Tag Archives: Isabella Lenarduzzi

The Lipstick Jungle: Female saboteurs

Bullying of women by women.

Bullying of women by women.

Bullying by Women in the Workplace – Part 2

The sabotaging of women BY women. As part of my series of bullying by women in the work place started in
Bitch or Bully: The Pink Elephant

I am exploring a number of complex and often confusingly over lapping issues. I have consulted a global network of HR professionals, lawyers, bullying specialists, psychologists as well as executive coaches and leaders.  My LinkedIn poll “Have you experienced bullying in the workplace by a woman?” is still running. Please take it if you haven’t already! Interestingly, although the numbers have been slowly climbing, the percentage analysis has remained consistent . 51% of those polled claim they have personally been bullied by a woman and 25% indicate that they have witnessed it.

These figures reflect all the statistics I have seen elsewhere, dashing my hopes once and for all of disproving their theories. It would seem that despite the increasing number of females in the workplace, many statistics suggest that the business environment has become potentially a more hostile place for many women.

How could this be?
Isabella Lenarduzzi , the founder of Blog Jump, a Belgian organisation for the advancement of women in the workplace makes this comment: “ Studies have shown that relationships can either be the best or the worst thing to happen to women at work: women have a greater capacity than men to affect one another’s professional performance–with better results for all if their interaction is good, and worse results if it is not.”

So what happens when interaction is not good?
Research also shows that women bully other women 2.5 times more frequently than they target men. The bullying weapons of choice in our arsenal tend to be sabotage and the abuse of authority, carried out either subtly or covertly behind closed doors. Women are apparently also more likely to elicit the support of other women, either tacitly or actively, isolating the victim with the creation of a “mascara mafia”, adding further to her distress and feelings of alienation. So our WMD are vocabulary, body language, voice tone, isolation, humiliation and unreasonable or inappropriate demands. You might remember the experiences of my client Jane. Her case it seems is classic text-book and could be taken straight from the syllabus for Bullying 101. The irony is therefore not only are we more likely to be bullied by a man, women are also out ranking men in the harassment of their own gender

Silent Epidemic
This type of bullying, known by the United Nations’ International Labor Organization as the “silent epidemic,” is four times more prevalent than illegal, discriminatory harassment.  Because this type of activity is not illegal, even when complaints are made, HR departments or employers are reluctant to pursue the perpetrator. Very often they know what is going on, but choose to ignore it. As female bullying is usually more covert and does not involve physically abusive, but still no less damaging, it is more difficult to audit and also to prove. Very often (as in Jane’s case) it is accompanied by unsupportive comments about a need to be less sensitive and more assertive. Annabel Kaye Managing Director of UK law firm Irenicon asserts that it can take up to six complaints about the same person to instigate an investigation.

So one bemused question has popped up throughout this research: Isn’t life tough enough for us you ask?

Why do we women sabotage each other?
Sharon Eden offers one explanation:
Sociological research has indicated it seems to be a biological imperative that women compete for the ‘best’ male so that their offspring are more likely to survive. This spills over into the executive suite where men still predominate and some psychologically unaware women wipe out the female ‘opposition’ for male attention

So at some primal sub-conscious level in our lipstick jungle, it would appear that we are clearly brushing down our business suits and sharpening our French manicures in order to compete for the attention of the best males, by annihilating any actual or perceived threats …anyway we can. As these men tend to be found at the top of the pyramid the “battle” intensifies. Research on bully behaviour and harassment at the Workplace Bullying Institute also suggests that regardless of gender, bullying is deeply rooted in insecurity resulting in a need for power and control, with the perpetrator seeking out a perceived weaker employee to dominate. This process actually makes the bully feel better about themselves.

Mary Pearson, who has been writing about bullying for a number of years elaborates “A workplace bully, whether male or female, ensures their intimidation tactics are witnessed. They gain control over a larger group by isolating and victimizing one or two people, more brutally than others. It’s a similar tactic to what a terrorist uses instilling fear in a community through picking a single victim”.

But can it also be that in our desire to get to the top the communication style of women is misunderstood? Can our attempts at being tough turn into bullying? Perhaps we are we caught between the gender stereotyping equivalent of a rock and a hard place. Damned if we do. Damned if we don’t

Isabella suggests ” Women in leadership positions find themselves with an identity dilemma: if they act like a typical male leader, they are perceived as ‘hard’ or ‘cold’, because their behaviour jars with that of the stereotypical woman

Although this goes someway to explaining some aspects of the problem, the “hard ” approach of mimicking male behaviour, it doesn’t cover the type of pernicious and inexplicable treatment that Jane and so many others experience. As Annabel Kayesuggested in my last post, many victims are so ground down, they simply resign.

So while we women bleat endlessly about glass ceilings, timidity at the negotiating table, and under representation in a corporate world, there seems to be very strong indications that in many cases we are actually our own worst enemies. The concentration of females in the corporate population hovers below board level. While there are obviously other legitimate factors preventing advancement, it would seem that part of this blockage is that many women directly sabotage their female colleagues or subordinates and therefore ultimately themselves.

