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October 19th, 2009
09:25 PM ET

Weigh in: Who hurts working women more, men or other women?

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Tom Foreman | BIO
AC360° Correspondent

For many years, some of the smartest, hardest-working women I know have whispered a quiet complaint on the job: They find other women, in general, harder to work with than men. I don’t know if it’s just the kind of women I am friends with, or if they are telling me that because I am a man, or if they are just inadvertently repeating and reinforcing a stereotype about women on the job.

But as we prepare a hefty portion of AC360° tonight to address a new study about women in the workplace, I started researching this notion and ran across some relatively recent studies suggesting that this is a common belief; women are more likely to bully other women on the job, and interfere with the prospects of other women being rewarded with higher pay, better positions, or even praise.

The problems that men have caused for women on the job are well-documented, everything from sexual harassment to sexism in promotions. But I am truly wondering what to make of this question of how women treat women at work.

Do you think men or women present more challenges to women on the job, and would you rather work for a male or female?

soundoff (84 Responses)
  1. Holly

    I definately would say women are harder to work with and for. I have both male and female supervisors and the women seem to have some chip on their shoulders or act like they have something to prove,they are not as pleasant. The men are more friendly, and get more prductivity out of us due to the way they treat us as employees.

    October 19, 2009 at 2:11 pm |
  2. Amy Eisenberg

    I would much rather work with a man then a woman!!!! Women can be so cruel

    October 19, 2009 at 2:10 pm |
  3. SHERRI S

    I work in a predominately male business, and I find, hands down, that men are easier to work with than women. Women say that that they want to work together, however, its lip service. Men have been working together for years, they know how to "do deals" in teams and keep their network tight. Women need to learn from this. Trust each other and create our own network of power.

    October 19, 2009 at 2:07 pm |
  4. Lauren

    Women in the workplace made my life hell. Females I have worked with (co-workers as well as Managers) have nothing better to do than be petty, jealous and devious.

    If you're an attractive woman and your female boss isn't, watch out! I've dealt with this from my first job when I was 17 to my last job when I was 48.

    I had to deal with being written up for Delta cancelling a work flight due to weather and being told my raise was 1% because I didn't come to my boss's Housewarming Party. This was not a work function but a power play.

    Other female co-workers have been great, but my last boss actually caused me to have a heart attack from stress. No thank you!

    October 19, 2009 at 2:07 pm |
  5. Carole

    I prefer working for a male boss. In my experience there is a big difference between working for a female boss and a male boss. Female bosses create issues out of nothing. Male bosses are not as petty and irritating as female bosses. Male bosses seem to see the big picture much easier than female bosses, therefore running a smooth operation, without all the drama.

    October 19, 2009 at 2:07 pm |
  6. Charlotte, Hartford, CT

    I think women are more difficult to work for. They have clawed their way up against the glass ceiling and are territorial and jealous of another woman who might challenge their position.

    Men, on the other hand, tend to think of women as intelligent and they listen to women and smile, but they are the ones who created the "glass ceiling" so they protect it.

    Women attorneys tend to talk down to Everyone except men counterparts. Women are definitely more challenging to work for.

    October 19, 2009 at 2:07 pm |
  7. Sequita

    It is much easier to work with men. Women keep up to much mess in the workplace. I have only worked 2 places my whole career where there were a bunch of women working with no drama. The only reason it was drama free is because everyone did their own work and had no time for drama. It was work work work and no time for socializing.

    October 19, 2009 at 2:06 pm |
  8. Lorri

    I prefer a male work environment a thousand times over a female dominated work environment. Women are the worst offenders against other women. I've never had issues in working for men, or with male leaders, unless their boss is a woman. I've never had to watch my back when working with predominantly male work forces. But anytime there is more than one woman in the mix, it's always been drama, cattiness, or backstabbing. It's sad. One would think the 'birds of a feather' theory would apply, but it doesn't at all. I have been in my current job for 2 years now and can't wait to find something else to go to. The office is run by a female and it's cause complete chaos and dissension among the 19 employees here – both male and female. Males tend to be much more direct and confident in their decisions. The male leaders I've worked for tell it like it is and move on. They don't harbor things like females do. I can't wait to land a new job in a male dominated environment. At least then I will know I can come to work, do my job, receive credit when credit is due and that's that. Never happens that way in a female run scenario. For the record, I do have a professional position and am a college grad.

