5 Ways Women Can Stop Tearing Each Other Down at Work

CNN/Stylemagazine.com Newswire | 3/25/2015, 8:05 a.m.
There have been a few times in my career when I've been thoroughly disappointed -- even disgusted -- with my ...
Sophia Nelson, author of the The Woman Code Photo by Jo-Carolyn Goode

By Kelly Wallace

CNN

(CNN) -- There have been a few times in my career when I've been thoroughly disappointed -- even disgusted -- with my fellow women in the workplace.

No, I certainly don't expect all my female colleagues to go out of their way for me and sing "Kumbaya" together in the office, but I'm always stunned when a woman who could have been helpful to me wasn't, when a woman who could have been a mentor chose not to be, when a woman tried to hurt me because of her own fear, anxiety or what have you.

I'd love to say more about each of the women I've met along the way who fit those descriptions, but my point is not to single anyone out. My goal is to ask the question, "Why?"

Obviously, not all women are like this and there are plenty of men guilty of the same behavior, but why do so many women try to tear each other down instead of lift each other up?

I figured this would be a perfect question for Sophia Nelson, author of a new self-help book for women called "The Woman Code," and she didn't disappoint.

"From the time we're little girls, we're taught to compete," said Nelson during a recent conversation at CNN. "I need to be prettier, taller, smarter, my hair needs to be straighter, curlier, whatever it is. I need to get the better looking guy. I need to always be better than because we're taught to come from a place of lack as women."

The way Nelson, an award-winning author and journalist, radio and television personality and motivational speaker, sees it, we women need to start operating like the boys.

Men "operate from a sense of, there's this whole pie, and I want my piece, and I don't care if he gets his piece, and maybe we even have to work together to start that business, start that company," said Nelson.

Of course, it's easier for a man not to worry "if he gets his piece" since there are plenty of pieces of pie available for men in terms of management positions in corporate America, but that isn't the case for women. Today, just 5% of S&P 500 chief executives are women and only 14% of the top five senior leadership positions at those companies are held by women, according to a CNN Money analysis.

Decades ago, the situation was even worse. When I was just starting my television news career in 1990, women who were in their 40s and were in high-level positions were the only women in a position of influence. Naturally, many of them often viewed other women as threats who could take their job.

"Because they didn't think there could be ten of them, they only thought there could be one of them," said Nelson. "Fast forward 20 years later. Now there ... are a number of women partners at big firms, a number of women in Congress. I could keep going on and on so ... there is a place for more of us."