Sisterhood in Business – Fact or Fiction?

Updated: Mar 16

Written by: Annette Densham, Executive Contributor

Executive Contributors at Brainz Magazine are handpicked and invited to contribute because of their knowledge and valuable insight within their area of expertise.

More women are ‘standin’ on their own two feet; working around families, leaving corporate life, tired of the glass ceiling and the tokenistic hat tip to diversity and inclusion, and eager to march to the beat of their own drum. Over 35% of all businesses globally are run by women. Women-led Facebook groups, retreats, events, and resources are growing, not dissipating. And the underlying message is ‘women should stick together.'

Scrolling through Facebook groups, women in business are encouraged to support, lift and encourage each other. These are places where the underlying message is collaboration not competition. Despite the comradery and the belief women should look out for each other, the online space isn’t always safe. A 2016 study on the identity of trolls by UK think tank Demos found over 50% of online trolls are female, and they are meaner to each other than men are to women. Where does this leave this so-called sisterhood? Is the sisterhood really an unbreakable bond between women, or is it only held together because all we have in common is we’re women and are women in business? Just because we are in business... and we are women, do we all have to be best friends and sing kumbaya?

Is the sisterhood in business a myth? Seven businesswomen share their thoughts.

Lisa Cox is a media professional, and disability advocate has experienced the positive and negative sides of the sisterhood in business. “While often it’s other women who best appreciate the challenges and will be the first to lift you up and show their support, it can also be other women who are the first to drive a knife in or cut you down. I thought childish bullying ended in school, but I’m afraid this has not been the case,” she said.

beinc.’s CEO Hayley Birtles-Eades doesn’t factor in the sisterhood when looking for support, connection and community in business. She hasn’t found it a huge thing for her. “I’m more excited about humans in business. For me, it makes no difference if you’re a man or a woman. Everybody should supported based on their ability and situation. No one should simply say I support you more because you’re a woman, or I support you more because you’re a man. I look forward to the days where people are genuinely talking about “humanhood”,” she said.

But overwhelmingly, the women I spoke to about this topic wholeheartedly agree that the sisterhood is alive and well … and vital. Peace Mitchell created a business firmly cemented in sisterhood as the co-founder of AusMumpreneur Awards. The biggest lesson business for her is “we need each other”.

“From a young age, Disney films tell us we can’t trust other women. At school, we’re taught to strive for the top mark in the class and be rewarded for individual achievement. In business, we’re taught to be aggressive and make sure everyone you meet signs a non-disclosure agreement because you never know who’s out to steal your idea,” she said. “It’s crazy and, in my experience, wholly untrue. In 11 years, we’ve worked with thousands of women; we’re surrounded by the most incredibly supportive, generous, encouraging women who’ve always got your back.”

For Jules Brooke, founder of She’s The Boss, the sisterhood is alive and well – and thriving. “I see it time and time again with female founders and small business. People helping each other and lifting each other up. You can see it in action in women’s business groups on social media. It’s not unusual to see someone asking for help as their sales are down and a whole heap of women go and purchase from the site. It’s beautiful to see,” she said.

Industries where women are unrepresented like STEM, people like Fiona Holmstrom, co-founder of STEM Punks believes “with a lack of female inclusion on boards and at high-level executive positions, it’s vital women actively pursue a sisterhood, not for their own interest or advantage, but for the greater societal benefit.”

“There’s a feeling of connectedness when businesswomen gather together and network. I’ve experienced this repeatedly; it’s like an unspoken code, an unwritten acknowledgment of the effort involved in being a woman in business. We understand each other, sometimes without even knowing each other, and that’s an affirmation of the journey businesswomen are on,” she said.

Before starting her own business, Krystal-Lee White, from Soul House Of Hair had heard of sisterhood in business but never thought she’d experience it. In the employment space, her experience was vastly different. “Connecting with other businesswoman and creating a deeper level of understanding sharing ethos or beliefs makes you feel like one even when you are all so different. Sisterhood is the unspoken oath you have with another, whether it be your own staff or the florist down the street,” she said.

Katrina Wurm, an empowerment coach, said for so long, women were told about the ‘boys club’. “I actually don’t want entrance to it. I’d rather gain entrance to a real community of collaboration, of support, one where a rising tide lifts all boats. A true community of sisterhood which truly knows and believes we don’t need to compete with one another, that we are all individual and there are enough customers/clients in this world that need our individuality,” she said.

No, we are not going to get along just because we are women, but if we remember, there is value in coming together, and together we are stronger.

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Annette Densham, Executive Contributor Brainz Magazine

Multi-award-winning PR specialist Annette Densham is considered the go-to for all things business storytelling, award submission writing, and assisting business leaders establish themselves as authorities in their field. She has shared her insights into storytelling, media and business across Australia, UK and US speaking for Professional Speakers Association, Stevie Awards, Queensland Government and many more. Three times winner of the Grand Stevie Award for Women in Business, gold Stevie International Business Award and a finalist in Australian Small Business Champion awards, Annette audaciously challenges anyone in small business to cast aside modesty, embrace their genius and share their stories.



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