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Are catty women a thing in the workplace?

Posted July 16

Someday, women will be paid the same as men for doing the same job. That day, judging from recent news, may not come any time soon.

Some of it, if not much of it, is the fault of employers. But is there any fault on the part of women?

An article from The Atlantic suggests that some women, particularly of older generations, may have inadverently fed certain stereotypes about women in their quest to work in a man's world. The story examined two women worker archetypes: the ideal and moral “Righteous Woman” and the catty and divisive “Queen Bee.”

The Righteous Woman is an ideal based on the idea that since all women face sexism, they should be willing to fight for and form alliances with other women. However, the Queen Bee is based on the idea that women "just can't get along" and comes from the thought that there is just something about a woman that will cause her to sabotage other women for her own gain, according to The Atlantic.

The two depictions, seemingly at odds, have in common that they perpetuate the double standard that conflict in the workplace and out between men is normal but between women is not, according to The Atlantic. This, despite studies that show men engage in female-associated, passive-aggressive behavior such as gossip and exclusion about as much or even more than women.

Other research suggests that Queen Bee identities emerge when a woman, who previously thought her gender was irrelevant to pay or performance, experiences gender bias and sees that coworkers view her as a woman instead of a person, The Atlantic stated. So to set herself apart, this woman adopts more masculine speech about herself, putting down other women in the process.

The Atlantic noted that a woman strongly identifying as a woman increased the likelihood of helping other women, as opposed to distancing herself from her gender.

Judith Williams, the global head of diversity at the file-sharing website Dropbox, told Black Enterprise that women should think about getting sponsors and mentors, which are people who will speak up for them when they’re not present and who will vouch that they have the capabilities to get a job done.

She also said that while there may be some basis in catty stereotypes of women, she suspects a lot of it is just based in perception.

Arianna Huffington, editor-in-chief of the Huffington Post, also gave some of her thoughts on how women in the workplace can be there for each other in a Huffington Post blog.

She said it's important that female coworkers be there for each other, “not just during the big moments of obvious success or failure, but in all the small ways in which the workplace culture isn’t there for them."

Huffington also tied the full integration of women in the workplace to the redefinement of what success means, getting away from money and power as markers, which indirectly if not actively advocates burnout and instead promote wellness of body and mind.

“You shouldn’t have to lose yourself to advance yourself,” said Huffington.

Contact the reporter at smanderson@deseretnews.com; or follow her on Twitter at @Sarahsonofander.

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