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I went to a women's college and spent four years learning about equality and promoting equality. Now that I have been working for five years I am all too aware of how women are put down in business and prevented from advancing. By men and by structures and processes that are positively archaic and make my stomach churn.

But now I am at a small new media firm. There is no lack of intelligent, ambitious women on the highest level, mid level, and entry level.

Do you have any idea how frustrating it is to learn that one of us spends her time re-wording directives, talking and bashing her co-workers, and insulting us behind our backs? I just found out that my co-worker, whom I have bailed out of many a crunch situation, has repeatedly bashed me to others. Its one thing to deal with this from men in the rigid corporation where I used to work - how do I deal with it from women? I feel like I'm back in middle school all over again and I'm not wearing the right shoes or something. Thanks.

I, too, went to an all women's college and then had to jump into the real world. Actually, your note confirmed something I often say about this generation, which is that, for us, the barrier to equality has moved. For instance, women used to confront this barrier to equality when they applied for college or for their first job. In other words, their choices were limited. Now, women can pretty much seek out any school and any career - though some still confront much resistance. But, four or five years into that career we confront the barrier - that is when we try to take maternity leave and too few fathers take paternity leave or when we want to retire or when we try to get our nerve up to ask for a raise. Anyway, all of this is to say, thanks for confirming something that I often say.

I think that the female bitterness is a response to these inequities. The workplace still sets up female competition. That is only one, two or three woman can succeed though dozens of men can, therefore, some women chose to ally themselves with the status quo - that is with the players - those who do the "picking and the choosing." I have heard many of my friends say that they actually hate working in a female department because there is this competitiveness. I have been lucky to work in mostly female environments, but I have witnessed the co-ed work environment where this caddyness is encouraged. It's similiar to how I compare my high school years, which were co-ed, to my college years, which were all woman - that is in the latter the male competition was eliminated. Each person was an individual rather than being in comparison or in contrast to someone else. It's a shame we can't hold onto that throughout life, but when we do, we will no longer need women's colleges, because it will be just life.

For some women it's natural for us to see woman as our allies and it's natural for us to encourage their success while on a parallel track pursuing our own. It doesn't have to be an either/or situation. Some people see these tracks as perpendicular and other women as competition, therefore, I think it's important to help these women see that actually pleasing women will get them further than pleasing men, because then they can become a force. Maybe start a brown bag lunch once a month for all of the women - or perhaps drinks after work once a month. I hope that helps - and good luck changing the status quo. Think of it this way - if you don't at least try there is no way of even knowing if it can change. With your help, it certainly can and hopefully will.


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