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No man is an island. Nor is any woman.

“No man is an island, entire of itself…” (John Donne, 1572-1631) And nor is any woman. Yet I see so many businesswomen trying to go it alone. Carrying the weight of the world on their shoulders. Not relying on anyone else, so she can’t be disappointed. Working twice as hard as the men around her, proving she has what it takes to make it to the top, off her own bat. And canceling commitments with friends and family to attend to that last minute meeting or deadline that simply can’t be trusted to anyone else.

And yet the most common feedback I receive from senior women in business is that they feel isolated, alone, unsupported.

Yes, it’s tough at the top. For anyone. But one of the big differences I notice between men and women is the support systems they draw on when the going gets tough. Let me explain.

In my days working in a global consulting firm, ‘tough going’ was part of the landscape. Long hours. Projects inadequately budgeted or resourced. Demanding clients. Underperforming businesses with burning platforms. Truckloads of adrenaline and testosterone at the top. Real pressure cooker environments.

And in these circumstances, what did I observe?

The blokes banded together. They played touch footy before work to release their stress. They went to spin classes together at lunch time and they went to the pub after work. They shared their “stuff” in an informal and collegiate way. And in the process they shared resources, contacts and ideas on how to nut out the issue at hand.

The women on the other hand dropped out of the netball team because they couldn’t commit to being available every Wednesday at 7pm. They worked back late after others had left, ploughing through the analysis. They’d cancel dates and let the gym membership lapse. They went it alone. Me included.

Which is counter-intuitive to what we know: women are great team players. We have more advanced executive social skills than our male peers, so we can pick up the nuances of body language, emotions and tone of voice in the people around us and use this information to collaborate more effectively. That is, if we haven’t put our head in the sand and put the walls up around us just.

In my mind, the single most important thing for the wellbeing of women in business is to build a community. Whether within the business or beyond, a community of service providers, suppliers, colleagues and clients will be a source of support when the going gets tough. Because they know you, they’ll respect your capabilities without casting aspersions on your vulnerabilities and they’ll help you shoulder the storm.

But being part of a community brings obligations as well. You have to give back. You have to turn up when others need you. Even if it seems like your world is falling apart, there could be someone in a tougher spot than you. But you’ll never know if you don’t turn up and you don’t stay in touch.

So be there and be part of the community. Pull together when the going gets tough. Ask for help and offer it too. You’ll save time, build life long friendships and go home at the end of the day feeling like you’re not along and you’ve made a difference – for yourself, your colleagues and for every woman trying to make it to the top.


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