Women leaders urged against pulling up the ladder after they climb

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annapattyFemale career climbers have been urged to leave the ladder down instead of pulling it behind them after they reach the top.

National Mental Health Commissioner Lucy Brogden made the plea in her address on Friday to the Committee for Economic Development of Australia women in leadership series in Sydney.

She said she was disappointed that many women leaders were not leaving a legacy for others to follow. They were refusing to help other women repeat their success.

"It saddens me when I hear about women who pull up the ladder behind them," she said.

"The ladder lifters should take time to think of their own behaviour."

Mean girls aplenty

Mrs Brogden said some female bosses still behaved like "high school mean girls" and the "queen bee" syndrome was alive and well in Australian workplaces.

The queen bee is not a team player and disassociates herself from other female colleagues to achieve individual success and mobility.

"Speaking to many women in workplaces, the syndrome still thrives," Mrs Brogden said.

"Women argue that far from nurturing the growth of other female talent, they see colleagues pushing aside possible competitors by undermining their self confidence and professional standing."

Mrs Brogden, who has been named as one of 100 Women of Influence in Australia, said she risked being labelled a traitor to the sisterhood when she called out women for being bad leaders of women.

"But I firmly believe that if you don't acknowledge something, you can't change something," she said.

Male bosses preferred

She said survey after survey had found women preferred to have a male boss, saying they did not want to work for a woman.

A 2013 Ranstad study had found 44 per cent of Australian employees preferred a male boss.

A more disturbing find from 95 per cent of respondents in another study was that women had felt undermined by a female colleague at least once in their career.

"What's going on?" Mrs Brogden said.

"How do we get ahead in the workforce if half of us don't want to work for each other."

Mrs Brogden said part of the problem was women leaders who tried to overcompensate their behaviour to become "something that we are not".

"And if we are not authentic, this can and does end in tears."


Anna Patty is Workplace Editor for The Sydney Morning Herald. She is a former State Political Reporter and Education Editor

This article originally appeared in The Sydney Morning Herald 

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