There’s a special place in hell reserved for women who don’t help other women.
Madeleine Albright

Are mean girls infiltrating your workplaceIf you honestly assess your career path and have to name those who influenced it greatly and helped you succeed – what would the ratio of men and women be? 80% men and 20% women? A The Grindstone posting from 2012 titled ‘Women Have Never Helped Me Succeed in My Career’ points to two studies that show that the behavior of women at work towards other women is what is helping keep the glass ceiling firmly intact. The author brings up the notion of mean girls being at play in the workplace. The article points to women not wanting other women to succeed more than they are able to or feeling superior to other women and fearing that those with “lesser intellect and skills” will make other women look bad.

Personally, I’m very happy to see topics like this covered. It’s something most of us women know about, but love to ignore. After all, aren’t we as women supposed to be collaborators and nurturers? How can we then fathom that we’re our own worst enemies as a gender by not wanting to help other women succeed? This isn’t something we can blame on men. Plus, it’s actually not like we’re encountering a brand new phenomenon. It’s just that now that we’re out there in the workforce in large numbers that a lot more attention is given to women’s behaviors and patterns.
Why do I say it’s not a brand new phenomenon? I believe what we see in the workplace – and I readily admit that I’m not a scientist – is what we’ve seen since the cave woman days. Women are competing with other women for survival. It’s biologically hardwired since we’ve been doing it for 1,000’s of years. Historically, women needed a man to take care of them to survive, as well as be providers for themselves and their children. Obviously, to “win over” the best provider, you had to compete and position yourself as the best match. While the corporate world may not be as brutal as our cave people days or even up to 100 years ago, we’re still conditioned to operate similarly. So, I don’t believe that it’s the mean girl mode or evil gal at fault – it has more to do with undoing major behavioral programming.

What are some solutions then?

  1. Restructure women’s leadership development programs to integrate the topic of women in relationship to other women in the workplace and discuss studies such as these two new ones. Organizational training initiatives, which ignore this issue, will never be truly effective.
  2. Encourage women’s networking groups in the workplace. Allocate corporate dollars for groups that formally commit to establishing outcomes and metrics to help foster the growth of women in the organization.
  3. Send a group of your female employees to regional women’s conferences to keep them current on women’s professional development, to build stronger alliances with colleagues and to connect with women in other companies to hear what others are doing.
  4. Create a culture of volunteerism. Include a category in your performance management system that rewards women who mentor and coach other women. This encourages women to step up to the plate and volunteer to help junior women to grow professionally.
  5. Lead by example and assert your position. If you’re a manager and have female employees in your group who are known to fall into the cave women trap, let them know what you see. Don’t just be the ostrich with the head in the sand. Suggest steps they can take and hold them accountable.

These solutions can easily help women bring into their consciousness that they’re self-reliable and have 100% responsibility for their own life. Women no longer need to be victim of historic patterns and can enjoy true career success when they understand that it’s no longer about survival but thriving. There’s plenty to go around for all women in the workplace.

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