In fact, she wrote her Ph.D.
dissertation about them. An author, speaker, consultant and Co-Founder of HERitage Giving Circle, Booker-Drew notes that while there are still women in the workplace who hold other women down, there are increasing numbers of women who lift and support each other.
“I like that I’m seeing the mentoring of women with a serious look at succession planning and grooming for leadership,” Booker-Drew said. “Sadly, I’m still seeing the same trend I dealt with when I was coming up–older women deliberately undermining the success of others because they feel threatened.
Whether women think they must always compete with each other or they have issues of insecurity, sometimes this behavior can look and feel like bullying. Booker-Drew relates the story of a young woman whose manager was unrelenting in her use of demeaning language and how it made the woman want to quit.
My manager took away all of my job responsibilities and gave them to an admin.
When I asked why she offered me no explanation, so I came to work and did nothing. This was twenty years ago when all one could do was to suck it up and deal with it.
In her dissertation, “From Bonding to Bridging: Using the Immunity to Change (ITC) Process to Build Social Capital and Create Change,” Booker-Drew used an action research approach to investigate the issue social capital (networks of relationships) and how to create change.
ITC was defined in 2009 by Robert Kegan and Lisa Laskow Lahey, as a “hidden commitment, with an underlying root cause, that competes and conflicts with a stated commitment to change.” In other words, hidden commitments sabotage best intentions through the failure to make the necessary changes to achieve them.
Booker-Drew had “often heard conversations that alluded to the belief that women, irrespective of race, class and faith, cannot work together.” To challenge that belief in her dissertation she brought together a group of diverse women who, over four months and half-a-dozen meetings, worked through the process of understanding how they were getting in their own way when it came to building a network of relationships.
By the end, many of the participants realized the need to make adjustments to better connect with other women and to increase their social networks. “Characteristics such as empathy, listening, care and encouragement are important for individual and team growth,” wrote Booker-Drew.
“Dialogue is essential.”
Individual: As a woman in the workplace, check to ensure you are making safe, nurturing spaces for other women. Begin by nurturing yourself, because what you say and do for yourself should be in alignment with your advice to other women.
Organizational: Be intentional about succession plans, mentoring and how you bring someone new to the table. Be deliberate in acknowledging potential, pointing out the need for building skills to enhance future opportunities and opening doors for others.
“In succession planning remember that when promise and potential exist, regardless of age, we should be committed to their success,” said Booker-Drew. “Getting older doesn’t mean an individual doesn’t have the capacity for growth or longevity.
We also must realize that being younger should not discount a person from leadership opportunities.”
Since men still hold most of the executive and board positions, adding men to the social capital mix can help open doors.
“A former boss told me that he applies for jobs if he has only 30% of the qualifications. If I didn’t have 90 to 100% of the qualifications, I didn’t consider the role.
He helped me to see that I was selling myself short.”
If we are lucky, we will all age so being over 40 is not a bad thing. We need to collectively recognize the messages and behaviors that have contributed to the age stigma currently in the workplace, whether displacing older workers or dismissing younger ones and take action to change.