Collaboration, Not Competition, Is the Way to Success for Women


By: Mike Gasbara

Leaders need to model and reward behavior in their organizations that put women forward and help people along the way.  

That was the message delivered by Viacom executive Pam Kaufman, who joined Shelley Zalis, CEO of The Female Quotient and founder of the Girls’ Lounge at the ANA Masters of Marketing in Orlando, Florida.

Inspired by Ann Friedman’s Shine Theory, the simple premise that "I don't shine if you don't shine," Zalis encouraged her panelists, including MikMak CEO and founder, Rachel Tipograph, to share instances when they practiced said principle.

Kaufman, Tipograph, and Zalis (photo: Facebook/FemaleQuotient)

Kaufman, Tipograph, and Zalis (photo: Facebook/FemaleQuotient)

“As a leader, you need to model and reward great behavior,” said Kaufman. “Make sure you put women forward, that they’re speaking up in the room, and making sure that we don’t just stay on our silos.”

She continued by explaining that, regarding moving other women forward, one of the most common examples is when women across the organization struggle with work-life balance. “It is my job to help them think through that, and help them have a flexible work life and a path to move forward,” she said.

The panel agreed that changing the paradigm from a competitive to a collaborative culture was hard. ”You have to get comfortable being uncomfortable,” said Zalis, echoing Tipograph’s sentiment “what risk can you afford?” to advance your career.

“I ask them, ‘What risk can you afford to take, and what is the worst-case scenario?’” the MikMak founder said. She added that if the worst case scenario were to quit “a cushy corporate job” to start a new company doing what you love “doesn’t seem like the worst thing in the world.”

Kaufman chimed in by saying that the more you can encourage people to connect, they won’t feel competitive with one another. Tipograph agreed: “Connecting with people on a human level and finding value exchange along the way is the way to go,” she added.  

In conclusion, as Kaufman said, it’s about advocating for each other. “Be vocal and visible about it. Make sure you’re recognizing your team members and making space for everyone in the room.”