For my latest guest post I’ve asked the very talented Lianne Dupre, the operations director and one half of the very talented partnership over at LNDK ltd. to expand on a recent blog post of hers I read recently. It was a fascinating insight into a new subject for me, the issue of whether woman are actually other women’s biggest competitors in the world go business.

Lianne covers any number of subjects in the world of business in her blogs and er.. shoes! Yes, shoes, click through the links for Lianne and her partner Nicola over at LNDK Ltd and find out exactly what they can do for you.

Anyway, over to Lianne..

March the 8th is International Women’s Day and it got me thinking about the changes we must have been through in the last 50 years but are all those changes for the better?

Does equality exist? Are opportunities truly equal?

In a recent blog I wrote (Woman V’s Woman) I discussed the possibility that women were our own worst enemies, that we pressure ourselves daily to achieve an almost superhuman level of perfection both at work and at home. That blog provoked a lot of response, one of which was specifically to a remark that I had made “when I think back to some of the most unpleasant people I have worked with, most of them are female.” Strangely, I received no objections to this statement, only agreement and disappointment.

I was the Head of HR and Finance for a construction company which was hugely dominated by men and indeed I often was treated like the secretary by men who came for a meeting, only when they found out that I was the decision maker who held the purse strings did they try and adapt their approach. I also have been in meetings with male colleagues where the visitor has talked directly to them the whole way through, only to find out that I was the superior.

However, despite these inexcusable assumptions that I have been on the receiving end of, by and large most of the males I have reported to or managed have had very little issue with my gender as soon as my professional credentials were proved.

This unfortunately, has not been my experience with female employers or employees. I worked for one female who constantly had me prepare documents then when presented to the board, would remove my name and replace it with hers. I have been asked at an interview about my plans for children by a female interviewer. When my daughter was taken poorly and I needed to collect her from school, it was the fellow female colleagues that would tut and the males were fine about it.

All of this makes me question, does sisterhood exist in the work place?

On writing this blog, I decided to look at my current client database and have realised that my clients are overwhelmingly male. I then considered the support and mentorship I have received within my own business and realised that without exception, they are all male.

Now, this may be partly my personality as I have brothers and am comfortable being around males or it may be how I have marketed myself and my business. It’s true that I have steered away from women only networking events, this is for a few reasons but predominantly it is because I do not want to exclude any potential clients and attending women only events would massively limit my exposure to market.

However, I have then asked around some other female business contacts to ask them the same questions. Ones within a similar industry seemed to have the same experience as me.

So are we letting each other down? Why am I not selling to females as much as males? Is the opposite sex easier to sell to? One question which has bothered me the most is, why am I not mentoring any females?

I strongly believe that we have fought so hard for equality that we have lost sight of what makes us different. Males and females have different strengths and attributes, we should not reject these, we should embrace them.

So on International Women’s Day, I am going to make one pledge: ‘to ensure that I work with more females’.  How about you?

Lianne Dupre is Operations Director at LNDK Ltd which offer business consultancy and business events, with a strong background in HR and Accountancy, she now uses her skills helping other business owners. She is mum to an 11 year old and is madly obsessed with shoes!

  1. Nick Smith
    Nick Smith says:

    I really good read this, I do buy into what you are saying here but I think largely its down to the fact that women seem to have to work three times as hard to get anywhere.
    Having worked in the media in heavily female biased environments I have rarely seen much mentorship between females whereas I have always had loads of help along the way from members of both sexes.
    I am also a big believer in women embracing what makes them different from males and using it as an advantage rather than trying to cover up these attributes by becoming over aggressive and steely.
    Looking forward to following on twitter now.

    • Tony Dowling
      Tony Dowling says:

      Nice work Nick! I always knew you were a feminist at heart! I agree with some of what you say there too. I wonder though, do women that are steely as you put it, cover up their female attributes, as you suggest? Or are they just steely by design in the first place? Thanks for stopping by as always! great to hear from you.
      Lianne, what do you think?

