So....I was watching an episode of Cutthroat Kitchen last week, and it reminded me of a topic that I blogged about a couple of years ago. Some of you may be wondering what Cutthroat Kitchen has to do with anything that I tend to discuss on the Martini Chronicles. Let me explain...
Cutthroat Kitchen is a show that comes on the Food Network. Each show begins with four chefs who are given $25,000 a piece. There are three cooking rounds, and 1 chef is eliminated at the conclusion of each round. The last chef standing is the winner. What's the catch? Each round, the chef's are assigned a dish to recreate in their own way. Before and/or during each round, the host holds several auctions with items that the chefs can bid on using their share of the $25,000. But these are not just any items...these are items that the winner of the auction can assign to another chef (or deprive another chef of) to make that chef's cooking experience miserable. Essentially, the auction items are meant to sabotage the opponent.
Cut to last week when I was watching an episode of Cutthroat Kitchen with two male chefs and two female chefs. Almost immediately, one of the female chefs started to insult the other female chef. During the auction phase of the very first round, she purchased two "sabotage" items, and directed them both towards the other female chef. The two male chefs were sitting pretty with no real sabotages or obstacles because the two female chefs were competing so heavily against each other. Turns out that the sabotaging female chef was the first to be eliminated; I guess her plan to take out the other female contestant failed.
This episode of Cutthroat Kitchen prompted me to revisit a few topics that I have spoken about on several occasions over the course of my career: Why are women more competitive against other women than they are against men? Is there room at the top for more than one woman? Why are some women less than enthusiastic to mentor another woman? All of these questions ran through my mind as I watched Cutthroat Kitchen.
So, let's talk about it! Let's not worry about ruffling a few feathers...we’re all grown, and mature, and capable of spirited conversation. So let's get into it!
Do you think that women who have achieved a high level of success are adequately mentoring more junior women in their professions?
After speaking with several friends and fellow Professional Divas in various fields, the overall sentiment seemed to be that highly successful women are not eager to mentor up-and-coming women in their professions for fear of being "dethroned" or "surpassed." My Diva friends seem to think that the women at their respective places of employment keep all of their jewels of success and advancement to themselves. They don’t make themselves available to teach, and they have a “get to the top on your own like I did and stop asking for a hand out” type of attitude. I even heard one story where a less senior woman sought the advice of a seasoned female attorney regarding how to take a deposition, only to be scolded with a “didn’t you learn that in law school!” Not as direct as the sabotages on Cutthroat Kitchen, but this scenario presents a different problem. Some women may not be actively or directly sabotaging another woman, but is the lack of mentoring just as bad? So now here’s my other question:
Are seasoned women in your respective professions threatened by the new Diva on the block?
Before you answer this question, take a look at the relationships among the senior and junior men in your workplace. They seem to always be helping each other out. The senior men are willing to take a protégé under their wings, and show him the ropes. I have never heard a man exclaim that he will not mentor another man because he fears that the student will surpass the master. Now, I'm not saying that this doesn't happen...I just haven't heard it in my experience. Why is this concept so taboo for women? Well, I have an opinion that I shared a few years back...somebody's going to be upset, but it is MY opinion...and here it is:
I think that accomplished women are of the mindset that they have fought extremely hard to achieve success in their respective field, often without the guidance and support that had been afforded their male counterparts. I think that these circumstances may create a feeling of isolation, and a little bit of resentment. In turn, the new Diva at the office bears the brunt of this resentment when she seeks to form a mentoring relationship with an accomplished female co-worker. It is also my opinion that this type of neck-biting is common, yet unnecessary.
Why are women more competitive against other women than they are against men? Is there room at the top for more than one?
I think there is! If there were not enough room, then why are there so many men coexisting together at the top? Sharing the success and wealth? And guess who is not up there with them in larger numbers? Women! Do you see my point? In the case of the Cutthroat Kitchen episode, the sabotaging chef never envisioned that her and the other female chef could be the last chef's standing at the end. And then they could bang it out against each other for the top spot. Nope...her goal was to take out the female competition first. It's almost as if she assumed that the other female chef was not worthy of competing against her. Like she didn't "belong" in the competition. All because she had the nerve to walk into the competition as a woman. Look, I get it...business is business, and as women we typically have to claw and fight our way to the top...I know I have. But sharing a bit of wisdom with a junior female colleague can only enhance the pool of women in high-level positions. The act of being immediately threatened because the junior colleague is a woman is kind of whack...again, just my opinion!
I know there are going to be quite a few people who disagree with me, and I’m okay with that! In fact, I would love to get the opinions of others on this issue. Just so you all know where I stand, if I were one of the two female chefs on this particular episode of Cutthroat Kitchen, I would have looked at all three of the other contestants equally and try to take them all out...I would care less of sex! My goal would be to bring them all down!
In conclusion, let me leave you with a quick thought: Women lose credibility in a discussion regarding the lack of high-ranking women in any profession if we proactively divorce ourselves from mentoring each other and if we routinely sabotage one another.
And on that note, I step off of my proverbial soapbox. What do you think? Are you actively mentoring the women in your respective profession? Are you, or have you been, the recipient of effective and meaningful mentoring?