So it turns out that Edith Wharton didn’t care much for her female peers.
In the copy of Old New York that I borrowed from my mom, the author of the introduction, Marilyn French, says that Wharton was “stubbornly disinterested” in the successful female writers of her era. A dismissive attitude French calls “horizontal hostility.”
The term “horizontal hostility” was coined in the 1970s by lawyer/activist/feminist Florynce Kennedy to describe destructive power dynamics between women. Be it shaming, attacking, belittling or flat out denying each other’s potential and talent.
Women have come a long way since.
Within the last few years there’s been a boom in the number of groups and businesses created by women to support women, such as:
- Networking groups like PWN and ChIPS
- Entrepreneurial associations like Led By Her and The World Association of Women Entrepreneurs
- Co-working/social clubs like The Wing and CoWomen
- Recruiting agencies like The Mom Project and Mothers & Careers
- Funding platforms like Backstage Capital and iFundWomen
- Election groups like Get Her Elected and Emily's List
But are women really all holding hands, singing "Kumbaya" and hoisting each other up to the higher echelons of the ladder?
Let’s be honest, we’ve still got a long way to go.
One way we can accelerate things is by taking a good, hard look at our personal beliefs and habits, especially when it comes to the women we care about and know the most: our girlfriends.
And here's why.
In a recent article in Forbes, author Mallun Yen, ChIPs co-founder and CEO, explains that: “Women’s friendships tend to become deeply personal and intimate very quickly. Trying to make the leap directly from intense personal relationships to business can feel abrupt and awkward to both sides. So the very thing about female friendships that is deservedly celebrated may also be holding us back from generating vital business with each other."
When girlfriends get together they tend to hold back sharing professional help, contacts and advice because it feels weirdly disingenuous, like a shady transaction out of a "Breaking Bad" episode.
“Doing deals with your buddies is a time-honored way to build your book of business," continues Yen. "But women tend to struggle when it comes to mixing money and friendship, cutting themselves off from one of the most effective tactics in the constant struggle to get ahead. "
"So why is it that we’re so hesitant to do deals with our friends—the very people we know have our backs?” asks Yen.
That's a damn good question don't you think?
What prevents us from sitting down with a bestie over a bottle of rosé to swap stories about marriage squabbles and potty-training disasters, and then fifteen minutes later whip open our iPhones to make an invaluable introduction to advance each other's careers?
If it’s just the antiquated belief that we can’t mix business with pleasure because we care so much about the authenticity of our friendship, then maybe we need to redefine the concept of friendship.
So, the next time you meet with a close friend for lunch or drinks or coffee, test out some non-icky tools and techniques to kick each other's professional goals into high gear.
And then use them on interesting women you encounter at events.
At dinner parties.
Why not make that one of your micro-actions for the month?