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She-Force: A New Series

Women must form an office sisterhood of trust, support, and integrity

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I'm 39 and -- probably like most of you -- grew up assuming I was a free woman. Mary Tyler Moore, Rhoda, That Girl, Charlie's Angels -- everything I saw on TV reinforced what I felt all around me: Women are equal and free! In many ways, that's completely true. But there are still a good number of ways in which we're not free. (Put down your tazers; I'm not going after the guys here, nor the media. No, no -- this runs much deeper.)

Picture this: You're at work and you start up a conversation with the new girl/woman, or maybe someone you see a lot but haven't talked to before. She seems nice, friendly and smart, and before long, you're getting along great -- laughing, hitting it off. You think, "Wow, she's cool. A new work friend -- perfect!" Then some male colleague (insert name here of any guy you work with and with whom you have a mild flirting relationship OR any man in a position of power) walks by and -- while ignoring you -- says something flattering to your new friend or just chats it up with her in some way. Suddenly, that feeling kicks in -- when your thoughts go from "She's so nice" to "I hate her! I want to kill her! She's such a bitch, thinking she's so cute -- and, man, is her nose big or what?! OMG, I'm ugly, I hate myself, I'm so fat, I need to eat."

Sound familiar? This is just one of the very real core-level motivations still within us women that prevents us from truly being free and working together. It doesn't matter what job we hold, nor is it really our fault or anything to even be ashamed of -- it's just that we haven't really ever gone inside ourselves with a bright light to examine what's going on. One reason this occurs is that our biology is still a huge motivating force behind our behavior. Throughout time (and we're talking thousands of years) -- and for very, very good reasons -- women have been a threat to one another. We had to rely on men for just about everything -- food, shelter, protection -- until about 50 years ago. So, for a very long time, "man stop liking me and now like her" literally meant death, or at least something close to it.

Like many woman, I used to think it was personal -- that I just suddenly didn't like my friend or that girl in class I thought was so cool and nice. I truly believed my thoughts about her as my emotions constricted and raged. But this is universal to women. However, we now have social, legal and economic freedoms like no other time in history. So the next frontier is to disassemble these deeper structures within that no longer serve a purpose -- other than to keep us from really working together.

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