For as long as many of us can remember, the concept of women advancing in business has felt like an individual sport. So much of the advice we have received (including from yours truly) has focused on what each of us can do individually: on how we can ask for that raise in a way that works, on how we can wow our new boss, on how to negotiate while female, and on how we could lean in.
While it sometimes felt like a four-dimensional juggling act, it was actually pretty comforting because this provided us with a set of rules we could follow — which in turn gave us a sense of control.
And if we didn’t succeed, it simply meant adjusting our actions and redoubling our efforts. After all, we women are pretty great at following the rules and getting our A’s.
And, of course, there seemed to be evidence that it worked. Behold the Queen Bee: That woman at each of our companies who had a seat at the executive table, who made it to the top despite all of the obstacles. She did it by being tougher, by being savvier, and by being more hardworking than everyone else. She also seemed to do it without anyone’s help, and she didn’t help other women get ahead in turn.
Except there is one problem with this old construct: It hasn’t worked. Progress on diversity has stalled.
The issue is that this “you go, girl” advice ignores the bad bosses many of us end up working for at some point, who can derail our careers (and, to be perfectly frank, cost us a lot of money). And it ignores those pesky implicit gender biases that even the “good guys” can have.
The great news is that the zeitgeist is changing, from women working to be successful individually to working to be successful together.
We see it among our female role models: from Reese Witherspoon’s Hello Sunshine media brand; to more VC firms that are investing in women, such as Rethink Impact and the VC community Helm; to women-only gathering spaces, such as The Wing and The Girls’ Lounge.
And we’re doing it ourselves. We marched together. We're taking down the sexual harassers together, supporting each other, and amplifying each other’s stories. We’re beginning to more consciously support women-owned businesses. Here at Ellevate Network, we are hearing more and more about women supporting each other in the workplace, underscoring each other’s points, advocating for each other, talking each other up.
I’ll make a prediction: Doing this together is going to work better — a lot better — than each of us going it alone.
This article originally appeared in Ellevest's newsletter, What The Elle.