We are all familiar with stereotypes — broad generalizations about a particular group of people. From reality television and media to our places of work and play, stereotypes run rampant. Specifically as it relates to women and women in the workplace, misconceptions about female-to-female interactions and competitiveness run the gamut. I conducted an impromptu word association exercise with esteemed colleagues and trusted sources, both male and female, across my professional and personal networks and asked: what comes up when you hear the following words? Catty. Emotional. Weak. While “Trump” took first place, an overwhelming majority of the responses revealed the true elephant in the room; women.
Studies have come a long way from Charles Darwin’s theory on natural selection, but the issue of why women compete with each other remains complex. In a Psychology Today report, Noam Shpancer breaks down feminine foes and explores the science behind female competition. A literature review by Tracy Vaillancourt found that women “express indirect aggression toward other women, and that aggression is a combination of self promotion, making themselves look more attractive, and derogation of rivals, being catty about other women.” How do we shift the mindset from mean girls to mentors, from foes to friends? The short answer: Shine Theory.
What is Shine Theory?
The idea that strong and powerful women make great friends, because they want to help other women they admire succeed as well, not take them down.
Powerful women like Sheryl Sandberg, Lauren Wesley Wilson and Mónica Talán have proven to be exemplary examples of Shine Theory and its importance in corporate America and beyond. These women have not only built successful careers of their own, but they have created and nurtured networks to help women excel in their respective fields.
Friedman penned an article in New York Magazine’s The Cut on why powerful women make the greatest friends, with a spotlight on Beyoncé and Kelly Rowland’s relationship and mutual success. Brit + Co. featured friendships that prove Shine Theory is real, highlighting BFFs and power pals Oprah Winfrey and Gayle King, Tina Fey and Amy Poehler, to name a few. Outside of Hollywood, there are powerful representations of Shine Theory in our everyday lives. Here are my three favorite Shine Theory moments so far in 2016:
Earlier this year, former Secretary of State Madeline Albright came under fire while she campaigned for Hillary Clinton and used her trademark phrase, “There’s a special place in hell for women who don’t help each other.”Though she apologized for using the phrase in the wrong context, she continues to stand by her belief that women should help another. I’m with her. And, so are many other powerful women who continue to pave the way while investing time in their peers and sharing the wealth.
Leading The Way
I had the privilege to witness Shine Theory alongside my colleagues from various practices across the Ogilvy Public Relations network, during the ColorComm (C2) conference. ColorComm is the only organization for women of color in communications and the conference is an intimate gathering of communications leaders changing the face of the communications industry. This year’s theme, Leading The Way, was both relevant and powerful in light of the Shine Theory movement, as well as the issues we are facing in our society today: race relations, gender equality and we can’t ignore the strong possibility that a women may hold the highest office in the United States of America for the very first time. I was honored to be under the same roof as women like Lisa Nichols, Arianna Huffington and Fredricka Whitfield. I watched as exceptional women leading the way in our industry were awarded and acknowledged, and I listened to all of their stories on their many challenges and moments of triumph. Not one of them claimed to do it alone or without the support of other women in their circles.
Ogilvy hosted the opening session that set the tone for the entire conference, seizing the moment to put diversity front and center. Sessions focused on issues ranging from the lack of women of color in the C-Suite and navigating challenges in corporate America, but my favorite moments during the conference were the intimate talks with some of the most influential women in the communications industry. We were challenged to: Speak up. Follow-up. Step up. We were also reminded of the powerful network of women that we can lean on and shine with.
Gold Isn’t The Only Thing Shining At The Olympics
The 2016 Olympics in Rio have showcased some of the strongest and most inspiring examples of Shine Theory. In fact, Friedman named the 2016 female Olympians The Ultimate Shine Theory Icons. I’m with her.
These remarkable females athletes have trained specifically to compete. Yet, there was an air of camaraderie and genuine support in Rio. During the women’s 5,000-meter, New Zealand’s Nikki Hamblin tripped Team USA’s Abbey D’Agostino, and she went down with her. D’Agostino helped Hamblin back to her feet and they finished the race. Simone Manuel made history and set an American record in the 100 free. Fellow swimmer and teammate, Katie Ledecky tweeted “I’m shaking. So proud of you. #CHAMP” Over to U.S. gymnastics, Laurie Hernandez and Madison Kocian left Aly Raisman a note on her bed:
“We’ve looked up to you from the beginning of our careers and you’ve inspired us in so many ways!”
In another class act, Simone Biles won the gold in the all-around competition, and she told ESPN, of Aly Raisman, “I think I was more proud of Aly getting silver than me gold.” #SquadGoals
“If you don’t shine, I don’t shine.”
I credit much of my professional success to the tremendous women that paved the way before me, and those that have invested their time in my growth and have guided me along my career path and in life. Without their guidance, counsel, and genuine interest in my passions and talent, my journey could be a much longer, lonelier walk. Now it is my turn to open doors and continue to pay it forward. Shine Theory is real. Shine on.