By Heidi Stevens
WWR Article Summary (tl;dr) On this International Women’s Day, what a perfect time to reflect on the unique beauty of female friendships. Whether it is empowering women to succeed, change, grow or REST, for many of us it is our female friendships which sustain us through the years. (Thank you for always being there)
Ahead of International Women’s Day, a Chicago law firm asked me to speak at a luncheon on a topic near and dear to my heart: the power of female friendships.
I quoted from Rebecca Traister’s new book, “All the Single Ladies: Unmarried Women and the Rise of an Independent Nation,” (Simon & Schuster).
“For many women,” Traister wrote, “friends are our primary partners through life; they are the ones who move us into new homes, out of bad relationships, through births and illnesses. Even for women who do marry, this is true at the beginning of our adult lives, and at the end, after divorce or the death of a spouse.”
I cited research tying friendships to better health:
The Harvard University study that linked friendships to better brain health and function as we age.
The Center for Aging Studies report that found people with a large network of friends outlived people with fewer friends by 22 percent.
The Brigham Young University research that showed that as your number of friendships shrinks, your risk of mortality increases, and the correlation is almost as strong as the link between smoking and mortality.
I even brought up Aristotle, who placed friendship on par with honor and justice.
Female friendships, in particular, are geared toward empathy. We “tend and befriend,” wrote one UCLA researcher, which means we respond to stress by protecting and nurturing others (“tending”), and by seeking support from others (“befriending”).