Why it pays for women to be their sisters’ keeper

Why it pays for women to be their sisters’ keeper. Photo | Photosearch

What you need to know:

  • I think that as a woman I go into the workplace thinking that we are all trying to raise each other up, and band together, because we know just how hard the workplace can be for women

The worst bosses I’ve ever had have been women. There was one who was very clearly exploiting me, but because it was early on in my writing career, I didn’t particularly care and I had the energy and folly of youth to do the workhorse labour she would assign me. There was another one who would change goalposts so consistently, I would think I was mad; in one review meeting, she would say how great a job I had done, and in the next week, she would intimate that my job was on the line because the higher-ups weren’t happy. As this was during the pandemic, you can imagine what this scare tactic did to me. She made it sound as if I should be grateful for my job, to the point of following her around faithfully like a lapdog. Which, I didn’t. Which, got me fired.

There was another one who stole the title of one of my columns with nary a ‘oh, I’m going to use this from now on.’ I waved copyright infringement jargon in her face until she capitulated, but I was irritated that I had to do that in the first place. It was a clear-cut case to me – of theft. Not so much to her. We haven’t spoken since.

I think that as a woman I go into the workplace thinking that we are all trying to raise each other up, and band together, because we know just how hard the workplace can be for women. Not just the consistent threat of sexual harassment—in week two of my second job in my 20s, some married dude brushed his hand against my arse under the guise of guiding me to an office birthday celebration— but also because everyone already thinks we are going to do less, or get away with things by lying on our backs. 

Haven’t you heard about those silly interviews where women are asked what their plan is in the next five years, and dare you say something like, I hope to have a family by then? For men, this is seen as a forward-thinking leadership statement, someone who is able to steer their family into a productive future and rise in the ranks at work because he has a solid anchor at home. For a woman, it feels like HR just sees maternity leave and liability, and God forbid that they should have to build a mother’s room or a creche in the office? The horror. The workplace is so skewed out of our direction, that every time I have a woman as a supervisor, and she does me dirty, it really surprises me.

Then again, maybe I am putting too much stead in this whole ‘we’re all on this together’ thing. No one has an obligation to be nice to you or make your path easier just because we share similar genitalia, or went to the same school, or come from the same village. But I would like to argue that there should be some sense of responsibility to those coming after you. They’re – we – are the ones shaping the world that’s to come, and that world could use a little more kindness. I don’t mean doling our favour and promotions just because your uncle is the brother to my great-grandfather’s second wife – I mean that’s when someone gets there on merit, and you know the struggle, why not give a helping hand? On the basis of humanity and camaraderie. And if not that, if you don’t feel like showing someone the ropes or being a mentor, don’t make that path harder for them.

When I look back once more, some of my best bosses have also been women. There was one lady who basically charted my career path in print media for me, who I still talk to today, even though we no longer work in the same field. There’s another woman who started as my boss and became my friend, and is the most concise editor I have ever met. There’s yet another who still sends me job applications, even though I stopped working at that organisation years ago. Please be that kind of boss for someone else.

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