Girl power was all the rage in the 1990s and early 2000s. The phrase “girl power” is used as a term of empowerment, independence, and self-sureness, but what came of girl power, and is there such a thing as true girl power? Or more so, the true power of women? Particularly when working together.
In 1994 the Spice Girls shot to the top of the pops with ‘Wannabee’. They were a group of women ‘working’ together, but is there more to it than that? The Spice Girls were a brand, a product, a group of women where there were friendships and where to the outer world there was a ‘spunky’ toughness. But is toughness needed in ‘girl power’ – or in truly power-full women when they are together?
Have you ever observed two women who work together in a power-full way? Or experienced yourself working along side another woman in a way that felt power-full? We are not talking here of power in a dictatorial, or adversarial, or even ‘macho’ way, but power in a way where there is flow, an equalness, and where things get done; where there is an intimacy in it’s true meaning:
- where you can share how you feel without the need to indulge,
- where you can be fragile and vulnerable without feeling shame or a failure,
- where you can express anything without feeling judged, with an open heartedness between you where there are no walls of protection.
These relationships, or shall we say partnerships are also not based on you doing the same job for instance, or being the same level of ‘seniority’. It could be a Chief Executive and her PA, or a manager and the lady who works on reception. The two women could be in any role, but, by their symbiosis they have a remarkable affect.
They hold solid, they know what is needed, there is no jealousy or comparison (and if there is they talk about it, they nut it out) and to the best of their ability there is no degrading or judging way of being together –
they are two women who simply feel the flow, what is needed and can feel how well they work together and get things done.
If you do it is possible that it has not been appreciated for what it is in full, and that we don’t celebrate these power relationships, or power couples in our workplaces – or in life.
It is true to say that we have all experienced relationships with women at work or in our lives where there is tension, comparison, jealousy, lack of self worth issues, where we feel judged, or unequal, where we make ourselves less. And it is sometimes said ‘get a group of women working together and the dynamics are terrible’… e.g. gossiping or back-biting – but this is not so for all women who work together.
So what makes a power couple? And why is it different to the tough independence of so called ‘girl power’?
We have started to consider this in the last few months. We both work together on different projects – and in those we take different roles in some voluntary projects, for instance Monika is a PA and Jane is a Team Leader in a global Health and Wellbeing project (Unimed Living). In our daily working lives we have similar roles in coaching, training and development – although in completely different countries – but there are parallels in what we learn about our work. In between that we have regular check-ins with one another, and also make a consistent commitment to deepen our intimacy with one another.
We are learning not to accept the status quo as we feel uncomfortable if our relationship feels stagnant, stale, or like it has hit a road-block. We are learning not to accept abuse from one another (e.g. if one of us arrives late for our meeting, or if one of us is in a ‘mood’), and, if we feel abuse in the other we name it – not in a finger pointing way but in a way that allows the other a true gentle reflection to realise that this behaviour is not who they are.
The relationship is a constant reminder of who we truly are, who the other is in truth, and how we as women can be together and support each other.
There is curiosity and not criticism, and we remind each other of playfulness and joy. We allow time to learn and to experiment.
We have come to know this as intimacy at work – and that there is a true power to it, something unshakeable, and solid – and we know if we are tasked with something we will get it done together.
It feels time to start a conversation about women at work – in particular women in groups or power couples – so that we can start to see these for what they truly are and to celebrate and appreciate them; to fully claim that there are women in our working lives that we feel to work with, but maybe we have held back in doing so. The truth is that working together brings a symbiosis that is much needed in our working environments.
By Jane (UK) and Monika (The Netherlands)
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Victoria Lister opens the discussion about why women so often say no to high profile roles.