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Women are held back by competitive work environments, study reveals


We’ve all known for quite some time that most workplaces are run by an old boys network which is not conducive to female success.

Well, now science has proven it. According to new research from the UCL School of Management, workplaces that encourage competitivity amongst their employees might be holding women back in their careers.

The research, which looked at the findings of four studies with 797 participants and published in the Journal of Personality and Social psychology, shows that while men might encourage a bit of healthy competition, women do not.

Assistant Professor Sun Young Lee found that women react more negatively to same-sex co-workers than men do.

The reason for this, Lee believes, is because women are typically encouraged to treat one another in a positive manner – one that aligns with the idea of sisterhood.

The study suggests that most women would struggle to accept their female colleagues behaving in a cut-throat manner – and that this inability to cope might lead to a restriction in their career progression.


Men, on the other hand, are seen to generally react better to competitive workplaces, and stringent hierarchy.

“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,” says Dr Lee.

“My research provides support to such an observation.”

Dr Lee suggests that companies should take this into consideration when settling on their approach to team hierarchies, saying:

“Bosses need to be aware that competitive career structures that are effective to men may be detrimental to women.”

In addition, women might benefit from taking a new approach to these scenarios:

“At the same time, women should be aware that taking competition too seriously could be holding them back from leadership positions.”

Clearly, pitting women against each other at work isn’t a way to encourage a positive work environment because women just might be nicer than men…



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