As a writer in the advertising industry, I’ve worked with mostly guys over the years, and while they’re great, I’ve really enjoyed the shift in our agency toward having more women on our teams. While women sometimes get stereotyped as being competitive or catty, I can assure you of two things: 1. those are equal opportunity traits – often more a reflection of the work environment where they’re encouraged or tolerated and 2. the vast majority of women are fun and supportive to work with. In fact, you’re going to love working with women. Here’s why:
1. A woman will understand your movie references.
Working with all guys, I’m expected to get their every reference to Office Space, The Big Lebowski and Raising Arizona. And I do, those are good movies. But let me quote Mean Girls, Bring It On or Clueless and I get … crickets.
2. Female coworkers can help amplify your voice. Love this story about the women in Obama’s White House who countered being interrupted or “mansplained” by repeating each other’s ideas, crediting the women who came up with them and forcing men to acknowledge that the women had plenty to contribute. Try it, it works!
3. There’s strength in numbers
Beyond just amplifying your voice, it’s good to have a myriad of management styles, work styles, skill sets and mindsets represented in the workplace. Currently, our female leaders are still so few and far between, we demand that they speak for all women in all scenarios. For instance, Sheryl Sandberg got a lot of backlash for drawing up her own experiences and not speaking to the challenges single, working moms or more mid-level women face. When’s the last time you read a dozen think pieces about how Michael Dell (Direct from Dell) or Richard Branson (Losing My Virginity: How I Survived, Had Fun, and Made a Fortune Doing Business My Way) didn’t address the challenges of single dads or freelancers? Breaking stereotypes about working with women is, in part, a numbers game. The more of us there are, the more hollow and dated old gender biases will become.
4. Two words: Secret. Santa.
5. You can find and be a mentor
Changing technologies have really leveled the playing field in almost all industries, so the potential to mentor up and down is huge. Approach a female leader in your company or in your industry to advise you on your career. Also be prepared to share your knowledge as well. One of my best mentors is about 15 years younger than I am. I never want to stop learning and being open to fresh new perspectives ensures that I won’t.
Hey, it happens. (Even to men.) And when it does, hopefully you have a female coworker there with a tissue, a tube of concealer and a sympathetic ear. It really helps.
Mentoring and advising is one thing, but actually advocating for each other is another way we can and should show our support for each other. We can keep an eye out for protégés with promise and speak up on their behalf. Hopefully a peer or more senior manager will do that for you, but you’ll be surprised how early in your career you’ll have the chances to show a young new hire the ropes or to pass good opportunities her way. Men do this subconsciously for one another all the time and women should too. Quite simply, it’s what leaders do.
8. We can have each other’s backs
Many women feel we’ll still face backlash if we take our maternity leave, have to stay home with a sick kid, actually take our vacation days or dash away to pump between meetings. Don’t add to the grumbling about women who are trying to strike a balance between their family and work lives. And shut it down when you hear someone else grumbling about it. Of course, there are women who don’t pull their own weight, just like there are men. But don’t make it about the second-generation bias, which include practices that may seem to apply to everyone, but which discriminate against women because they reflect the values of men who made up the rule in the first place. Working with women is an opportunity for solidarity. Take it.
9. They make dressing up more fun.
This is as true of working with women as it is of life in general.
10. There are just some things only another woman will understand.
When you dig in your bag for what you think is an emergency tampon but turns out to be a long-forgotten string cheese, your female coworkers will a) laugh with you about the randomness of the universe; b) loan you a tampon; c) understand why you’re still tempted to eat the string cheese even though you have no idea where the hell it came from or when it was last refrigerated. Because, cheese.
Because in corporate America, you will always be cold. When there is true equality in the workplace, the wage gap will be closed, there will be an equitable number of CEO’s and the freakin’ thermostat will no longer be set on Arctic Chill. Till then, snuggies for everyone.
12. They can convince you that you’re cuter than the overhead lighting in the ladies’ room would have you believe.
What about you? Like working with women? Why or why not?
Oh, and the women pictured at the top of this post? All featured in our Wannabe Workshop, where you’ll meet a neuroscientist, an illustrator, a vegan, several entrepreneurs and many other inspiring women with great advice on all kinds of career paths and life choices.