From Competition to Collaboration
Talk turns to action as working women of Denver come to celebrate sisterhood
Sisterhood. Supporting one another. Solidarity. These values and ideals are becoming increasingly prevalent in business, and there is no shortage of conversation on the importance of women working together. Denver Startup Week 2018 hosted a variety of programs that stressed these practices including “The Many Shades of Women in Entrepreneurship – Finding and Creating a Sisterhood” panel, hosted by Olivia Omega of Brazen Denver. The event boasted a variety of panelists including: Jacqui Dietrich programs manager of the Commons on Champa; Kendra Anderson owner and founder of Bar Helix; Topazz McBride, owner of Rediscovery Through Wellness; Portia Prescott co-founder of Black Girls Hike; Makisha Boothe, founder of Sistahpreneurs; Slant’d Media’s co-founder and Strategic Director Katerina Jeng; Leadership Consultant, Rocio Perez of Inventiva Consulting; Founder and CEO, Shahira Qudrat of Multi-American Moxie; and Leslie Na of Truth Bomb.
These Denver-based entrepreneurs shared their expertise with a local audience, and spoke of finding a diverse support network to encourage them along their entrepreneurial journeys.
“We are a lot stronger than we think, but we are so much stronger together,” Leslie Na of Truth Bomb said. “So, finding this community, this sisterhood has been a huge lifeline for me.”
However, in a time when women supporting women is a topic at the forefront of organizations and social movements alike, how much of the preaching is practiced?
Underneath all the talk of sisterhood, there seems to be an underlying layer of competition. While women are making progress in many industries, female executives are still scarce when compared to their male counterparts. This, in turn, drives women to view one another as potential threats to their success. Indeed, the panelists did acknowledge this issue.
“Unfortunately for black women especially, for our black community, a lot of times our challenge has been that there can only be one,” McBride said. “They’re not going to hire 10 black women. Historically, that becomes the mindset, that becomes the lie that we have to defy. That’s the thing that often times causes us to be in competition with one another. If we all want to be CEOs, own banks, do whatever it is we want to do, we can do that and nobody is going to determine what the quota is. All of that quota system put us in a competitive place, even for women, they say there can only be so many women. Well we are here to defy that.”
Unfortunately, what McBride described is at the root of toxic competition between women in many fields. Women are also naturally pitted against one another thanks to issues like equal pay and the opportunity to climb the ladder in the workplace. Female employees are also more likely to react negatively to competitive behavior from coworkers than their male counterparts. This rivalry between women can be driven by insecurities created by historical marginalization, which McBride went on to confront.
“I feel like it begins from within; we have to work on our own insecurities. We have to own that we have them first of all, because we cannot conquer what we won’t even confront and that we are in denial about.”
The only way to move past the inherent struggle professional women face is to focus on collaboration. While easier said than done, panels like this, focused on sisterhood and teamwork, are a step in the right direction. Many of the panelists have taken this upon themselves and created organizations that concentrate on helping the next wave of female entrepreneurs through consulting and making sisterhood a norm within the workplace.
“We need to go back to what makes us amazing as women,” Perez said. “We are heart connected, we are focused, we connect with each other, and we are here to help each other. It’s not a competition, because the moment you are competing you are not collaborating, and if you are not collaborating, you are way away from your heart.”
Sydney Paul is a student at Colorado State University, majoring in journalism. She participated in a partnership between the University and ColoradoBiz magazine that brought students from Fort Collins to Denver Startup Week 2018.