      • Lianne Dupre
        Lianne Dupre says:

        Hi Nick
        Love your response and have to say I totally agree. One of the other reasons I have avoided women only networking groups is because, in my experience, they are either very soft and fluffy and focus on emotional support or they are run by men hating women (maybe a massive generalisation but this is what I have witnessed).
        And I also have to say that throughout my career I have always used my sexuality as a competitive advantage and have rarely seen it as a disadvantage.
        Say Hi on twitter 🙂

  2. Susie
    Susie says:

    I enjoyed reading this article and to some extent I agree that some women in the workplace are more competitive with other females. However, I think it’s not down to whether a person is female or male but down to the individual. I have worked with very inspirational mentors both female and male. In fact, one of my biggest supporters and mentors in my career to date is a female boss I worked with for over 5 years. To this day we both turn to each other for advice on difficult issues in work and have a strong freindship.

    Equally I have worked with and currently work with male bosses who i admire and have good working relationships with. Looking at my client base it’s fairly evenly split between male and female clients and I enjoy working with both. I manage a team of females at the moment and one thing that I believe works in our favour is our solidarity and the loyalty we have to each other.

    I do agree with Nick’s point, however, that sometimes there are some females who try to adopt a more aggressive and ‘steely’ approach and in my experience by doing this they lose very important attributes.

    I genuinely believe it’s not down to what gender a person is but down to their own personality traits and how single minded they are about ‘getting to the top’ and how they are prepared to conduct themselves. Really the story about the female boss who swapped the name on the report could equally have been a male boss.

    • Lianne Dupre
      Lianne Dupre says:

      Hi Susie
      Thanks for your comment! I totally understand what you have said about your colleague, my business partner offers the same level of support to me. However, is that not based upon friendship rather than business support?
      My male mentors are totally supportive and helpful, but friendship is down the list on what they provide me with. We rarely discuss personal issues and are always focused on ‘the job in hand’. With any female support I receive, it has always been because a friendship has develop first.
      Would love to know your thoughts?

  3. Mike Bersin
    Mike Bersin says:

    Thanks Lianne, very very thought-provoking. It made me reflect on my own behavioiur as well as the women I work with and I find it hard to separate culture, habit and human nature as drivers in how we all do things.
    Even if we cite human nature as an “excuse” for the way we treat each other, it doesn’t actually excuse anything in beings whose arguably defining attribute is the ability to think.
    My limited experience of women in groups is that they tend to succed by co-operating, where men succeed by competing (is that a gross simplification or simply plain wrong?). Is it just that in the nature of business (sales anyway) that, whatever they say about a sales “team”, it’s actually a very solitary, individual business?
    Re the clients: I’m a bloke who works with male and female sales execs about 50/50, yet about 90% of the clients I meet are men, so the fact you sell to more men than women possibly just reflects the composition of the marketplace. Is there a sisterhood? Is there a brotherhood even?
    Is there a sisterhood? I don’t know. Should there be? Is there a brotherhood even?

    • Lianne Dupre
      Lianne Dupre says:

      Hi Mike
      Thanks for your response. Interestingly, I had not concerned whether there is a brotherhood, I would love to know male opinions on this? Can there be a brotherhood when essentially males are often pre-programmed to compete?
      I do firmly believe there is a sisterhood outside the workplace, but I am yet to be convinced of its appearance within the workplace. However, I have predominantly worked in male dominated environments where possibly the females there would feel more competition than within a female dominate environment.
      This debate poses far more questions than answers for me!

    • Tony Dowling
      Tony Dowling says:

      As ever Mike you cut through to the heart of the matter for me. And Lianne is correct in her comments, there are probably more questions that answers in this article, thats why I love it so much!

  4. angelaelniff
    angelaelniff says:

    I have found the opposite – I think with networks it depends what they are for and who goes. If it women who own the business I find it very useful If its managers and women who work in a business the motives are different
    I mentor women in business, women in sport and female fire fighters – I also mentor a range of men. I often find the men looking for a surrogate and the women being more focused .
    May be its the way you interact with other women.
    I have had two female bosses who were out and out bitches to work for , but then I have had a few fellas who drove me nuts with their “do it for me ” attitudes
    May be it’s down to personalities , and cultural conditioning and nurture v nature. It is hard to make a robust case on anecdotal evidence that we are all sharing
    Let’s just be glad we are who we are and treat each encounter as it presents.

