Watch CBS News

Women vs. Women: When Female Competition Is a Destructive Force

(CBS) – Seventy-two million women work in America. That's nearly half the labor force.

With numbers like that, you would think women would have plenty of allies to help them move up the corporate ladder.

But as CBS 2's Dorothy Tucker reports, recent studies and first-hand accounts from women indicate this is not necessarily true.

"In my experience, women don't always support women," says Chicago mom Alexandra Eidenberg. "Instead of each other's greatest fan, they're the biggest deficit to one another."

Eidenberg has first-hand experience. She owns a successful company, The Insurance People. When she recently submitted a proposal to a women-run organization, Eidenberg was praised for offering the best contract. Then she was told she was not chosen specifically because she is the mother of small children.

"It kills me, because they had every opportunity to empower another woman and chose not to," laments Eidenberg.

Research has shown that women may hinder other women's success by employing destructive tactics such as intimidation or bullying. A 2014 survey by the Workplace Bullying Institute found that female bullies targeted another woman worker 68 percent of the time.

"There's the gossiping," claims Jeanne Malnati, a culture transformation expert at the Chicago-based Culture Group. Malnati, a licensed psychotherapist, has been studying group dynamics for 25 years. She coaches women on how to navigate office politics, build social capital and establish strong ties with female peers.

Exaggerating stories and jealousy are two other problems among women in business, Malnati believes.

Katherine Ryan, who holds a Ph.D. in Industrial/Organizational Psychology from George Mason University, studies gender issues and their impact on organizational culture and performance. In a recent study, she concluded that workplace jealousy is sparked by competition.

"Our study found that women are less supportive of other women in conditions where they are both under-represented in a work place and feel there are only a few opportunities for advancement," she says.

Experts believe there are ways to navigate female competition in the workplace. One tactic is to seek out mentors within the business and the industry. Mentors, who can be either male of female, should be well-established in their careers and enthusiastic about helping women succeed. Another option is to join organizations that offer camaraderie, support and needed resources.

For Eidenberg, that group is Mom+Baby, an advocacy and support network for women she founded last year. Mom+Baby, which boasts hundreds of members, has become an online space that encourages cooperation over competition among moms.

Mom+Baby's next event, "Women Supporting Women," will take place on Oct. 16, 2014 at 6:30pm.

View CBS News In
CBS News App Open
Chrome Safari Continue
Be the first to know
Get browser notifications for breaking news, live events, and exclusive reporting.