Sheryl Sandberg and the Myth of the Catty Woman

Over the weekend, Sheryl Sandberg and Adam Grant had a great op-ed in the New York Times on the Myth of the Catty Woman. It starts off with a story:

At the 2014 Winter Olympic Games, the Norwegian cross-country skier Therese Johaug was vying for her first individual gold medal. Fresh off a world championship in the 10-kilometer race, she was now competing in the 30-kilometer. More than a grueling hour later, Ms. Johaug landed the silver, finishing less than three seconds behind the gold medalist — her training partner, Marit Bjorgen.

The two Norwegians are the top two female cross-country skiers in the world and fierce competitors. Instead of being bitter rivals, they are best friends.

Ms. Bjorgen, 36, has been the reigning queen for more than a decade. When Ms. Johaug burst onto the scene, a wunderkind eight years younger threatening to unseat her, Ms. Bjorgen took her under her wing.

“She has given me an incredible amount of confidence,” Ms. Johaug said, “and because she has done that I have become the cross-country skier I am.” When Ms. Bjorgen announced last year that she was pregnant, Ms. Johaug joked that she was prepared to be the baby’s “spare aunt.”

Johaug, left, and Bjorgen, right, in 2012  Photo from

Johaug and Bjorgen's friendship reminded me of another great friendship between elite athletes: women's tennis greats Chris Evert and Martina Navratilova. The two met in 1973 as teenagers, and faced off 80 times over the next 16 years, often after warming up together pre-match. They've remained close friends, and talk about how their bond was formed in the film Unmatched, part of the ESPN's 30 for 30 series. It's worth watching; I've never seen anything that takes such an in-depth look at the friendship between two real women, in their own words.

Sandberg isn't the first person to write about the power of having friends at the top of their game. Ann Friedman wrote about the concept for New York Magazine in 2013, coining the term "Shine Theory," She advises, " surrounding yourself with the best people doesn't make you look worse by comparison. It makes you better." Both pieces go into more detail about how women supporting and encouraging each other is beneficial for all involved, whether personally or in the workplace.

I wholeheartedly believe in the idea that strong relationships with other women make our lives immeasurably better. Few things bring me more pleasure than getting to brag about the cool things my friends are doing, unless it's talking about how awesome the women I've spoken to for Girls Like You and Me are!