Backstabbing and Office Politics: Are We Responsible for So Few Successful Women in Business?

Last week, I wrote about the low number of successful women in the boardroom—and why companies need more successful women in business. The question I didn’t answer, however, is why there are so few women executives in the first place.

Why are the numbers of successful women in business—a mere 4-out-of-10 executives—so low? Shocking as it might seem, business women might be part of the problem.

In a survey of 800 female workers, only 6% of women said they want to work for a female boss versus the 85% of women who said they would like to attain a management role. Why are women so reluctant to work for another woman yet want to rise in the ranks themselves?

When polled about a female boss, women responded with the following descriptions:

  • Backstabbing
  • Poor personal boundaries
  • Easily threatened
  • Emotionally unpredictable
  • Cliquey
  • Vain
  • Sharp tongued

To top it all off, a depressing 95% of women said they felt undermined at one point in their career by other women. Yikes!

The answer is to watch out for warning signs in your own office demeanor—both personally and competitively. The age-old golden rule applies strongly to changing the toxic woman-on-woman office crimes. “Treat others as you would have them treat you” is the key to creating an atmosphere of true girl power—and ultimately establish more successful women in business worldwide.

Here are some warning signs that the fantastic women at The New Girls’ Network use to evaluate women’s approach to the office and office politics. Use these to self-diagnose your own feelings and actions with not only female coworkers and subordinates, but also male colleagues.

Queen Bee Syndrome: The alpha female who preserves her power at all costs—no matter the fallout.
* Symptoms: Subordinates and team members often hide their feelings, hold back constructive criticism and are generally physically miserable, suffering headaches, heartburn, depression and insomnia.

Maternal Wall Bias: Not hiring or promoting women because they have children.
* Symptoms: You find yourself shunting aside, judging or eliminating candidates and/or subordinates because of concerns they’re too busy with a personal life.

Prove it Again: Believing a woman’s success in business in nothing more than a fluke, and requiring them to do more, more often than male colleagues.
* Symptoms: Dismissing women’s work as irrelevant, mediocre or not good enough, while applauding male colleagues for the same work.

Tug of War: Clashing with a female colleague because their personality and work style is different than yours, even though they achieve great results in the workplace.
* Symptoms: Irrational, emotional and angry reactions to a female colleague, often breaking out in conflicts and backstabbing to remove the woman from her post.

Tight Rope Walker: Judging a female colleague for exhibiting typically masculine attributes (aggressive, decisive, assertive and self-assured) or female attributes (sensitive, agreeable and community-orientation).
* Symptoms: You automatically put your female colleagues into two categories: “lipstick” or “chapstick,” categorizing them as too emotional or aggressive, respectively.

Ongoing self-evaluation is the key to not only your personal success, but also elevating women in business overall. Check your actions against prejudice and be the person you hope your boss, mentor, office friends and colleagues will be for you: strong, smart, strategic and supportive.

About Blakely Thomas-Aguilar

Blakely is a work-life juggler with three little monsters, Sci-Fi/Fantasy Book-a-holic, Atlanta transplant and PR/social/content strategist (and presentations nerd) for PGi.

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