A contrast of two worlds
A few weeks ago at the symposium two groups of people converged on the same hotel. The Joint Women’s Leadership Symposium brought military women together to discuss leadership and the challenges we face in the military. The other group was a youth cheerleading competition. You could not have brought two more different groups of people together.
The initial reaction the symposium attendees had was shock and dismay. These girls were wearing skimpy outfits, their faces were masked with heavy make up, and some of the girls were just short of being featured on Girls Gone Wild. My reaction was consistent with my peers. We were all saddened watching these girls behaving so badly. We were even more saddened because the parents who were chaperoning were condoning the behavior.
I’m a huge advocate of sports, especially for girls. And I have to think back to when I was younger and played on a sports team. I’m sure we pushed the limits on bad behavior. In fact I know we did. The major difference in playing basketball and volleyball is the attire.
Upon further reflection there were actually some commonalities in these two groups that we overlooked. These girls weren’t just cheerleaders sitting on the sidelines, these girls were competing. Because they compete these girls have to put in time and practice. A great deal of work goes into these routines.
The girls are learning to be leaders and followers. They are also learning teamwork. In order for a group of girls to compete someone has to take the lead. Someone has to take responsibility and encourage their team. And a successful follower will listen to the leader and help build team cohesion.
I have watched cheer competitions in Disney. The different groups will cheer for and encourage the other teams. Of course this isn’t an absolute but we could learn something from these young women. At work I have encountered women who would prefer to see other women fail. Watching women push each other down and stunting professional growth instead of fostering an atmosphere of success is sad. We should be on the same team, we should be working to advance each other’s efforts.
So I come away from this wishing the girls would put their sweats on while they are running around the hotel. But pushing that aside I see the two groups of women actually have more things in common than we might suspect. These young women are learning to become our future leaders. I regret my initial reaction. I was not supportive when in fact I should have reached out to these young women instead of passing judgment.