      • Lianne Dupre
        Lianne Dupre says:

        Hi Angela
        I love your comments as it presents yet another angle for me. As I said above, I believe a lot of it may have something to do with the industries we find ourselves in. Working in Construction meant I had to be a lot more confident and self assured to stand up to big burly site workers, however I always did it as a female and did not try to present myself as male.
        I don’t think there is a definitive answer here, but what we are all addressing is that male or female, working in a supportive environment is far more beneficial to us professionally and personally.
        Thanks again!

  5. Kath
    Kath says:

    As always a thought provoking debate on the competitive nature of women in the workplace; I for one agree with many of the points made.

    In my experience some women are incorrectly labeled as aggressive if they are career minded and ambitious, however many women I have had the misfortune to work and do business with deserve that label and possibly one of ‘bully’. Ambitious men though are labeled as dynamic and forward –thinking. So maybe it’s the women who are their own worst enemies?

    I agree with Lianne’s observations that when she has had to leave the workplace early due to her daughter being ill it is the women who tut the loudest. I too have experienced that and it is normally the men who ask on your return if all is well now. Do these women forget that they simply wouldn’t exist without their mothers?

    Sisterhood in the workplace? Personally I don’t think the workplace is the environment for such labels, I would however advocate the understanding of each person’s priorities, beliefs and needs before passing comment.

  6. Katherine
    Katherine says:

    Interesting. The question is how do we adjust our “business behaviour” in order to engage with more female clients as opposed to male clients. I think that an analysis of the roles of women in society/ everyday life will hold the answer.

  7. Cathy Presland
    Cathy Presland says:

    I REALLY hate generalising but often women feel less comfortable with competition so it’s actually less ‘fun’ for them to be in a competitive environment than it is for men – who just don’t take it as personally.

    My personal experience is that I love to work with women and found myself surrounded and surrounding myself with them. But I also agree that women can be our own worst enemy! Stick together girls – success for one doesn’t have to be at the expense of another – there’s plenty to go around. Let’s celebrate!


      • Lianne Dupre
        Lianne Dupre says:

        Thanks Cathy, I knew this post would be right up your street as someone who I believe has got the balance correct of being feminine but still holding your own in a professional environment.

        And it’s true that we should all remember that success shouldn’t have to be at the expense of another!

  8. Barbara
    Barbara says:

    hmmmm ….. I always feel somewhat uncomfortable with gender specific discussions. Instead I view each person as unique (irrespective of gender, height, age, ethnicity ……) and every one of us has different things to offer to others (our personality, our business interests, our skills, our products, our humour, our empathy …..) and whether on a personal or professional or business level in the end what really matters is what do we have in common and do we share the same values? Our values drive our behaviours.

    If I think through all aspects of my life and relationships, without exception the positive experiences are with those individuals (and businesses) where they and I share the same values, on this we build shared experiences (maybe about working together or having a good laugh together or helping each other), the trust and the common ground builds further. Whether it is a business relationship or a personal relationship / friendship we understand those shared values and accept each other (complete with short comings) for what we are.

    Fascinating ………..

    • Tony Dowling
      Tony Dowling says:

      Thanks Barbara, great you could stop by! I’m with you on the values stuff, and I think you’re right about the discomfort this sort of stuff causes me intellectually!
      I would ask you to expand on the positive experiences as a result of shared values though?
      At least in terms of outcome, I can think of positive stuff thats come as a result of a clash of values? I thinking of course of growth and learning opportunities, taking yourself out of your comfort zone kind of stuff?

  9. Lianne Dupre
    Lianne Dupre says:

    Hi Barbara,
    Wow values yet again is a whole new topic and something that impacts every decision we make and interaction we have.
    Love your angle on this!