    October 19, 2009 at 2:05 pm |
  9. Jacci

    I think all women put some sort of a guard up in the workplace because society teaches them to do so. I am currently trying to get my foot in the door of the sports industry. All I have been told is how difficult it's going to be, that I will have to prove myself as a woman in a typically male dominated profession. I guess I won't know until I get in and find out for myself. In my opinion I think it all depends on the individual person. I don't think you can put a label on either males or females, people can always surprise you.

    October 19, 2009 at 2:03 pm |
  10. Vanessa, TX

    I think women treat employees worse. I've worked with both, but I can certainly say a woman boss empathizes/sympathizes more than a man. Then again, its harder to lie about work-related stuff. We catch on quickly! 😀

    October 19, 2009 at 2:02 pm |
  11. Jane Doe

    I wish I had worked for a male boss. Female bosses choose favorites, join in the gossiping and all the back biting that goes on.
    I could write a book about this subject but I rather not. I would rather work for a male boss any time.

    October 19, 2009 at 2:02 pm |
  12. Ginger

    I personally have been in a position of being the "boss" and to be quite honest, I was an AWESOME boss!
    I sincerely think it depends on the person NOT the sex of who is in the higher position.I will say working in a GROUP of women is VERY hard for another woman because of the cattiness and competition.

    In general, I would rather work for a male for the simple fact, you never having to guess what their motivations are (men are very easy to read) nor is their a clique' you have to fenagle your way into.

    October 19, 2009 at 2:01 pm |
  13. les

    I've had 2 male & 2 female bosses. I'd rather have a male boss. But bosses aside, women are just harder to work with, period. I don't want to sound cliché, but women are more competitive in the workplace because of jealousy issues. All my life I have gotten along better with males.

    October 19, 2009 at 2:00 pm |
  14. No Queen Bees for Mee

    I'm 40 and have had jobs over the years. I started out at 16. I have never had a problem with male bosses. It was female bosses that drove me to quit. One knowingly, paid me less than my male counterpart and when I confronted her, her reply was, "Women have to prove themselves."...It wasn't until she felt threaten with a lawsuit that she gave me retroactive pay and equated my salary to his(I had more experience and qualifications than my male counterpart).

    Another Queen Bee was always harrassing me and teasing me about "Boyfriend called", when they were business calls. She was always insinuating I was sleeping with male clients...eventually I quit.

    Another Female Boss, I was told my the other co-workers was sabatoging my work, to get me fired, when she thought I was seeing a male employee, she had a crush on (he was a friend and he was gay-she didn't know this).

    I will stop at 3. The male Bosses I have had were to busy to bother with employees. These experiences have taught me never to downgrade a younger subordinate if I ever have to manage younger women.

    October 19, 2009 at 2:00 pm |
  15. Amy R.

    I have never had a female boss, but I have had many females work for me. I have found some women to be very difficult at times to work with. Over the past 30 years in a directors position, several young women that have worked for me have actually been very interested in my job (which can be a totally awesome thing if they show interest and aptitude, as you should always identify your replacement). Of those several young women, 2 have tried to undermine my effectiveness by being very petty and backbiting thinking that they could bring about my workplace demise. It's an uncomfortable position to be in, and it can totally disrupt the office. Being professional and looking beyond the "silliness" is never easy, but extremely worthwhile in keeping productivity where we all need it to be. I've never had any of my male employees react in this way.

