Whenever people ask me how and why I came up with my collaborative community for women, ToGetHer Further, I think of the scenario that happened in the office I was working in at the time – where a senior female manager put her head above the parapet and offered a lifeline to a junior member of admin staff. To me, that moment was magical and inspiring – not just for the women involved, but for the message it sent to everyone that women do not need to compete with each other, and look how much we all can benefit when we do work together. And this story is true, but it’s not the whole truth.
From my years of therapy I’ve learned that there are often layers of truth, and just like an onion, the more you peel back, the more tears you are likely to shed. So it’s not surprising that I stuck with the simple anecdote above, as a clear explanation of the power of female collaboration. But recently I realised there was more to the story than that simple gesture.
Growing up with 2 younger sisters and my Mum, you would easily assume our older brother was outnumbered and ‘outwomanned’, but unfortunately that was never the case. After our father’s death from suicide when he was only 38, the blast sent shrapnel through our lives in ways that we are only now uncovering 26 years later. Our brother’s way of coping with his pain, anger, and heartache, was to vent on us, unleashing years of emotional, physical and intellectual abuse.
Our house was a war zone, with invisible battle lines drawn everywhere – don’t step there, or you’d set off a landmine, don’t touch that or it will explode. Be good, play by the rules. And every woman for herself.
I prided myself on my ability to predict and decipher the rules, to live by them and drive myself to achieve the ultimate goal of safety. I look back and see the many times my sisters and I threw each other to the wolves in a desperate attempt to avoid being the victim for the latest bout of rage. I also remember vividly the pleas I made to our mother, begging her to do something, anything to stop the madness! But it never did.
So when I saw that senior female manager listen to the pleas from the junior admin member of staff, when she believed her, and believed in her, and gave her an escape from the tyranny of the male manager she was then working under, I can see now why it mattered to me so much. And when I see women lift each other up, support, inspire and motivate each other, a little part of me heals with the magical power of female collaboration.
If you are interested in joining the collaborative community of ToGetHer Further, you can access the Facebook group here to join for free: www.facebook.com/groups/getherfurther. Alternatively, you can read more about the community and sign up for the mailing list on www.togetherfurther.org.