Brice Bunner

Debunking the zero-sum game that corporate women are forced to play


Image ©: The Dolce Vita ProjectMaybe it started with shoulder pads in the eighties or power lunches of the nineties, but whatever the cultural catalyst, there is a stigma that remains about women in upper-level management. This idea that empowered women must be a solitary, hard-edged figure of stoic resolve is all bunk, of course. But you might be surprised to discover that this stigma is perpetuated largely by the same women who wield that power.

The devil on the inside

The sad truth about psychology is that women often adopt a negative attitude toward other women when they are in upper-level management; not because they’re naturally that way, but because of the presupposition that female leadership ought to be held with a disassociated piousness. The idea being that if you receive power in isolation, you can only keep it in isolation.

As the article we linked in the first paragraph shows, attempts at cracking the cell these corporate women exist in—even by another C-suite female—is taboo at best and, at worst; a declaration of war. It’s, perhaps, the example of women modeling male bravado (the lone warrior) to achieve status in a male-dominant environment.

The prevailing attitude is that women in power positions are playing a zero-sum game; power must be protected at all costs—even the cost of friendship. This thinking starts at a middle-management level and persists well into the C-suite—but it has to stop! Zero-sum is a failing equation and we need a new arithmetic.

Finding strength in numbers 

The ability for women to connect and carry each other’s successes and failures is absolutely vital to bring balance to the workplace. And with balance, you can achieve the highest levels of efficiency, innovation, and acumen any business could hope for.

We see this put into action at Sage every day. As a woman-owned company, Sage is setting an example for our clients, our customers, and especially our employees with leaders like Wendy Neu and Jill Vaské doing amazing things. In fact, our owner, Jill, knows that the zero-sum mentality will need to be debunked at the hands of the very women who perpetuate the idea. To this aim, Sage makes it a point to encourage women in the company to move into higher levels of authority.

The women have to prove themselves, of course, to achieve the positions, but a nice side-effect to their new position is that they can see for themselves the incredible opportunity it is to be empowered alongside other empowered women. The hope is, wherever they end up—if they don’t stay with Sage, that they will challenge this concept with evidential proof of community.

Strong women need to support each other

Throughout history, empowered women in any environment has yielded significant results. And, relative to business, big things can happen when women are able to be their best for a company.

By empowering women in middle management to have an open and mutually encouraging environment, we are setting up the future of senior management to be filled with solid, encouraged, and confident female leaders. Of course, this should go without saying since everyone does better when they are surrounded by healthy people.

The more we rally around the idea of making women in senior leadership feel safe and secure, the more we will see great things from these women. And it’s high time we change the thinking on the zero-sum mentality stifling the C-suite of corporate America. 

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