This piece first appeared on The Sisterhood blog at the Forward.
In the first episode of “Downton Abbey,” Lady Cora asks her mother-in-law, the Dowager Countess, “Are we to be friends then?” In response, her mother-in-law wisely says, “We are allies, my dear, which can be a good deal more effective.”
In other words, there is a significant difference between women being friends and women being allies — or part of a network of colleagues to advance women’s common causes. It seems that historically we have been better at the former than at the latter.
“I think women are really good at making friends and not good at networking,” said the former Secretary of State Madeleine Albright, in a recent interview with The Wall Street Journal. “Men are good at networking and not necessarily making friends. That’s a gross generalization, but I think it holds in many ways.”
“The hardest part — and this is not totally over — is there are not that many jobs at the top,” said Albright, who, incidentally, was my professor at Georgetown during the late 1980s. “And there still is this idea where we need one woman. So what settles in is what I call ‘the queen bee complex,”’ which is: ‘Why would you want to help some other woman when that’s the only job that’s out there?’ The bottom line is, the more we have a cadre of women moving up the scale, and it doesn’t seem threatening, and people realize that women actually work much harder than men, and realize that they need more women in these jobs, I think that goes away.”
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© 2012 Renee Ghert-Zand. All rights reserved.