’t be further from the truth.
So, how do you deal with one of those unsupportive women? Surround yourself as best you can with a tribe of women who have your back no matter what, but also seek out men who are on your side and support women in the workplace. Find a mentor, or a friend, who you trust implicitly to be honest with you and who can ground you when it feels like she’s winning. Take deep breaths when she gets under your skin and try your best to create an impenetrable bubble around yourself when it comes to her. Don’t fight fire with fire. It’s so easy to snark back at each other or to be catty, but be above that. Focus on doing the best job you absolutely can so if she spreads rumors, no one believes them because your work, and your work ethic, shows the opposite. And above all, believe in yourself, your own power and your own abilities. Be confident and humble in your work because if you’re doing the best you can, people will see that.
And if you need someone to tell you you’re doing great, let us be the first to tell you that you’re doing great.