Greek-American attorney Marilena Fallaris’ new book “Womenemies” is a lot like a girls’ night out, where you get together with your best friends and dish on everything under the sun, from personal relationships to the most difficult workplace issues facing women today. It is that bravery readers valued and made the book a best-seller on amazon.
Despite what may initially sound like a rather negative title, the author says her message “is a positive and hopeful one. In order to fix a problem and move forward, the problem has to be examined.” Each chapter of the book explores a thorny issue in woman-to-woman relationships, both in everyday life and in the workplace, and offers a lesson to be learned from.
Fallaris, a California-based attorney who is the vice-president of a law firm, states that her goal in writing the book was to “discuss, examine and analyze my experiences in order to provide honest, real examples and lessons that can be integrated into our daily lives on order to eradicate the existence of ‘womenemies’.”
Growing up, the author says, she was extremely fortunate in having true friends and role models all around her. “Prior to college, I never had such negative interactions with women. I have been blessed with extraordinary females in my life. My best friend has been in my life since I was eight months old… she is a true divine blessing.”
However, when she moved to the Northeast to attend college, Fallaris found herself faced with true “womenemies” for the first time in her life. Ever since that time, she tells Greek Reporter, she has endeavored to try to eliminate them from her life by treating other women in a “positive and non-judgmental manner.”
This book is the result of her decade-long effort to turn the negative energy that often exists between women in the workplace into positive action.
Fallaris asks the pertinent question of why it is that “While men have the ‘Bro Code’ and ‘Man Law’ there is no such code for women.” While men usually do not take criticism personally, and will get over arguments fairly quickly, women can become mired in a negative mindset, mulling things over endlessly and seeing them in a negative light, negating what otherwise could be a natural fellowship between female workers.
Additionally, Fallaris notes, “Hollywood has capitalized on how women treat each other negatively. There is a reason The Real Housewives of Orange County was such a success that there are now sister cities sharing in the drama.”
When speaking with her friends about these shows, the author found it telling that they never mentioned “the parts of the shows that highlighted the good these housewives did. Some of these women sponsor, lead and organize events that drive public awareness… these housewives have overcome adversity and try to effect positive change. But what does the audience focus on? The drama.”
One of the first lessons in the book is “Don’t Gossip!” The takeaway here is that yes, we all know we shouldn’t engage in this pernicious practice. But a good rule of thumb is that if you are too embarrassed to ask someone if they wish to keep a certain tidbit private, then “the answer is an obvious one – keep the information confidential.”
The obverse of that is to never allow yourself to become angry at another woman who does do the right thing in not divulging information … “we should all be so lucky,” she says, to have such people in our lives, and we must value these friends.
Another chapter has the title “Don’t be the Other Woman”… again, something we all know we shouldn’t do. Yet there are some truly gut-wrenching and eye-opening situations the author relates here, and she ends with solid advice, including “You can never start a healthy relationship off of someone else’s unhappiness” and “ Even if you end up with the guy, something will get in the way – guilt, the family he left behind, your friends, or karma.”
As the author says in response to one of the other women in her own life, “A true, honest and loving woman always prospers.”
Another important insight into women’s workplace behavior is that we “sometimes wait until we have every qualification for a job before applying for our dream job” — while “men just apply, even if they don’t have every qualification.” Fallaris writes about men who have applied for positions that call for five years’ experience when they actually have much less than that, having the attitude “the worst they can say is no.”
She maintains that the majority of women are raised to be so obedient to rules, so conformist that they would not even apply for the job in that same situation.
When a man she knew did exactly that, he was hired because of his interview performance and his other skills.
This, Fallaris tells Greek Reporter, was one of her biggest life lessons, to allow nothing to hold her back, and to just fearlessly “throw my hat into the ring.”
Once facing a similar situation herself, she relates that she did interview for such a position, and ended up getting the job — albeit four months later – because she had placed herself on the employer’s radar screen.
Regarding the perennial issue of women competing perhaps a bit too viciously in the workplace, the author says that when at all possible we should collaborate, not compete. But when we must compete, we can at least stay aboveboard and act in a refined manner.
Fallaris points out that in the past, our “patriarchal society made it so there were only a finite number of spots at the top of companies for women, so women had to compete for those few spots.” Yet today the situation is quite different and there is simply no need for such ugliness between female coworkers.
“There is no need to bring down another woman’s career to get ahead,” she maintains, and then asks perhaps the most burning question of all: “Why do women get angrier when they know a woman makes $10,000 more than them but the same woman won’t get mad when a man makes $30,000 more than them in the same position?” Why do we feel that we are in a separate subset in the workplace? We are indeed competing with men, not just with women, and we must stop focusing so much on just other females in the workplace.
Ultimately, the attorney and author believes, “We need to stop comparing ourselves only to women and we need to stop the jealousy. Men prey on this competition and pit women against each other in the workforce, and we play right into it! We need to uplift each other and realize the more women at the table, the better the place of employment performs.”
She then adds “It should never be ‘Why is she at that level and not me?’ but rather ‘How can I get to that level so there are two women at the table?’”
Perhaps the most helpful advice of all is what the author’s father told her when she was going through a tough time with an extremely difficult coworker who tried to do Fallaris’ job, kept her off email chains and even blatantly lied about her.
Sometimes, he said, all we can do in dealing with these toxic females is to “laugh inside you and treat every day as if it is the last at the company. Be kind, be thoughtful, work hard, and then leave on time. Do not let her bring your spirit down.”
Fallaris ultimately moved on from that position, but says she is left only with “sympathy, as she knows “for someone to treat others in a poor manner means she must be unhappy.”
Equally importantly, the author mentions that women themselves are often their own worst enemies. They can sabotage themselves when they fall victim to “imposter syndrome,” which may occur when we receive a promotion or have experienced other successes in our lives.
We attribute this only to luck, and fear that “others will eventually find out that we aren’t qualified to have the success” that we really have worked so hard to achieve.
To combat this, we should realize we must begin treating ourselves as well as we treat our friends, with the same degree of kindness we show them. Fallaris says that this has been her journey as well, adding that it is “still a battle every day, but I will defeat that critic eventually. My victory will be final, and my inner womenemy will be defeated when I am able to see the phenomenal woman I am.”
In general, she believes, women care far more than men do about what others think of them.
She concludes, “As all positive change starts from within, when you defeat your inner womenemy, you will be more likely to eliminate instances where you are a womenemy to other women.”
For more information about Marilena Fallaris’ new book, please visit her website at www.womenemies.com.
You can purchase Fallaris’ new book from Amazon by clicking here.
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