Bully girls at work

What is happening to sisterhood? Here’s the New York Times in one of its “most emailed” articles telling us that 40 per cent of workplace bullies are women, and 70 per cent of the time they are beating up on other women. At least their male counterparts bully men and women more or less equally.

The statistics come from the Workplace Bullying Institute (it’s all bully for them) whose research director says women probably pick on women because they think they are less likely to get an aggressive reaction.

But research outfit Catalyst (cat-alyst?) suggests that it’s something to do with men hogging the top jobs still: women make up more than 50 per cent of management, professional and related occupations, but only 15 to 16 per cent of company directors. Banging their heads on the glass ceiling could well make ambitious women grumpy and lead them to lash out at their sisters.

Then again, the whole phenomenon of female bullying might be based on a gender stereotype: Catalyst says that no matter how women choose to lead, they are never perceived as “just right”. They have to be aggressive to get anywhere, and when they get somewhere, they find they have to be “collegial and collaborative”. Well, that all might sound rather familiar to men, might it not?

Two Canadian researchers looked into it and found that (a) women should be encouraged to help one another and (b) the way to do this is to develop pride in each others accomplishments and (c) that pride would come from being “aware of their shared identity as women”. Profound stuff, this.

Evidently it worked with women prisoners recruited into call centres set up within the prison by a company called Televerde. The women made common cause to get on, get out and not come back. Many of them continued to work for the company. One of them says the bully problem goes back to childhood when girls are taught to fight each other for attention from their father or brothers. But maybe it just goes back to the fact the women are ordinary mortals too. ~ New York Times, May 11



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