Today is International Women’s Day and I’ve been reflecting on my rocky relationship with women over the years.
When I was in school, I had a very hard time befriending girls because of the cliques. No matter whether they were popular or alternative, it always felt like I was stuck in the movie Mean Girls. These young women were always in competition with me, even though there was no competition to be had. Apparently I couldn’t like the same boys and I wasn't allowed to hang out with them unless I “followed the leader.”
So I went my own way and took refuge with the boys.
For a time, I enjoyed being the Princess Leia of the gang, but eventually I started to meet other women who were also bullied and excluded by their sex, and I started to build meaningful friendships with them.
However, entering the workforce caused more competition. When I worked harder or faster than other women in my office, those women would feel threatened and would often lash out or try to block me from future projects, so they could get the attention focussed on themselves. The best way I felt to get around this issue was to have very solid job descriptions. If the work is too open between co-workers, people tend to step on each other’s toes, so I worked as hard as I could to prevent that and continue to do my best work.
When I started working in the entertainment industry, the competition continued. It was every (wo)man for themself, and I felt upset when my own female friends wouldn’t help me out. But in addition to that, I realized that I was taking part in that competition. I felt jealous of my peers who were more successful than I was, and I propagated the competitive behavior that I detested.
It wasn’t until I started studying Theatre at The Antaeus Company that I began to see another path: collaboration.
When I was taking classes at Antaeus, the class moderators were mentors; people who pushed and championed each actor to be the best they can be. In addition to building up my skills, they helped volunteer information to help me build my whole career. There was no room in these classes for competition unless it was in the actual scene. This meant everyone was working together, and it was a breath of fresh air!
This changed me. I started sharing information instead of keeping it all for myself. If I heard about a role that would be perfect for one of my friends, I would send it to her ASAP! I still do this today because, to be honest, we are all so unique and have something very different to offer that sometimes it’s just best to trust in the casting director and help each other in the process.
Theatre is a very collaborative work. Eventually, we will all work on a project together, so I think it’s important to help each other when we can and keep building our relationships to last. I only wish the rest of the entertainment industry and the world worked the same way. I will be working to try and change that in my own life.
So, for International Women’s Day this year, I challenge every woman to drop her shield and to help another woman reach her goals. End the competition, and begin to build relationships with collaboration.