    October 19, 2009 at 2:00 pm |
  16. LM

    I always thought that the rumor about working for women was a urban myth. But after working for 2 single older women, it made me realize that it is not a myth but a harsh reality. I think the women I worked with were trying so hard to show that had the B_LLS to work with the boys and be professional that they were more insenstitive than any male I ever worked with. For example, I was told I couldn't go to my stepfather funeral b/c he technically wasn't a first degree relative. Telling another worker he couldn't check on his toddler son in the Emergency Room (which was in the same building) because going to the emergency room for 15 mins would somehow slow down work(oh yeah there were 4 other people working in that section). Then of course my favorite.. being asked EVERY DAY when my delivery date is, emailing it to everyone and suggesting my pregnancy is preventing the work schedule from being made. I dont expect special treatment.. But treating your employee like little emotionless robots only leads to discontent, poor morale and little dedication. It was the first job I was happy to leave.

    October 19, 2009 at 1:58 pm |
  17. Linda B., Ga.

    If a person does the work they are paid to do (both women and men) then they shouldn't have a complaint or problem.

    I worked for 35 years, for a Fortune 500 company and "never" had a problem. I treated others in the same manner I wanted to be, with REPECT and as an ADULT.

    Too many people today expect more and give less. That's just not right...

    October 19, 2009 at 1:57 pm |
  18. Adam

    In my experience, most of the women I've had as people overseeing my work have been preferable to most of the men, but to be honest, I don't think gender was the big divider – everyone has their own personality and it exists independently of their genitals.

    I think this poll does more harm than good. It's a tool to pit the oppressed against themselves so that the oppressors can continue to live in blissful ignorance of all the harm they do and enjoy the benefits of being a part of the dominant class. This goes right along with all the news coverage about how California African Americans were to blame for the passage of Prop. 8 and the corresponding removal of rights from same-sex couples across that state – make the minorities bicker amongst themselves so the straight white protestant men can just continue to accrue wealth and power without any questions...

    October 19, 2009 at 1:57 pm |
  19. Charlene May

    IN MY OPINION, AND THIS IS ONLY MY OPNION AND BASED ON MY EXPERIENCE. Men are far easier to work with. They do not want to fight, nor get into jealousy issueS. Most men are not "right fighters,"
    I am a feminine woman, but my brain thinks like a man. I also fight the hormones associated with characteristics that give the women emotional nicknames, but I work had to remain rational. I cannot apply rational thinking or the making of multi million dollar decisions to irrational behavior.

    I like the emotional state most men keep themselves in. It is simply human nature and the genetics for most women to get emotional. We are made to be gentle. I just hate the jealousy present among women. I love team mates in the workplace just as people do in pro sports.Men can slug it out and get up and shake hands. A woman can stay mad for life and turn everyone she knows against you . It is a waste of valuable time in a world we have so little time. There is no room to make decisions in the work place on emotions or ego, or jealousy. Just good information.

    I am involed in 14 ventures, entrepreneur since 23. and will never partner with a woman again. I love women, and celebrate womanhood, but if I am real and honest then I can't spend my day babysitting the emotions of a woman that is jealous of another. It is very hard and stressful when I have to deal with the most important issues in business, social issues in the world, and my own family to care for. I have also found when most men are told confidential information, they store it and forget and are not compelled to repeat it.

    That is the trait most attracitve in business or relationships. People who are empowered by confidentiality.

    Wishes to you for a purpose filled day and week,
    Charlene May

    October 19, 2009 at 1:56 pm |
  20. Talatha Denison

    I have worked with a campus team of women and an office/disaster recovery team comprised of only women. In both experiences, I have found that women have a tendency to sabotage each other and to ultimately tear other women down. Sadly, I believe even strong women are threatened by the success of other strong women and their reaction is to tear them down rather than encourage and support them.

    October 19, 2009 at 1:56 pm |
  21. staci t

    Of the bosses i have had......I totally prefered my male bosses.....and I agree with all the comments above about female bosses.

    The worst experience I had was my first boss, she owned the company and she was a petty tyrant. It was a data entry company, but when I read the book "The Devil Wears Prada" I thought I was reading about my first job, no really, that was my boss, just a different industry! Plus I kept getting told, if I stayed there for a year I would get the best reccomendations from her. I decided after 3 months that a year was so not worth it and I gave my notice. She let me go....

