Are Business Women More Receptive to Helping Each Other Online?

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Back in the 80’s (when I first entered the corporate world), I was often amazed at how few female mentors there were. There were the occasional exceptions but for the most part I witnessed business women actually sabotaging each other’s career paths in attempts to further their own. I witness similar behavior today in the U.S. when women run for political offices and are often held up to different standards than their male counterparts. (If they’re raising a family, this seems to be especially true.)

Do you think times have changed? When I look at my mini-support groups (online), the vast majority of them are comprised of women. There are definitely men in my circles but when it comes down to needing  someone to offer words of encouragement or to empathize with, the people that seem to be the quickest to volunteer to help me tend to be women.

What are your experiences? For the men reading this, I’d like to hear from you too. Now there are stand-out men in my circles who have helped me incredibly and I’m certainly not minimalizing (is that even a word?) their help. I actually have always found men to be very eager to help – much more than a lot of the women that I worked with in the for profit world. (The non-profit world was a totally different experience.) Could it be that men don’t generally feel threatened by women in the workplace? Are business women more competitive among women than they are with men? Have things changed or is it just me?

Do you feel that in this online world where we can reach out to people across the continents that it’s becomes easier to meet like-minded people who we can collaborate and work with?  Is this new sense of togetherness and a willingness to help each other a reflection of the impact that networking online on social networking sites (like LinkedIn, Facebook, Google Plus and Twitter)  has had on how business women interact? Has Skype had a positive impact too?

This week, I want to give a shout-out to Marlee Ward who wrote the post “Why There’s Never Been a Better Time to Be a Chick in Business” on Tia Peterson’s BizChickBlogs. (Marlee’s article was the inspiration for this post.) Marlee has a few helpful links to information about women owned businesses and three inspirational tips for female entrepreneurs.  For those of you who may have missed it before, you may also want to read my post “Low Cost Resources Small Business Owners and Entrepreneurs Can Access”. Although a lot of the resources that I refer to are in the U.S., there’s a lot to be gleaned in the comment section too. (Hats off to the great readers here who generously share their thoughts and ideas.)

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Published by Sherryl Perry

Welcome! If you're looking for help building an Internet presence that fits your needs and works for you, you're in the right place. I blog common sense articles about WordPress, social media and SEO. My goal is to help small business owners and entrepreneurs understand their core business. Together, we can develop and implement business strategies that make sense to you.

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  1. Sherryl,
    That’s a very interesting question your asking here. I remember reading a passage by Barbara Sher where she said woman had been helping each other for generations. They did it by walking next door and asking for a cup of sugar. She talked about the “good ‘ole boys” network. One thing she proposed was that maybe women are less likely to ask for help…since they are often viewed as the helpers. Not sure if she was correct, but it adds an interesting twist to the whole issue.

  2. Sharing of ideas among women is so natural. By sharing it gives more changes and productivity in business. Women do not compete each other personally but it assist others women to succeed in own business field.

    1. You have such a positive outlook Catherine! I still believe that sometimes, women can be our biggest enemies. I suspect that I’m a lot older than you. I have witnessed so many instances where women have undermined other women when I truly believe they wouldn’t have done that to a male counterpart. It is getting better, at least partly because of the attitudes of women like you. Thanks so much for joining the conversation.

  3. I believe that with the current state of the economy, it is getting tougher for women. They are turning against one another in order to secure a place for themselves. In the end however, who truly wins? That very same woman who you pushed down in order to be “queen for a day,” will one day probably be sitting across from you in an interview. What goes around comes around.

    1. Hi Adrienne,
      It sounds like you’re talking about the corporate environment. It saddens me to learn that your experience is similar to what I experienced in the 80’s. It’s unfortunate that still happens. For some reason, online I have met so many wonderful and supportive women. I hope you do too!

  4. Women are more competitive, at least the ones i know. They have a hard time setting aside differences. Men tend to take a more direct approach, and that relieves pressure. I’d also say we’re not as competitive as women are.

    But all these are in the end just stereotypes, people are people and they help each other as best as they know how.

    1. It’s true that it is stereotypes but I think you’re right that men are more apt to take a direct approach dealing with their differences. I do see more collaboration among women online. When I look at the support groups that I’m part of on social networking sites, the vast majority of the people I interact with are women. I never saw this amount of support in the corporate world. Although, I did see it in the non-profit sector. Thanks for sharing Stan.

