Covert Competition : Are women holding each other back?

KPMG, 1 Snow Hill Queensway, Birmingham B4 6GH
Tuesday 22nd May 2018 11:00am to 12:30pm Add to my calendar
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WIBF Birmingham were delighted that Dr Mairi MacLeod was able to speak with us on the 22nd of May on Covert Competition. The event was generously hosted by KPMG.

Mairi started her career studying animal behaviour and for her PHD studied the mating and reproductive strategies of wild Samango moneys in South Africa. When she returned to the UK she became a freelance science journalist writing for New Scientist, the Guardian, the Observer, the Sunday Times and many more. She lectures at Edinburgh University, runs workshops, and speaks on the science of attraction, health and well-being, and success at work for women. Mairi is currently writing a book on competition among women.

Mairi gave us a fascinating insight into why women and men behave so differently at work and how we can improve our working relationships with everyone.

If we look at evolutionary biology, it was important for men to bond and work together as team’s, so they could hunt and fight warring tribes. They also had to compete with each other to secure the best mate! So, it’s no wonder they are quite vocal and compete quite openly.

Whereas women did not need to collaborate in this way, they tend to have a small group of close allies and have particularly close relationships with mother and daughters although this can be quite fraught, as anyone with a teenage daughter will know, but ultimately, they have a vested interest in protecting the genetic line.

We all know that we see men declaring their skills and expertise in the workplace whereas women tend to keep their heads down and just do a good job. Women will tend to take criticism from other women very poorly and will also value praise from a woman as more valuable than from a male colleague.

So, it’s important that we remember to be careful when giving developmental feedback to another women that it is given and received in the right way, as well as focusing on what they are doing well and what their skills are. Research shows that a group of women do not like having a female leader, whereas men are less concerned.

We have probably seen women who have been promoted acting as the “queen bee” and not necessarily helping other women get promoted. Mairi explained that this type of behaviour is observed in some types of Monkey’s where they have a hierarchal structure and the most senior female never grooms the younger more junior females in the tribe. She has no need to curry favour, whereas her more the junior females will groom the more senior females to curry favour and position.

A fascinating talk which lead to interesting discussions amongst the audience.

By Tara Zutshi

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