    I have found that I am much happier with male bosses. I have also found that the fewer women on a floor the less drama that abounds in the department. I currently work in an industry that is typically male dominated (civil engineering) and it is nice that there are few females, although more are entering (it also means that the 20 of us that share our floor don't have to clean the ladies room as often as the other floors who have 50 women) but as they are all more right brained they still tend to be a bit more logical and less drama ensues.

    October 19, 2009 at 1:56 pm |
  22. Paula Allen

    I have not noticed a trend based on gender. I've had both male and female bosses who were excellent at managing, and often incredibly accommodating of my family demands as a working single mother. The more difficult bosses I have had span both genders. I think this question is more dependent on the individual's management skills and overall maturity as a human being, whether male or female. Company culture plays an equally big role in boss-to-employee treatment.

    October 19, 2009 at 1:55 pm |
  23. Jessica L.

    Definitely women. Formerly worked in an all-female department and swore I'd never do so again. Male bosses are usually much more straightforward with their expectations, and the emotional volatility is often (not always) significantly less. I appreciate that my male bosses have been clear in their challenges, present greater (more objective) opportunity, and recognize extraordinary work.

    In my personal experience, my female bosses and those above me in the all-female department (in a male-dominated industry) always wanted to "keep me at my level." It felt as though I was being held back and that my talents weren't being utilized. (Never mind the drama - the days when one woman decides to just not talk to anyone in the department, for no reason at all? Petty!) I definitely got the vibe then that my success would threaten that of these other women. More than a decade later, my former female boss finally admitted to me that she held me back. Never again, lesson learned.

    Lesson learned: Male bosses only from there on out.

    October 19, 2009 at 1:55 pm |
  24. Xia

    Working with women has put a lot of pressure on my end. I have a good position at work and my women co-workers tried talking to my boss to down-size my position. Jealousy has overcome the work place and they're all hating on me. I would love to work with men rather than the ungrateful women I work with.

    October 19, 2009 at 1:55 pm |
  25. Nurse Thomas

    Women, we hurt each other more than men that's for sure. I work in health care and most of the top important folks are men. We just do what they the "men" say and hardly ever question it for fear of being humiliated in front of coworkers and patients. I for one am known to speak my mind and stand up for what i think is morally and ethically right in a professional tone I'd like to think, but that is often viewed as too assertive and aggressive and I should know my place per many of my female supervisors. We really don't know how to support each other in usually male dominated arenas. It's unfortunate, but its the truth. We tolerate way too much.

    October 19, 2009 at 1:55 pm |
  26. Norma-ann

    Women are absolutely more difficult to work with. They are very competitive with their female collegues and often think that pointing out their faults and mistakes is the best way to make themselves look good. This is generally true until you become fiends...then they will work more as a team.

    My husband believes this is a direct consequence of women not being involved in team sports as children. Women are more likely, at a young age, to be in individualized activities that encourage competition and the mind-set of trying to be "better" than the other girls (dance, gymnastics, pageants!!)...whereas boys are playing hockey, baseball, football...learning the importance of working together for a common goal.

    October 19, 2009 at 1:55 pm |
  27. Joy

    I've noticed that the "glass ceiling" may not have been created by women, but sure is maintained by them. Most women who are in positions of power in the workplace do not make it easy for other women to succeed. On the contrary, most women that I have met will do everything in their power to keep you down. It's awful. When are women going to put differences aside and help each other become more successful? Men do it all the time, with other men. It's a very sad but true, most women are too scared lose their power of authority to help other women. I can't tell you how many friends I've lost to a promotion or even a recommendation.

    October 19, 2009 at 1:54 pm |
  28. Nicole

    I have found that women are meaner. Some will stop short of killing to get ahead whilst other are so submissive they are afraid of speaking for fear that what they say would by misconstrued to the point of a pink slip would be submitted. This doesn't mean men aren't culpable. They seem only to want to hire the half-naked 22-yr-old types. The bright yet less attractive ones are normally paid less and have more responsibilities. Since beauty doesn't have to work as hard. Why should they? If someone else does it for them and the beauties get the credit then all is well with the world. These are simple observations. No ones knocking superficiality after all that's the way things are now.