  5. What a great post. Well, working online has already given people the opportunity to step outside of the traditional job role. I think this opportunity is not limited to gender, race, etc. basically because the internet is faceless. Great job at engaging your readers 🙂

    1. Thanks Pete. I’m grateful to my readers that they do join in on the conversation. I truly believe that we can all learn from each other. There have been times that I’ve edited my article to include something that was brought to my attention in the comment section. Other times, I’ve found great ideas for another post. (Plus, I find it fun to read and answer the comments.)

  6. You’d think that seeing how few we are, we’d be real tight and supportive to each other. But that is not how women work, my friend :))
    We’re really competitive, maybe because we keep trying to prove something to men, and whoever gets in our way will know pain, doesn’t matter if it’s a woman or a man.

    1. Claire, I really believe that in many ways women are becoming less competitive with each other. There are so many more opportunities to collaborate online. Hopefully, we’ll continue to make strides towards supporting and helping each other.

  7. I think that the situation is much better now then it was in the 80s. Everything is different, even the competition and the goals we set for ourselves.

    Therefore, I believe that the need for mutual help is greater nowadays when we are not direct competitors and have the Internet as our mutual working place.

    1. Hi Ana,
      Thanks for taking the time to join us. I like how you describe the Internet as our “mutual working place”. I agree with that concept completely. I often feel like I’m having a virtual cup of coffee with friends.

  8. Hi Sherryl

    I’ve had similar experiences myself. Back in the 80’s I think women felt the need to mirror their male counterparts to achieve the success they were chasing. In doing so they became they got the reputation of “ball breakers” Sisterhood and helpfulness was lost on these poor souls.

    Fortunately I think those days are done and dusted, although there’s probably remnants of that culture somewhere out there in corporateville.

    Similarly to a number of your readers I agree that you either come from a place of giving or taking. Gender is non specific to that mindset. I’ve met some amazingly helpful people online and offline, and I believe that will continue to be the case.

  9. I have retired from the “work world’ and what you observed was largely true because competition was the order of the day. Today’s world is one of networking and sharing in a world where information and technology abounds and gets updated minutely. This new generation understands this and I think they share to get ahead. Today the gender issue is not so strong. Back then women competing to prove themselves, impress the men. We are way pass that now.

  10. Hi Sherryl,
    Thanks for the shot out! I’m glad the post served as inspiration and I definitely think that there is more of a collaborative mindset amongst women in business who connect online versus in the real world. That said, I think business is becoming more collaborative in general which is both powerful and encouraging. Thanks for asking these questions and encouraging us even more.

    1. Hi Marlee,
      Thanks for dropping by. I enjoyed your post because your enthusiasm about being a woman in business came through loud and clear. I absolutely love working online because of people like you and many others both men and women alike. I’ve been fortunate to meet many bloggers who are interested in collaborating and promoting each other. Maybe it can be less stressful working online and that makes us more open to collaborating or maybe things have changed in the brick and mortar world and women are becoming more supportive of one another. We can always hope.

  11. My personal opinion is that women are better when it comes to help each other. Men are a little bit more selfish and if they make money they doesn’t seem to care if the help some other human bean.

    But, when I buy a new E-book or something else I feel much more secure ig a woman wrote it.

    1. Thanks for joining the conversation Rasmus. I don’t think any one gender is more helpful or more competitive than the other. There are awesome male and female role models, mentors and leaders. As a woman, I get particularly upset when I see females who deliberately undermine other women in the workplace. Hopefully, this is a thing of the past.

  12. Women are the absolute *worst* – I’m at basically a c level manager and my boss is a woman. No one gets past her and nobody meets her standard. Fortunately I”m moving departments into one where promotions do happen. I have just found men tend to be more even day to day and more basic in ‘logic’ in terms of their decisions.

    1. Good luck Heather! I really hate to hear stories like yours. It’s unfortunate to report to a manager like yours whether they’re male or female. There are some wonderful female managers with great leadership skills. Maybe you’ll become one of them. 🙂

    2. When you look at Taoism and other eastern philosophies, giving and sharing is a typical female characteristic, whereas the opposite (taking) is more of a masculine characteristic. In my opinion (and from my experience), women are far more willing to give and share than men. Of course, there are always exceptions, and I guess one of those exceptions are women who are very ambituous and who strive to succeed in their career – probably, because in those women certain masculin aspects are more dominant.

