As 8th March marks International Women's Day our Programme Manager, Cat Ward, took the opportunity to explain how female competition is a fact of evolution, acknowledging that we can use this to build alliances to support one another.
"Who remembers Dynasty? It was a weekly soap opera mix of 80s excess, big hair and even bigger shoulder pads. The biggest storyline - and the one that got the tabloid front pages - was the saga of Alexis versus Krystle Carrington: a vicious relationship of catfights, betrayal and competition between two successful women- even when they had bigger enemies to fight than each other.
"A bit of a guilty pleasure for some, but growing up, I felt uncomfortable about how it and many other TV shows and films portrayed women, especially those in business. Take “Working Girl”, where a highly successful female boss steals her secretary’s ideas and passes them off as her own. TV programmes and films were full of the stereotyped villainous female boss who saw other women as competitors and was all for female empowerment – as long as it was her own.
"Isn’t it great that those days are long gone? My first boss was a woman who helped me and the other young women in her team by giving us opportunities to prove what we were capable of, as well as develop and grow. She - like many women of that era - did so much to crack the glass ceiling. And I like to think that I am doing my bit to help the female colleagues and business owners that I work with to achieve their goals and fulfil their potential.
"But what if - whisper it - female conflict wasn’t just a Hollywood construct? What if we are hard-wired to compete with other women? And if that is the case, what can we do about it?
"These are just some of the questions that we’ve been asking as part of Let’s Talk… powered by Elevator and supported by Royal Bank of Scotland. It was designed to help women identify the challenges they might face in starting or growing a business and crucially, the actions they can take to overcome these.
"As part of Let’s Talk… we’ve been broadcasting a series of chats I’ve had with evolutionary behavioural biologist, Dr Mairi Macleod. Mairi specialises in helping women in particular with various aspects of work, relationships and life, using an approach informed by our biology. Mairi looks at how our evolved tendencies push us to behave in different situations and how we can use this knowledge to change our behaviours and lead us to our desired outcomes.
"In our most recent conversation, ‘Queen Bees and Shrinking Violets’, Mairi explained how women evolved to compete with one another to survive and how even now, these inherent traits can potentially hold women back in the workplace. To counter these traits, Mairi talked about the importance of building strong female alliances in small ‘mastermind’ groups, where women can get to know and trust each other, learn from individual experiences and develop collaborative ways of working.
"So, competition isn’t something to be feared, but acknowledged. And we can use this understanding to ensure that women are supporting each other to fulfil their maximum potential in both business and the workplace."Back to all blogs