Successful Women Are Not Always On “Board.”

Limiting Criterias — Workplace Matters Series

[Also featured on Elizabeth’s LinkedIn page as part of her workplace, people culture and employee engagement series. Elizabeth has 5 years of operations and human resources experience; many of her insights come from working for various companies, organizations and start-up business ventures.]

Credit: Working Girl (1998)

I am sure that most of you remember the 1988 romantic comedy-drama Working Girl featuring Melanie Griffith who plays Tess McGill (a struggling secretary from Staten Island, New York) who finds herself being assigned to yet another temporary work placement within the mergers and acquisitions department for a Wall Street Investment bank — as a result of her previous work placement not ending so well. Now, Katharine Parker played by Sigourney Weaver is Tess’s new female boss and I wish I could state that the fact that Ms. Parker is a successful female executive, makes Tess’s expressed desire for success an easy one; however, we soon learn that this is far from the truth. Instead of Ms. Parker taking on a genuine mentorship and career development approach, as it relates to her relationship with her new secretary, she not only steals Tess’s ideas for one of the company’s major clients and presents it as her own, she also has no intention of ensuring Tess’s overall success as she sees Tess as nothing more than a mere secretary with little or no movement on the horizon.

There is no question that a lot has changed since the 80s as it relates to the overall advancement of women within the workplace and the efforts made to essentially promote and further encourage mentorship. However, we as women also secretly know that not all successful women, in the workplace, are on board with ensuring our success — as much as we would like to believe. The reality is that there are still, unfortunately, many Katharine Parkers lurking within the workplace and, dare I say, they are not all in executive and management positions. No, some are classified as colleagues with whom you have to collaborate with and they just happen to have some level of influence within your respective companies; well just enough to ruin and or sabotage another young women’s hopes and dreams for success. Additionally, many women have lost job opportunities and have also been sidelined; not because of their work ethic, but because of the destructive feelings and emotions of their female direct reports and or female colleagues.

I am sure that many of you are familiar with women you sense feel threatened, insecure and or overtly concerned about your impeccable work ethic, professionalism and how well groomed you are for work. Young women can pay a price for being too skinny or too fat. In Tess’s case it was an issue of economic class — she was beautiful, intelligent, driven, willing to learn and knowledgeable; but still very much a secretary. In a really toxic work environment the next strategy is to make that woman’s life hell by trying to figure out how to essentially “get-rid-of–her” before she becomes too visible.

Consider this: If you are a successful woman working within the workplace today, the first step is to recognize that most young women want to be successful — irrespective of their heritage, ethnic origin, what they look like, how tall or short they are, what languages they speak or what accent they have acquired as a result of where they were raised. They simply want an opportunity to feel “just like you.” They want to experience what you have been given the chance to feel each day; that is a sense of purpose and accomplishment as they seek to start, develop and establish their own career identities. Each young woman wants the opportunity to confidently cultivate and demonstrate her own talents and abilities, without fear of rejection or having to deal with an inferiority complex. In short, she wants to feel valued despite the fact that, in all actuality, she may not actively be in a position of leadership and or management.

If you are a woman who has and continues to achieve success today, you have a responsibility to ensure that you are extending opportunities for advancement to the women that work with you or the ones that might report to you; especially towards the women that express a genuine interest in the area to which they are seeking an opportunity.

In essence, young professional women need platforms and without a platform it is virtually impossible for one to develop and showcase their talent; in an effort to eventually morph into what they are destined to become. Please also keep in mind that mentorship and helping other women with career development, should not come with limiting criterias as it relates to who and what kind of women you should promote, mentor or advance. Women are essentially women.

Finally, let us take the time to celebrate those women who do support other women in the workplace — taking the time out of their busy schedules to help develop and positively impact other women’s lives and career development. You know who you are, so this article should ultimately make you feel good after reviewing!

P.S. I do very much encourage those that have not yet had the pleasure of watching Working Girl to go ahead and watch the film as soon as time permits.