Sisterhood Culture – The Next Phase of Women’s Movement Leadership

In December 2006, while still in Corporate America, I was working around the clock with my team to complete a major eleven month project for the CEO of the company.

It was bitingly cold; as my colleague and I drove home in the wee hours of the morning through the streets of New York. My colleague being the chief of staff, I was quite impressed by her work and her achievements. On the way home that morning, I asked him, ‘How can I move forward in my career and achieve what you have achieved?’ Her hesitant answer indicated that she wanted to dodge the question. I fell silent and walked with her, rolling up my collars against the wind.

Internally, I began to feel that even though I was an American citizen, I was a woman of color. Maybe that’s why my colleague, a senior pure white leader, walked away from the question.

But I was wrong. The fact that she didn’t answer my question had nothing to do with my color. Yet, instead, it was “Queen Bee Syndrome,” a term first coined in 1973, where a woman in a position of authority in a male-dominated environment treats her subordinates as more critically when it comes to women.

Sisterhood Culture

Time and time again in my career I have observed this ‘Queen Bee Syndrome’ “When women reach the top positions – the C-suite or the board level – there is a tendency to lift the drawbridge.

Women have come a long way in creating equality on many levels in business and enterprise. One of the areas where women often fail is creating a culture of sisterhood.

I have always believed in the strength of fraternity and I have considered it a formidable force of greatness.

Research shows that women in particular benefit from collaboration rather than competition.

If we want to change the numbers and get more women to lead, we must embrace the next phase of the women’s movement, which is to build a culture of sisterhood where women are more successful by helping each other.

And this culture of fraternity is not created only inside corporate houses. It is created in your home where the women of the house support each other. It is created in your social circles, where other women help lift you up. The culture of sisterhood is something that every woman carries with her, no matter where she is.

Having accidentally discovered and watched the whole series, from Friends, I loved the show. Each episode had a lesson, but the biggest takeaway was the sisterhood of women.

In my executive coaching session with women, here is what I ask them to do so that they can create the culture of sisterhood:

  1. Build your team: Your team should be made up of girls who understand you and your ambition.
  2. Help others: as you go, keep the bridge wide open and lend your support in any way you can.
  3. Be reactive: not all women want to reach the peak of their career. But those who do are very curious and have a lot of questions. Be responsive and open to sharing your journey with them.

In my own lifetime, being recognized as the only woman of Indian descent to be an influential speaker and author on leadership in America, I have shared my work and my journey with thousands of women leaders around the world, helping them succeed in their professional life.

If we don’t start this new phase of the movement, women will undoubtedly progress in their careers, but they will feel alone and we will soon see the numbers stagnate again when it comes to women in leading roles.

Suggested reading:

Meet the first all-female Indian music group Ladybirds of the 70s

I believe that a single woman has power; collectively, we have an impact.

Payal Nanjiani is a world-renowned leadership expert and speaker, top coach, and award-winning author in New York City. The opinions expressed are those of the author.