A new report claims that women ‘take competition with other women at work too seriously’ and it could be damaging their careers.
Assistant Professor Sun Young Lee from the UCL School of Management found that women experience competition with same-gender co-workers more negatively than men do, because ‘female peer culture values harmony and equality, and competition is at odds with the norm of female relationships’.
The research – from four studies with 797 participants published in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology – said that hierarchical ranking and competition is natural in male peer culture, so men’s work relationships do not suffer from competing with other male colleagues.
"Competition with female co-workers taxes women’s work relationships," the research found. "Women could struggle to interact with female co-workers, becoming overly cutthroat and mean, which can restrict their career progression."
Dr. Lee added: "As a woman who has worked across the world, I’ve long observed that women take competition with other women much more personally than men take competition with other men. My research provides support to such an observation.
“Bosses need to be aware that competitive career structures that are effective to men may be detrimental to women. At the same time, women should be aware that taking competition too seriously could be holding them back from leadership positions."
As one of the IT industry’s strongest advocates of women in tech, we asked CompTIA for its opinion on the report.
The trade body has its own ‘Advancing Women in IT’ and ‘Dream IT’ initiatives to encourage more girls to seek a career in IT.
Nancy Hammervik, senior VP of industry relations at CompTIA, told PCR: "I do not believe that competitiveness is attributed to gender, but to individual personalities.
"I actually find quite the opposite to be true that many women who are successful make a conscious effort to be a strong role models and mentor for women around them. They ensure that women are equally considered for opportunity and promotion in the organization and recognise and reward successful efforts.
"Women also seek out opportunities to partner and work together to produce great results, having an appreciation for diverse skill sets and points of view. Women tend to be more nurturing as managers, and patient with questions and need for direction."
She added: "Finally, in industries that are dominated by men, like the high tech industry, women rally around each other, supporting each other’s successes and encouraging continued growth.
"There is the feeling that if one wins, we all win and they celebrate all success as progress for the gender – and the industry."
Image source: Shutterstock (two female rivals)