    October 19, 2009 at 1:54 pm |
  29. Laurie Edwards

    Male bosses talk down to their female employees and don't take them seriously, while female bosses see other women as competition, even when the difference in rank is so extreme as to make competition impossible.

    Simple answer: Start your own business and be your own boss.

    October 19, 2009 at 1:54 pm |
  30. Josh (Chico Observer)

    I am sure the problems come of both elements, but Men are more likely to be promoted by a man than a women. It is the brotherhood and has nothing to do with women at all. Men have always bonded in social situations and trust.

    October 19, 2009 at 1:53 pm |
  31. Melissa

    Personally, I'd rather work for a man anytime. Women are more... "backstabby", and "catty". They also have a tendency to play favorites. In all the years of working, I've only ever had ONE female boss that I actually respected because she didn't play those stupid games. I've had at least 10 different female superiors of some sort at one time or another.

    October 19, 2009 at 1:53 pm |
  32. Sheryl Breuker

    I'm not sure you can come at it from the perspective of who hurts us more.

    We're all responsible for what we achieve or don't achieve. You're going to find people with both thoughts on this. My personal feeling is as long as we talk about, it we incite it. No, I don't mean to turn a blind eye, but when it stops being a topic none of this will matter anymore.

    Women have the ability to be jerks as much as men. That there are fewer in positions of power points it out more. Women don't have as long in the public work force arena in said positions of power. I believe it's an evolutionary process that will take care of itself.

    As an aside, I think women handle relationships differently, hence the perception they are more difficult to work with. Women can be best friends, stab each other in the back and go back to being best friends. And women like to talk about each other. chalk it up to the male equivalent of, "My dad's bigger than your dad!" The difference is they do it to each other.

    Still, your question isn't an easy observation to come to a conclusion for. I do think we have to be accountable for ourselves.

    October 19, 2009 at 1:53 pm |
  33. Heather. Omaha, NE

    Absolutely women! I think that is what is holding women back more than anything else. We do not mentor and advocate for each other. In my experience some of mentors have been men. There are so few positions of leadership for women that I think women in those positions are afraid if they do mentor someone that they could steel their job. ESPECIALLY in this economy; it is every woman for herself.

    October 19, 2009 at 1:53 pm |
  34. LK Beninson

    Women hurt other business women in the work place more than men, by sometimes not keeping work and home more separate. This does'nt mean they are, or have to ignore their responsibilies(home or family), they just need to remember there is a place and time for everything, and keep it all in better perspective. That way I believe woman gain more respect in their workplace.

    October 19, 2009 at 1:53 pm |
  35. Renee

    If I'm working on a team, give me fifteen men to six women any day. I'd rather jump through the hoop of conditional respect than unconditional hate even if I have to please fifteen different guys in the process.

    October 19, 2009 at 1:52 pm |
  36. JS, Boston

    I would have to say that my worst working experiences at every job I have held have been a direct result of bad behavior on the part of a woman. I would also like to stat that some of my best achievements have also been on the behalf of female co-works. I have observed woman are tougher to work for in general and are usually worse to other woman than men.

    October 19, 2009 at 1:52 pm |
  37. Tina Young

    I have found that other women tend to be more likely to undermine and hurt other women in the work force. Women can sometime be emotional, gossipy, or work to hard to prove themselves while undermining coworkers. I had a female boss that was so insucure that she made it very difficult to work with because she would scream at anyone who disagreed with her. She was very confrontational. If a man acted like she did, he would have been fired years ago.

    October 19, 2009 at 1:51 pm |
  38. Jill K

    Women have always been tough on each other, we expect the best. Even during that first day of elementry school we were at each others throats. It's no different in the work place. Women have no problem pointing out other womens mistakes. It's almost as if we are trying to better each other, and just taking a blow at self esteems instead.

    October 19, 2009 at 1:50 pm |
  39. Anne Z

    Unfortunately, I've found women to be much harder to work for. Not all women, I've worked with plenty of women I remain friends with, but ultimately it's been my female bosses who chose to power trip and make issues. It's really too bad and I've chosen to not act like that myself in any position of power I've had.

