Work Like A Woman: Editorial

 Graphic by Eva Liebovitz

Graphic by Eva Liebovitz

I am super competitive. For the longest time, I believed this was a weakness, or rather, something that you couldn’t freely declare without it feeling like an admission of guilt. In the past, I felt conflicted as if exposing my competitiveness jeopardized  my community. I chalked this up to being a Gemini. I use my Gemini card whenever I don’t make sense to even myself.

Really though, it’s not that I’m a Gemini. It’s a lot more simple, basic and downright sad than that. Women are conditioned to believe that we both need to nurture and be loving, but that we also cannot trust each other.

I am sure there are many women out there, maybe even some reading this who are thinking, “I don’t feel this at all.” [Side note: That is the fear right? To go out on a limb, declare something that you believe to be a unifying admission, only to realize it’s JUST you!]

Even if you cannot identify with these two conflicting feelings: being secretly competitive and someone who yearns for community, I can tell you this...there may be others you interact with that do.

Competition is a form of motivation. It drives us to achieve. In many circumstances, and in many examples we encounter in our world, competition is a positive signifier for accomplished men, especially in sports. When I think of how competitive women are portrayed, I think about the movie Bride Wars or The Devil Wears Prada (I think Anne Hathaway is to blame for some of this now that I think of it). I think of famous rivalries that perpetuate pitting women against each other. I think about Serena Williams and Maria Sharapova, Taylor Swift and Katy Perry, Britney Spears and Christina Aguilera, Tonya Harding and Nancy Kerrigan. The core of these rivalries in essence is over work and over the presumption that there can be only one. That the top is singular. Women need to be ruthless and cutthroat and NOT friendly with other women to get to that top. We’re encouraged to break ceilings but once we scale that ceiling, to live alone.

With all the forward momentum toward equality in the workplace for women, equal pay, equal representation, and putting women in more positions of power politically, we cannot forget that this also means being in the company of more women, that this can only be deemed a successful movement if we see a CEO who is a woman of a big deal company working with a team of executives that are also mostly women. We should not celebrate the exception, we should encourage normalcy, to no longer see that picture and think it is unusual.

This takes work, both in the literal sense, and the more difficult sense. We need to encourage, support, but also be okay and honest about challenging one another. Supporting each other DOES NOT just mean saying “I admire you” or “You are a rock star.” It’s also admitting, “I want to learn from you,” “I want your job,” “I feel intimidated by you, but that makes ME work harder.” Competition is a good thing for women. Pushing each other by sharing and envying each others successes is a good thing. It only becomes a “bad” thing when we feel the need to rid ourselves of the competition, when we try to hurt each other to get a piece of what the other has. When we are aware that there is room at the top, we are more inclined to share that space. If there is no room at the top yet, that’s where the work needs to be done to make room. That’s when we need to push each other even more.

Serena Williams has been on my mind so much lately for so many reasons:

  1. I am so happy for her (OMG)

  2. The way she embraced, leaned into, and owned her pregnant body and overall womanness was such a clap back to all the haters who have portrayed her as an unwomanly, even unhumanly, figure

  3. How honest and vulnerable she has been when talking about her challenges with motherhood, physically and emotionally, in a way that does not feel gimmicky or contrived

  4. Where she is at competitively right now. She is about to make a comeback (return to work if you will) and she has never faced as many obstacles and pressure as she has now. She is the GREATEST and yet she even is making public how difficult it has been for her to recover, which will make her come back all the more glorious.

  5. I WANT SO BADLY TO SEE HER PLAY THE INDIAN WELLS TOURNAMENT!

In addition to the above reasons, Serena is such a motivation when it comes to owning competition. She doesn’t apologize for her ferocity. She doesn’t hold back or try to be humble when it comes to her excellence. She ADMITS that she is the greatest. That she expects that she win these tournaments left and right. But even when those achievements are the goal, she doesn’t stop when she gets there.

I can’t become satisfied, because if I get satisfied, I’ll be like, ‘Oh, I’ve won Wimbledon, I’ve won the US Open. Now can I relax.’ But now people are really going to be fighting to beat me.
— Serena Williams

Something else admirable about her is that even though she sees herself as the best out there, and expects that of herself, she knows that she is not alone. She knows about, acknowledges, and is motivated by the successes and talent of other women. Especially her sister, Venus.

It’s remarkable she [Venus Williams] plays at all, given her Sjögren’s syndrome [an autoimmune disorder that can cause joint pain]. She’s back, winning tournaments. She didn’t allow society to tell her, ‘You have this disease; you can’t do that anymore.’ I look at her, like, ‘She’s not playing at 100 percent. You are. You don’t have excuses.’ Knowing what she went through helped me try to be a more positive person.
— Serena Williams

For Series Two, I wanted to showcase women I know who work in a variety of fields, who took diverging and intersecting paths to get to where they are, who are at the beginning of their careers, and others in the thick of them, who work for a company, started their own business, or work for themselves.

Series Two features women achieving success by an array of defining qualities. It is my hope that these women’s stories will unify, motivate, inform, and most importantly drive us all to work harder. An awareness that we are in the company of women who are putting in work each and every day is all the empowerment we need.