By Jessica Dean
PHILADELPHIA (CBS) — We hear a lot about how women don’t always get the same opportunities as men to advance professionally. They call it the glass ceiling. But it’s not just men in the way, researchers say. Sometimes it’s women.
At a Philadelphia chapter meeting of the National Association of Women Business Owners, behind each laugh and smile is an opportunity to connect and grow.
Hope Feldscher Horwitz says she wasn’t always supported this way. At an old job, she says, another woman and her female conspirator forced her out.
“I thought she was on my team,” Feldscher Horwitz said, “and I couldn’t believe when I found out that the two of them had been ganging up on me.”
It’s nothing new. A 2014 survey by Workplace Bullying Institute found when women bully, their target is another woman 68 percent of the time.
“For some reason, in my experience, women don’t always support women,” said Alexandra Eidenberg. She owns an insurance company. She thought she would get a fair shake from a female-owned business. They praised her proposal but passed on her anyway.
Eidenberg said they told her, “We’re not moving forward with you because you’re a mom. It kills me because they had every opportunity to empower another woman and chose not to.”
The fewer women around, the worse it can get. A 2012 George Mason University study showed that when a workplace has few women, those women help each other less.
Researcher Katherine Ryan said, “Women are less supportive of other women in conditions where they are both underrepresented in a workplace and feel there are only a few opportunities for advancement.”
Mazda Miles, who owns an events management company, says she’s seen it happen in corporate life.
“A lot of times it was like, ‘This is my only shot. And so you are now my enemy. You are now my competition.’ And it’s unfortunate,” Miles said.
“When they support you, they’re fabulous, and when they don’t, it’s high school and get out of the way,” said Feldscher Horwitz.
These women say they’re dedicated to being grown-ups who grow business for everyone.
“I’ve been in business for 45 years now. It has changed a lot and it’s getting better,” said Glenna Crooks, founder of SageLife LLC.
Donna Baldino, a global sales manager for a female-owned AV company, said, “You’re rising above and you’re bringing someone with you.”
Women who avoid helping other women, the researchers say, often do it unconsciously. They might fear there is no room for more women at the top, or worry that helping another woman could jeopardize their status.
To find out more about workplace bullying and women supporting women:
The Workplace Bullying Institute: http://www.workplacebullying.org/
The National Association of Women Business Owners: http://gonawbophilly.org/