    October 19, 2009 at 1:50 pm |
  40. Helaine

    Other women are the worse to work with. I have experienced such pain and hatred aimed at me from other women. They form clicks and if you don't agree with them or you don't want to have more than just a working relationship, you are out. They will gang up on you, stab you in the back and get others to lie with them about you. It is best to stay away from most women in an office. I know it is hard to keep your private life separated from work since we spend so much time at work, but that is something we must learn to do.

    October 19, 2009 at 1:50 pm |
  41. Lisa A. Philadelphia, PA

    My experience has been that it doesn't matter what gender you are. It's more of where you come from. Some people feel they have a lot to prove and they are the most difficult to work with. I've had men and women who were "out to get" people. The men are worse.

    I think women get a bad reputation from the start. We're "emotional' or "hormonal" so instead of looking at criticism for it's real value it's dismissed as a woman thing. I think men are more guilty of this, but women think it too.

    The best boss is the one who listens and show quinine empathy for their subordinates, even when they have something negative to say. Man or woman.

    October 19, 2009 at 1:49 pm |
  42. JB

    I would rather work with men than with women. There seems to be more drama and more moodiness instead of just getting jobs completed. Power struggles seem to be more common with women. Maybe it's there with men but I just don't see it.

    October 19, 2009 at 1:49 pm |
  43. cindi stahl

    I love working with men. Men are laid back in general and women fuss over the inconvenient stuff!!

    October 19, 2009 at 1:48 pm |
  44. Courtney

    I think asking this question is part of what hurts women in the workplace. Please stop pitting people against one another.

    October 19, 2009 at 1:48 pm |
  45. jenny

    Considering the two female bosses I have now, I would rather work for a male anytime.

    October 19, 2009 at 1:41 pm |
  46. Andrea

    I would much rather work for a male. I have learned that males are more upfront when they undermine the job you are doing. Females I have worked for do it to you behind your back. I feel that at least with a male you can see it coming when bosses gun for you. The last female boss I had always found something wrong in my work ("you didn't do it the way I showed you", but I achieved the same results) and showed preferential treatment towards her "smoking buddy" than to other, more mature women in the office. Female bosses are petty and paranoid, men are just jerks, and I can deal with someone who is just being a jerk.

    October 19, 2009 at 1:39 pm |
  47. Tim Gibson

    In my opinion, and my experience in working with women, I found them to be diffficult to say the least.

    To much attention has in my experience I still point out, gone into under ground activity to get people fired, to twist rules in the work place to fit into their own political agenda. Not to say it has anything to do with them feeling slighted in anyway because they are women, but that they only wanted to build issues out of non-issue rules of a smooth operation and created an environment that was far from smooth.

    That being said, I personally enjoy working with women, but I do not get caught into the gossip pool or the scandel creation. Perhaps that is what the glass ceiling really is.

    October 19, 2009 at 1:24 pm |
  48. Mike in NYC

    My old boss, a woman - and a good boss, BTW - said women lawyers were particularly vexing. "Carrying chip on shoulder" was apparently part of their job descriptions.

    October 19, 2009 at 1:22 pm |
  49. Diane N.

    For some reason I've never felt competitive in working with either men or women, maybe it was the kinds of jobs I was working that had much to do with that I don't know, it there a difference(?), but always respected their positions (or at least would try and put that attitude at the forefront of my mind) be they equal to mine, below or above, I always knew my place and expected others to be equally respectful to me in my position. We all have to work hard in whatever capacity. What the pay scale difference is is personal and only a goal for each individual on their individual basis. I guess I've always tried to follow the golden rule in this aspect.

    October 19, 2009 at 1:13 pm |
  50. GF, Los Angeles

    I prefer working with a male boss any day. I've had two female bosses for the past 10 years in different companies and they have such an issue with their ego. The subtle belittling to make themselves feel better...having male bosses did not have that type of drama. Plus when these females became a mother, their work was given to the single people – how was that fair?

    October 19, 2009 at 12:55 pm |
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