Hum, a place in Hell?

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Wow! …..Huh? …..Omigod!…..No, she didn’t go there, did she?…Shazam, shazam, shazam! (Gomer Pyle).

How else can I describe my immediate reactions to the following quote straight from the mouth of Hillary Clinton, the preemptive favorite, some say, some hope, some hope not, to occupy the White House in 2016.

“There’s a place in Hell reserved for women who don’t help other women.” 

So what’s your reaction to it? Does it perpetuate a hurtful stereotype about women? Would your reaction be same had a high profile man said that? These and other questions I wrestled with.

However, as an African-American – and gender aside – the issue this raised for me is how important it is for African-Americans who have “made it” to reach down and support other African-Americans, especially since our numbers are typically low in the higher echelons of most organizations.

Okay, now that I’ve piqued your interest, or ire, how about a robust exchange on this one readers with following questions to get it going:

  1. Is there an obligation for women to support other women, and if so, says who and why? What are some of the reasons why they wouldn’t?
  2. From your observations and experiences, do women tend to compete with each other different than how they compete with men? If yes, why do you think that’s so?
  3. Strike the word “women” and plug in the word “African-American, or “Latino, “ or “Asian” or “white male”….would your answers to the two preceding questions be the same or somehow different? And either way, why?
  4. As someone who has “made it,” what are the potential risks, benefits and rewards for reaching back?
  5. What other issues, if any, does this issue raise for you?
  6. As a organizational leader, what are the implications of all this from a leadership development and attracting and retaining talent?

Now while you may be left scratching your head on these questions, I want you to know that I first fanned these questions out to the Diversity Connections Consortium I launched back in 2006 fully expecting a range of responses. And they didn’t disappoint.

Since space just won’t allow for sharing all that came in, I found one in particular worth excerpting and passing along. I figured that perhaps it would stimulate some deep thought on you part. Here it is:

“Just for clarity’s sake, the quote actually belongs to Madeline Albright,” she began. “It’s possible that Mrs. Clinton repeated the quote and paraphrased the words. But generally the context for the quote is not that support is entitled or guaranteed simply because of gender. Rather, that as a minority group, and an often underserved one, instead of wasting time tearing each other down, women should help each other up. If you achieve, reach back and help others. Instead of blazing a trail and burning the bridges behind you so no one can catch up or “replace” you. 

In my exposure to women from Albright’s time, there was a tendency for women to “arrive” and realize their arrival was unique and special. Since there was only room for one woman at the top, she would spend the rest of her energy defending her hill and sabotaging other women trying to grow. 

The quote voices frustrations with that type of behavior. It’s wasteful. It’s hurtful. And it’s super self serving. Thus those folks don’t belong in exaltation but rather deserve whatever karmic forces pay them back for treating others so badly.” 

Okay, buckle up your seatbelts and let it rip…. (and feel free to shoot me an email if you’d prefer to respond to me offline).

(c)Terry Howard is a writer, corporate story-teller, trainer and senior associate with Diversity Wealth based in Douglasville, Georgia. He can be reached at wwhoward3@gmail.com

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