At some point we have to take responsibility for this. The question is how.

What do you think?

Let’s go girls … negotiate!

Why do women earn less than men for doing similar jobs?

This post became the first in a trilogy on women and salary negotiation.  See the sequels Don’t be afraid of “Noand “Cave in… or leave the cave” 

I’ve  come across a few  things in the past 2 weeks which have left me unfortunately,  pretty sad ,  frustrated and frankly in a state of confused wonderment.  It’s all centred around  the issue of gender  divide and salary. Or to put it less esoterically –  why do women earn less than men for doing similar jobs? 

 I’m not even talking about glass ceilings, women on boards or any other more complex and contentious  issues that are perplexing a generation of management gurus, where  there are whole biz school courses  and grad theses  devoted to the topic.  No, all I’m talking about is basics :  why does John  earn (x) and Jane earn (x minus )  for doing comparable work, when all other factors such as education,  qualifications, experience and age are equal.


I started my early career  as a Corporate HR  trainee in the steel industry  when  the ability to legally  advertise lower rates  of pay for women was sadly  a pretty recent memory.  At that time trades-union officials would  even ask why there was a  woman at the meeting! True! In any negotiations  it was not uncommon for all the men  ( large numbers) to exit the  meeting room en masse,   leaving me with the metaphoric handbags, gasping in a Dickensian fug  ( smoking  in buildings was legal too)  to go to the gents bathroom. They would come back with  a resolution agreement which  bore only  minimal resemblance to the previous 2 hour discussion which I had religiously minuted on my crisp trainee notepad. I was left  bemused and bewildered. These were the days when feeling a hand on your bum in the  photocopy room  was par for the course and the term sexual harassment  hadn’t even been invented.

Has anything changed?

So imagine my distress when I found out that despite the passage of time (…. not saying how much) this sort of unequal treatment  seems to be ongoing.  Today, according to Janez Potočnik European Commissioner for Science and Research 60% of European graduates are female,  so in real terms women should indeed be a force to be reckoned with on  any job market. However,    I read a few days ago,  that I am living in a country which now holds 60th placing in the  World Economic Forum  table on the  Global Gender Gap rankings  sub index,  relating to economic participation and job opportunity.

Marcus Buckingham in the Huffington Post  tells us that  it is the failure of women to  actually step up  and negotiate which is at the root of the problem : “according to a study at G.E., men return to the negotiating table on average six times, while women average between zero and two” . Cumulatively over a career he estimates that this shortfall could mean as much as  $o.5m  loss of earnings in a female employee’s bank account.

In their book  Women Don’t Ask:  Negotiation and the Gender Divide,  Linda Babcock and Sara Laschever give some further worrying statistics about the context and long-term economic  implications of this passivity.

In Belgium, Isabella Lenarduzzi — founded  Jump,  an initiative  to  support women in the workplace  in Belgium,  which has achieved incredible success in providing a secure environment for women to pursue personal development.

Negotiation is a learned skill

But despite these efforts, unfortunately, as a recruiter I come across this discrepancy all the time with monotonous and disheartening regularity.   I do  believe that negotiation is a skill that can be learned and as a coach I have a segment  in my programme covering salary negotiation,   but  as divorce rates rise and single parenthood households are also increasing, the need for women  to work rapidly towards economic parity  is more signficant than ever before.

 So ladies,  consider this:

  • If a person cannot successfully negotiate for themselves it  can bring into doubt their ability to effectively negotiate for their company.
  • Ineffective or inconsistent negotiation practises leads to general vulnerability- not just in the work place . 
  • To be consistently paid less than the market rate  can indicate a lack of  lack of self worth  – as above,  leads to vulnerability.
  • Good fair negotiators are respected. Self respect fosters confidence
  • Despite what you think , there should be nothing you eventually can’t walk away from.

So what do you have to do to get to this happy place?:

  • Understand and be able to articulate all your areas of added value. This enhances self respect and confidence and increases your expectations, because you now believe in yourself.
  • Salary research  –  be aware of your own market place and know your value in it. Calculate any shortfall. Facts talk!
  • Don’t take any discussions personally –  get into business neutral.  Negotiation is only a process, nothing else.
  • Build a business case
  • Look at fringe benefits as well as financial incentives. Benefits can eventually have a high monetary value and also play an important role in work/life balance issues. There is a caveat in the sense that  generally benefits do not count toward pensionable earnings if there is a  scheme.  Factor this in fully.
  • Evaluate any rejection neutrally  – the question should be not be ” do you want to stay in this job?” – but  “when would be a good time to leave? My employer doesn’t value me”.   

If you discover that you are paid below the market rate , need to negotiate a salary to start a new job only to  find yourself struggling with that process you have 2 options only:  find yourself a career coach a.s.a.p.  or  find yourself another employer.