      1. That’s a great point Robert that I had never thought of before. As I think back, being ambitious and assertive is definitely a trait of most of the women who exhibit the sort of behavior that I’m referring to. As a woman who tends to generally assume a more giving and caretaker role, I can never relate to that. Thanks. I could have really used this info back int the 80’s and 90’s but it still could be helpful to me. Sometimes, understanding where a person is coming from can be very helpful when you’re attempting to communicate with someone. I really appreciate your insight.

  13. I have generally found that there is little point is singleing out coworkers assocations based on gendre. I have always generally tended to gravitate towards working with people that have a mature attitude. I’m fortunate in my career path I’ve had the ability to choose. Women can be *real* bad when they are jealous and childish. Men tend to just be rude. But the women that are mature and working towards the same goal, tend to be on the same page as the men working towards common goals in the workplace and are indistinguishable at that level – again in my experience.

    1. I agree with you completely on not using gender as a criteria for how you treat or interact with someone. My observations have come from personal experiences. When I first read Marlee’s article, her joy of working and collaborating with women online came through and it made me smile. It really is a pleasure to see how women do work well together online. Since I’ve been out of the corporate environment for years, I can’t speak from personal experience as to how women treat each other in the workplace but it is interesting to hear the experiences of other women.

  14. I think times have definitely changed, but when I ask my Wife about this topic she says she will always prefer to work with men, because women, as much as they are gung-ho about women empowerment and moving ahead, it can go south very quickly in the workplace due to competition. But I think that with social media and skype this has a way of moving out of the way so true collaborations can take place, even friendships, which is an amazing thing.

    1. Hi Dennis, Thank your wife for me for her input and thank you for asking her. 🙂 I feel the same way as she does. The more I think about it, there may be hope for women promoting each other more in the workplace now than way back when I entered the corporate world. After all, a lot of us who lived through those decades have raised (or are raising) daughters of our own. Maybe we’ve instilled in them a sense of collaboration. Since some of the younger readers here (I’m betting your wife is quite a bit younger than me) haven’t experienced some of the negativism, maybe things are already changing.

  15. Wow! I can’t even imagine what it must have been like in the 80s with that kind of competitiveness among women. As a new entrepreneur, I’ve only found both women and men to be most helpful! Since my community consists of mostly bloggers, I do have more women blogging friends than men, but the men who do blog have been equally amazing!

    As for people who have been mentors to me, they have all been women. But I wonder whether that’s just a factor of probability. =)

  16. I’ve really only had two bad experiences with female colleagues. One actually got me laid off my job and (10 years later) apologized – she had done it because she was jealous of my work relationship with someone else. Another thought I was after her boyfriend (which I wasn’t and was really amusing because they didn’t tell anyone they were dating). Outside of that, I’ve had nothing but good experiences with other women in business settings, in person and online. It probably just has to do with the competitiveness of the job environment.

    1. Hi Kristi, Thanks for dropping by and commenting. That’s terrible that woman caused trouble for you but that is exactly the kind of thing that used to be commonplace. I can remember a friend of mine telling me how she was able to advance her career when a co-worker was out on maternity leave. This woman has a very successful career in a large corporation but I can’t condone some of the things that she did to get there. It’s probably as you say – due to the competitiveness of the job environment.

  17. I haven’t had negative experiences with women in the corporate world, so I can’t speak to that. But I do know there is an overflow of support from women (and men for that matter) on the internet and it’s greatly appreciated. I think, as you stated, it has a lot to do with the social aspects of social media these days, which is a good thing. It definitely opens us up to people outside of our normal circles, which allows for more diversity and somehow breaks down walls and opens people up in many ways.

    1. Hi Alexis, It’s good to see you here! The social media aspect of the Internet certainly makes it less lonely for someone working from home. There are so many people who are willing to help.

      I know you’re new to our Bloggers Helping Bloggers group on LinkedIn. You must be finding a lot of support there. It looks like you’re well on your way to becoming a part of my support group too. :
      )

  18. Hey,

    Yes I strongly believe it is because of the online age why women are a lot more willing to network with each other.

    I don’t think it’s just for us women either, men have also been much more willing to help each other through the networking sites listed above. Great read, off to check out Marlee’s post.

