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The Newsletter | Edition 107
Progress Report is dedicated to providing inspiration for action. In our Off-White Papers, we provide practical guidance on how to respond to our rapidly-changing world. This newsletter explores those topics in real-time, with information and action steps on how to make progress now.

But in this special newsletter series, The State Of, we dive a little deeper into the long-term work that comes after, in the places where we’re seeing new types of progress in action. From brand strategy to design, internet trends to sustainability, music to science, beauty to travel, and more.

I’m Nora, a designer, and I’m Payal, a strategist. We’re adults. We have full-time jobs, volunteer in our community, diligently file our taxes, and pay rent for our NYC apartments. But this past summer, along with millions of other women on the internet and IRL, we returned to our youth, our girlhood. We went on hot girl walks, made girl dinner, budgeted using girl math, flaunted every possible item from our closet that was Pepto Bismol Pink, and gleefully yelled “Hi Barbie!” to other women on the street.

Why? While we’ve always retained fragments of our girlhood, amidst a series of attacks on women's rights and the isolating stress of daily life, the revival of our girlhood reflects a return to more carefree, connected times. Times when we reveled in simple pleasures without cynicism or nagging guilt, and found comfort in our girl gangs.

As we return to girlhood to help us reclaim these youthful joys, how does it affect the way we seek community? And what does that shift mean for where many women spend most of their time: the workplace?

Ruthellen Josselson, co-author of Best Friends: The Pleasure and Perils of Girls' and Women's Friendships, explains that as women get busy with work and family, the first thing they do is push away their friendships due to lack of time or energy. Especially amidst the loneliness epidemic, neglecting female friendships can profoundly affect both our personal and professional well-being. More than anything, the embrace of girlhood represents a rejection of this isolating status quo and a reclamation of collective joy and connection.

This sense of lighthearted community was vividly demonstrated at Taylor Swift’s Eras Tour last summer. At venues around the world, girls and women transformed from strangers to friends by exchanging thousands of handmade friendship bracelets, even causing what's been dubbed a “great bead shortage." With a staggering 15,200% surge in sales of friendship bracelets since last September, one fact is undeniable: women are yearning for female connection.

The essence of girlhood goes beyond these friendship bracelets. It's seen in many moments of vulnerability and silliness: From taking turns to cook everyday meals for each other, to not being embarrassed when showing up in the same outfit as another woman, to unapologetically indulging in 'basic' pleasures like pumpkin spice lattes, Stanley cups, and everything Lululemon. Recently, millions of women online have been recounting these moments that reveal the raw power of female solidarity amid a world of isolation and indifference. If before, there was dignity in asserting “I’m not like other girls,” we’re now seeing a cultural shift, with millions of women reclaiming their sameness, declaring, that actually, “I’m just like other girls.”

This shift in mindset affects one of our biggest sources of community: work. Previously, the "I'm not like other girls" mentality often translated into a scarcity mindset and even workplace rivalries, but we’re now seeing that there's professional strength in embracing an "I'm just like other girls" mindset. According to a study by Gallup, women who have a bestie at work are twice as likely to be engaged and perform better. In fact, two-thirds of women even say socializing is a "major reason" why they like to come to work. Therapist and relationship expert, Miriam Kirmayer, talks about the importance of having female friends who remind each other to put themselves out there. She says, “Women—especially women of color—who feel more socially connected with one another tend to feel more comfortable asserting themselves.”

In recent years, companies have put more emphasis on creating supportive environments for women. Examples include Comcast's Women's Network, boasting over 21,000 women dedicated to mutual support, and American Express’ “The Ambition Project,” which actively promotes and supports women's ambition through content sharing and open dialogue at all organizational levels. Despite these strides, there’s still work to be done in bringing the best aspects of girlhood into the workplace.

Embrace Shine Theory, rooted in the belief that "I don’t shine if you don’t shine." It’s a long-term investment in helping a friend be their best, without envy or insecurity, and with genuine happiness and excitement. It allows us to bring our whole selves to a friendship, more consciously.

Ways to practice Shine Theory in the workplace:

  • Reframe the relationship. Consider your female peers your collaborators, not your competition.
  • Harness collective power. Join forces with other women to collectively advocate for your needs in the workplace—start a group chat or meet for coffee to discuss where your needs aren’t being met. Collaborative efforts have a track record of driving meaningful change.
  • Repeat and credit. Repeat the points made by other women and give them credit in a meeting. The women of the White House staff made it a daily practice, effectively preventing credit theft.
  • Facilitate informal gatherings. Host informal gatherings like flower arranging, macrame, or pottery classes that create a safe “voice space” for women to get to know each other on a more personal level. The informal connections fostered in these settings often translate into valuable support within the formal work environment.

I’m Nora, a designer, and I’m Payal, a strategist. We were born and raised in different countries. We think differently. Our ways of approaching life differ. But, we’re girls. And we co-wrote this piece by embracing the essence of our girlhood: celebrating each other's individual strengths and working through it together.

Payal is an engineer turned copywriter turned strategist, keeping both her left and right brain happy at SYLVAIN. She develops brand and consumer-led strategies for lifestyle and tech companies.

Nora is a Lead Designer at SYLVAIN who works closely with strategists to develop brands in the lifestyle, sports, and entertainment sectors.

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