I peered above the crowd trying to get a glimpse of her. It was hard to pinpoint her location in the sea of moving people nudging in for a photo-op. I oriented myself by finding the Charging Bull of Wall Street and looked for his unassuming opponent. There he was, snorting his aggressive defiance to an unassuming little girl who did not know to be afraid.
My husband and I were vacationing on a four-day weekend in New York City to visit our 25-year-old daughter who had recently become an official”Lower East Side Girl” and the first thing I placed on the itinerary was a visit and photo op with “Fearless Girl”.
“Why in the world do you want to go see a statue of a little girl?” asked my husband.
I wasn’t sure I knew the answer but, ever since I had seen her in the news in her power pose, there was something about her that resonated with the former 8-year-old girl I once remember being. She embodied the time of my life when I climbed trees, got dirty, had a pet snake that I fed tree-frogs too (not kidding) without any kind of squeamish regard. She was me before I felt less-than, self-conscious about my changing female body, worried about boys liking me, and before I understood the meaning of “Mean-Girl”. She was that voracious reader who wrote poetry, learned how to ride a bike with no hands, ate half a pizza without worrying about the carb count, and wanted to collect fireflies in early summer Florida evenings. She was Fearless. An enviable trait for this fifty-year-old that has forgotten what that feels like.
My present life, (and that of most career women who are also mothers, daughters and wives) feels more like we are assuming the Wonder Woman persona. Here to defend, control, fix, support, the entire human race.
As I positioned myself for my quick power pose photo-op I heard a man nearby say “What I would really like to see is Fearless Girl vs. Wonder Woman” with a raucous snort, “It would be a lame second to the blockbuster bust of Batman vs. Superman.”
I rolled my eyes at the comment. Why would anyone pit Fearless Girl against another strong female? He was missing the point. Women should stand together and support each other as they persevere to grow themselves, their careers, and their families. I imagined Wonder Woman standing bravely beside, or in front of, Fearless Girl as they stood their ground against the Charging Bull.
As a female Leadership Blog author, I write about the importance of the female collective championing, supporting and mentoring their younger and older sisters. I know from experience, however, that this is not always the norm. Oftentimes young fearless girls are taught to be afraid of any female competition as the scarcity of competitive roles dictates one must lose if another must win. We first see this behavior in middle school as the Queen Bee mindset begins to take place. Strong friendships formed in the early years begin to break and bend as “who is in” and “who is out” is culturally defined. Power is found, sadly, by those who can attract the attention of boys and she is elevated as a role model for all to see. To keep her power, she must destroy her competition by shunning and never risk her reign by befriending anyone who could threaten it.
As young women grow and begin their careers and families this competitive, dysfunctional behavior is transferred to women in the workplace. Rather than work to defeat the Bull together, women are led to believe their enemy is their sister. First hand I have witnessed, and experienced, purposeful targeted actions of betrayal, discrediting, and reputation homicide with stunned cognizance.
The first time I became a target the concept was so foreign to me that I never saw it coming. I tried to rationalize her blatant attacks on my credibility and work because I had worked tremendously hard to help make her successful as a sister in the workplace. I have since learned… .painfully, and a bit too late, some of the warning signs of female sabotage. I refuse, however, to succumb to the sacrificial mindset. Instead, I focus on finding ways to manage my work sisters up, work together for the common goal, and encourage persistence when I see their inner Fearless girl lose her confidence. I teach my younger work sisters to practice “power poses” before a big presentation, I send encouraging notes when I see them offer their opinions at the table and I echo their words when they are manterrupted. I do the same for the women in positions of power above me which is equally important. I encourage them to stretch and grow knowing that I stand on their shoulders as they succeed. I don’t envy them, or wish them gone so that I may advance instead I seek their opinion, thank them when they lead me to an opportunity, and reinforce the good work that they do.
I would like to see Fearless Girl and Wonder Woman share the screen together but not as adversaries. They each embody the good, the strong and the courageous attributes that women everywhere share. They remind us that we have much to contribute by being the best version of ourselves. Most importantly, together, they diminish the threat of The Charging Bull and they role model the female representation that I aspire to. The era of the “Queen Bee” is coming to an end but only if we work together to change the way the hive buzzes. Today, I encourage you and a work- sister to practice your Fearless Girl power pose, together.