GET EMAIL UPDATES FROM POWERTOFLY
By signing up you accept the Terms of Service and Privacy Policy
BROWSE CATEGORIES
GET EMAIL UPDATES FROM POWERTOFLY
Resources for Employers

Female Office Rivalries Are A Myth, According To New Book

The Real Reasons Behind This Common Misperception, According to the Authors of It's Not You, It's The Workplace

"It's so much easier to be friends with guys. They're just so much more direct and chill."


I think most women have heard this phrase uttered by other women, and some of us have probably even said it (guilty, though thankfully I've evolved a lot in the last ten years). The notion that women are catty and difficult to get along with permeates myriad aspects of our culture: elementary school playgrounds, high school cafeterias (Mean Girls, anyone?), and eventually, the office.

As a society, we seem to accept the narrative that women often undermine other women's success at work via bullying, rumors, and other passive-aggressive tactics. Some have even hypothesized that women evolved to be catty, compensating for a lack of physical strength with cunning and manipulation.

So what's the truth of the matter? Andrea Kramer and Alton Harris sought to get to the bottom of this common (mis)perception in their new book, It's Not You, It's The Workplace.

In their recent article in the Harvard Business Review, The Persistent Myth of Female Office Rivalries, they say that while doing research for their book, they found no empirical evidence to suggest that "women are more mean-spirited, antagonistic, or untrustworthy in dealing with other women than men are in dealing with other men."

As they explain, "the best recent psychological research finds that 'one's sex has little or no bearing on personality, cognition and leadership.'"

So if there's no real evidence to support this idea that women are meaner than men, then why is the idea of female rivalries in the workplace so commonplace?

Kramer and Harris have a theory: they think occasional tensions in women's working relationships are wrongly attributed to some innate female characteristic, when in reality, they can be explained by workplace discrimination.

They attribute workplace discrimination to two implicate biases:

  1. Gender Bias
  2. Affinity Bias

Because so many workplaces were designed by men for men, and continue to be led and dominated by men, our image of what a good leader looks like is colored through a very male lens: someone assertive, competitive, and strong. Gender bias manifests when we subconsciously view men as more competent and capable leaders than women because we've grown accustomed to seeing men in power; meanwhile, when women try to display those same masculine traits associated with leadership, they frequently find themselves facing backlash, caught in a double-bind.

Affinity bias is the subconscious preference to spend time with people similar to ourselves. This causes additional problems in the workplace, the authors argue, because men, who hold a majority of leadership positions in the workforce, will tend to spend time with, support, and ultimately promote more people similar to themselves (a.k.a white men).

Kramer and Harris sum it up like this:

"Affinity bias and gender bias often work in tandem to make women's same-gender workplace relationships difficult because they limit the number of positions for women at leadership tables, thereby forcing the people vying for those spots into direct competition with one another. The two forms of bias also create substantial, if not overt, pressure on women to adopt a decidedly masculine management style in order to identify with the male in-group and distance or differentiate themselves from their female peers. These dynamics can foster antagonism between women, which is then often wrongly attributed to their inherent nature, rather than to workplace circumstances."

Read the full article here and let us know what you think in the comments:

  • Do you agree with Kramer and Harris's explanation?
  • Why do you think the notion that women undermine women in the workplace is so widely held?
popular

How These Companies Are Celebrating Asian American and Pacific Islander Heritage Month

According to a recent study, anti-Asian hate crimes have risen 150% since the pandemic started. But these acts of violence are not new — they are part of a much larger history of anti-Asian racism and violence in the U.S.

That makes celebrating Asian American and Pacific Islander Heritage Month (which was named a month-long celebration in May by Congress in 1992 "to coincide with two important milestones in Asian/Pacific American history: the arrival in the United States of the first Japanese immigrants on May 7, 1843 and contributions of Chinese workers to the building of the transcontinental railroad, completed May 10, 1869") this year all the more important.

READ MORE AND DISCUSS Show less

[VIDEO ▶️ ] Diversity at Work: Procore’s Approach

💎 What does a recruiting process with "diversity at work" in mind look like?

📼 Press PLAY to hear some insights from a recruiter at Procore into what it's like to work at a company that encourages diversity. Cynthia Griffin, Senior Talent Operations Specialist at Procore, shares some tips and tricks to stand out in the recruitment process at Procore.

READ MORE AND DISCUSS Show less
Work & Co

5 Tips for Career Switchers: Insight from Work & Co’s Sarah Mogin on Making Use of Your Past Lives

Sarah Mogin never used to like writing open-ended essays in school. She found herself much more motivated by tangible problems.

Calculus had some of those—she never had trouble with her math homework—but when she was in school she never envisioned just how much she could incorporate that love of solution-finding into her daily work, much less that she would have a career as a developer one day.

READ MORE AND DISCUSS Show less
Webinars

Supporting Neurodiversity in the Workplace

Only 4% of companies that say they value diversity consider disabilities. Even fewer include learning and thinking differences.

While neurodiversity is a concept that is gaining more awareness, many employers have still not fully grasped the importance (and benefits) of understanding neurodiversity and how to effectively incorporate and retain neurodivergent individuals in their organizations.

READ MORE AND DISCUSS Show less
Videos

[VIDEO ▶️ ] Are You the Right Candidate for the Job? Tips From a Helm Recruiter

💎 Wondering how you can show up as the right candidate for the job?

📼 Press PLAY to hear some insight from a recruiter at Helm into what the right candidate for the job looks like in an interview. Alayna Sye, Helm's Senior Technical Recruiter, knows an applicant is going to be the right for the job usually after the first conversation. Find out exactly what will make you stand out, as well as the steps for the application process at Helm.

READ MORE AND DISCUSS Show less
© Rebelmouse 2020