Pat Heim, Tammy Hughes and Susan K. Golant, “In the Company of Women: Indirect Aggression Among Women: Why We Hurt Each Other and How to Stop”

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Reviewed by Femflection

Research on women’s workplace issues shows that women have failed to support and improve each other’s workplace performance. Pat Heim and Susan Murphy, corporate consultants on gender issues, address this failure in their book  “In the Company of Women: Turning Workplace Conflict Into Powerful Alliances.”

“in our twenty years of conducting conferences and workshops about gender differences in business, almost every participant we’ve encountered has acknowledged that women damage other women’s career aspirations” write Heim and Murphy in their book.

The authors back their assertion with statistics; for example, according to an American Management Association survey of 1,000 women, 95 percent reported that women had undermined them at some time in their career.

There are biological, psychological, social and cultural reasons why women relate to each other the way they do, and you can ignore it, or you can decide to add the knowledge to your skill set and save yourself a lot of grief.

According to the authors, there are three essential elements to a woman’s happiness:

  • relationships,
  • power and
  • self-esteem.

In order for a relationship to be strong, power and self-esteem must be equally balanced. This is the so-called “Power Dead-Even Rule”. Most women live by this unspoken rule.

If you get a compliment, chances are you’ll put yourself down in response, so as to keep the complimenter feeling good, too.

That is called “chip management”; a strategy we use, consciously or not, to adhere to the Power Dead-Even Rule.

Women hold a certain number of chips (positive attributes or actions such as beauty, wealth, a high-level career, a successful husband, well-behaving children) which are constantly exchanged with others to maintain even stature between women. We do this naturally.

If one woman gains more power or self-esteem, for example through a promotion, the Power Dead-Even Rule is broken. The imbalance of power can damage the relationship with the other woman, especially if the women were friends or colleagues beforehand.

The authors offer scientific and cultural explanations for the Power Dead-Even Rule.

Healthy competition and confidence are encouraged in boys but often seen as undesirable traits in girls.

Little girls’ games are often win-win. In boys’ games, whether it’s sports or cowboys, there are winners and losers – and somebody has to lose. Little boys are taught to accept that not everything is even.

Women should learn to feel comfortable with their own (and other women’s) drive and power, without feeling threatened or worrying that their success will hurt others.

The book “In the Company of Women” explains how indirect aggression can hurt women and hinder them from achieving success.

In the first half of the book the causes of conflict between women are researched and explained. In the second half, the authors address how women colleagues can work and compete together constructively, how to be an effective female executive and how to build dream teams of women.

The book includes some great self-tests and suggested strategies. I absolutely recommend it.

If you are a career woman you will discover that you are not alone in sometimes feeling targeted by other women.

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