During the last few months, young women I have mentored over the years have called me to talk about their experiences working in the advertising industry, experiences that are making their work lives so miserable they want to quit.
Their stories, like so much of the #Metoo testimony told throughout last year, are genuinely disturbing.
A daughter of a close friend said, “My boss told me my skirt might be too short and to bend over to see if it was.”
Another young woman recently told me about a manager who said, “You’re too pretty and that’s why the client doesn’t like you.” When asked to defend her against the client’s hostility, her manager said, “just deal with it.”
A senior level manager warned her COO of a serial sexual harasser and she, not the male perpetrator, was conveniently laid off a few weeks later.
Given recent events, none of these stories would surprising except the perpetrators and enablers in all three instances were WOMEN.
I’m not trying to get men off the hook nor am I trying to undermine the important message of the #Metoo efforts. According to a 2017 study by the Workplace Bullying Institute (WBI), 70 percent of workplace bullies are men and 65 percent of their targets are women.
But the data also makes it clear that women can and do create havoc for other women at work. According to the WBI, 30 percent of workplace bullies are women, and get this: 67% of their targets are WOMEN! That’s right.
This may not be fair, but every time I see the women of the culture industries like entertainment, publishing, PR and advertising fiercely promoting #Timesup and #Metoo, I keep thinking of scenes from The Devil Wears Prada, where the focus is on women and how badly they can treat each other at work.
Even the reviews about The Devil Wears Prada, both the movie and the book on which is based, reveal that women can bully each other from above, below and sideways.
Supporters of Anna Wintour, the powerful editor of Vogue, argue the book and the movie are nothing but a thinly veiled attempt to publicly bully Wintour, whose demands for excellence are ungenerously critiqued as egregious acts of tyranny.
Lauren Weisberger, the book’s author, crafts a narrative of female on female bullying that may give Miranda Priestly, supposedly Ana Wintour’s avatar, an explanation for her bullying behavior but not an excuse. Weisberger clearly felt her experience in publishing was made more miserable by “mean girls” and the “queen bees” she encountered as she tried to find success in publishing.
According to a recent study by the University of Arizona, women experience more uncivil and rude behavior from other women than from men in the workplace.
“Across three studies, we found consistent evidence that women reported higher levels of incivility from other women than their male counterparts,” said Allison Gabriel, assistant professor of management and organizations in the University of Arizona’s Eller College of Management. “In other words, women are ruder to each other than they are to men, or than men are to women.”
Men may be behind the vast majority of sexual harassment in the work place but leave it to a woman to make another woman her bitch.
Against a hail of accusations, many women stood behind these men – defending them, protecting them, enabling them. They turned on their sisters and marginalized them. Too many women in power gaslight these victims of sexual harassment, making them feel crazy to think these powerful men would really do “such a thing.”
Our worst enemies in the workplace can be other women.
Yeah, I said it!
Women need to take responsibility for our own contribution toxic work environments, especially in the culture industries where our work has so much impact on society at large. Women need to get “woke” to how they perpetuate gender bias at work and perpetuate the lack of growth opportunities, to succeed and to fail, enjoyed by our male colleagues.