If fifty percent of the world’s population is female and Madeleine Albright said, “There is a special place in hell for women who do not help other women,” then if you are female, there is a 50% chance you’re going to hell. But don’t worry guys; you have an opportunity to join us. Hell is an equal-opportunity kind of place and I’m all about gender equality.
When I mentioned this quote in a LinkedIn forum, I was chided by a woman for not posting a more empowering message. I found it peculiar that in a forum for women, where a woman specifically asked for quotes we liked that were by women, another, unrelated woman would take the time to reprimand me for posting a quote she clearly didn’t like. Honestly, I think she was a little peeved because the quote hit home for her. As I’m sure it does for many of you reading this.
Madeleine Albright may have uttered those words at the end of her career in politics, but wherever you are in yours, you have the opportunity to give a hand up. This applies to men as well as to women. When was the last time someone called you and asked you to make an introduction and you made an excuse that you didn’t know the person that well, but said you would see what you could do, then did nothing? Was it as recent as Friday of last week?
How about the more subtle case of someone more junior than you, who you could have invited to lunch; this would have provided a small opportunity for her to pitch a project idea to your boss, but secretly, you are concerned her idea may be better than yours so you kept silent with the invitation unspoken.
I do believe people inherently want to help others. However, we underestimate the effect we can have. The first thought always seems to be that we need to finish this one project or get to this next stage in our careers, then we can mentor; then we’ll be at a point in our careers where one bad recommendation won’t affect our career trajectory.
The ability to assist others doesn’t begin when you earn the title of Senior VP, Executive Director or CEO. You already hold the key to helping someone else. Just look around you.
Why not take a junior staff member to lunch?
Ask a team member for their project ideas. Implement the good ones and then give them credit.
If you notice a coworker’s ideas seem to be off-track, take them aside and give feedback prior to the meeting instead of during the meeting.
Return the phone call of the person who is asking for help. It takes courage to ask, so when approached, why not provide the requested help? One day, the shoe may be on the other foot.
I get it. We should not expect assistance just because we are female or part of an ethnic minority. However, we should be able to lean on one another. The Tyranny of the Queen Bee needs to end and it
begins with active assistance. Of course, if you are in a position of power, it should be easier to notice opportunities where a word, a phone call or a lunch meeting could be the difference in the career of someone who may (should) then do the same for someone else. Think back on your own career. Who helped you along the way?
“Leave the door open and the ladder down.” Never were truer words said. Well, maybe they’re a close second to Ms. Albright’s words. However, this particular set of words just happen to have been spoken during Pepperdine University’s Dean’s Executive Leadership Series by Bernard Kinsey, a prominent African American who worked at Xerox for 20 years where he was one of the early pioneers in helping break
down racial barriers in corporate America. His attitude regarding the responsibility to help others led to the hiring of thousands of Black employees, women and Latinos and is the subject of a Harvard Business School case study.
Kinsey may have been speaking about African American executives at the time, but the principle applies to women and to other ethnic minority groups. When you get to “the top” and you not only close the door but jam a chair under the door handle, you can tell yourself you’re doing it to protect what you have built,
until you have the opportunity to help others. However, when you realize it’s lonely at the top, know this is because you have prevented others from joining you there.
I like Madeleine Albright’s quote because it reminds us of our responsibility as humans on this planet. It’s not just about women helping women. It’s about ethnic minorities helping each other, and not just within our own communities, but across color and gender lines. There is a moral obligation to leave the ladder down, open the door, and pull others through. I believe this applies to everyone who has “made it” and most of us who are on our way. If you don’t agree, there is a special seat waiting for you. I think it has your name on it.