    1. Hi Melony,
      Thanks for weighing in on this. 🙂 Now that I’ve written this post, I wonder if part of the reason we’re more social is that the bloggers who want to help are the same ones who actively participate on the social networks that we visit.

  19. Agree with you in general Sherryl that women are more receptive to helping each other online than in the real world. It’s odd but for some reason I have the same experiences as you have. And like you wish to add that some men online are incredibly helpful but mainly it’s women I get a lot of help from online. In real life though, with exceptions, it’s men.

    1. Hi Catarina, Thanks for letting me know that you share similar experiences when it comes to working with women. I get more support online from women and offline from men. Maybe it’s partly due to the way men communicate.

      As for CommentLuv not working, I’ve been experiencing problems on other sites too. Whenever I don’t see my post showing up (next to the CommentLuv checkbox), I click CommentLuv on and off. You can usually see the search engines connecting to your site and retrieving your latest post(s).

  20. Hi Sherryl, It was nice to read your post and I must say that this can be a good topic for a discussion :). I feel in today’s time the women have come up or rather gone ahead in lot of areas whether its profit making organisations or non-profit making organisations. I have seen a big change in India also in the last decade where I see lot of successful women at the top level in all spheres and I guess men are ok and cooperative about it. I personally appreciate this a lot where women are balancing their personal and professional lives. Cheers !

    1. Hi Pranay, It’s nice to see you here and to hear the point of view from someone in India. It’s wonderful to see successful women in the workplace and so many women who are becoming business owners too. It’s time that we learned to support each other and become mentors. Thanks for coming by and commenting. It’s great to have you here.

  21. Hi Kristina,
    I was just reminiscing on how things have changed from years ago but I really do believe that it’s a totally different environment online than it is in the corporate world. From my experience, women can still be unfairly harsh on each other. It really is good to hear that you haven’t experienced that.

  22. Hi, Sherryl,
    I honestly didn’t notice that women or men in specific are more receptive to helping. Being opened to give a helping hand is something more related to generosity and good will rather than gender. I agree that sometimes if we are helped more by women we might start considering that women are the ones who tend to be more helpful, but that is just statistic data that can easily be out-beaten by the male population out there. My bottom line is: some people are selfish, while others are generous, and I don’t think generosity has to do anything with gender.

  23. I think one of the greatest advantages of working online is the support you get from the community. It feels wonderful when I get comments and emails from readers and fellow bloggers to let me know how much they appreciate my work. It’s good to know that a lot of bloggers and online marketers reach out to each other and exchange useful information.

  24. I started in engineering in the 80s. Very few women. I found the competition was from men my own age and that those my father’s and grandfather’s age were much more helpful.
    As for now, I’m finding that other women at extremely helpful and friendly.

    1. Hi Ann, I remember when engineering was a man’s field. I entered the technology field at the same time and my experience was somewhat different. Since I worked with computers, it was assumed that I could “type”. Therefore, it was very easy for male co-workers to expect me to take meeting notes and teletype and perform other secretarial type functions. I had to be consciously aware of avoiding this in staff meetings to preserve the perception that I was on the same managerial level as they were. It really was an entirely different environment back then.

  25. Sherryl,

    I started thinking. I agree, I too have gotten overwhelming support from men and women AND of any age. Bloggers are very open. But do you think it is because it is very competitive and if you “screw” someone over you can get a lashing on social media platforms? Does this make us all nice to each other?

    That is not the reason I am nice. I simply have always loved helping people and want the best for people who support me, thus supporting them.

    ~Allie

    1. Hi Allie,
      That’s an interesting suggestion. I think most bloggers are keenly aware of how damaging it can be to their reputation to openly attack or disparage a fellow blogger. I think that might help keep people in line.

      I’m beginning to think that even though there is a lot of competition (especially in certain niches) that there are so many more opportunities now that we operate virtually. A lot of bloggers openly collaborate and offer solutions. Maybe we’re fostering an environment that’s more conducive to helping small business owners and entrepreneurs to compete with big business. (It’s also a lot easier to meet nice people online.)

      1. Sherryl,

        You’re point makes more sense than mine does. I was actually playing a little bit of Devil’s Advocate. I mean, a company could hurt if a large enough tweeter bash them but I think your view makes more sense to the everyday business, bloggers and social networkers.

        The “culture” we have online is just like you said, many people collaborate as oppose to compete. There is so much out there to share, I don’t believe we need to fight over viewers and customers.

        And I get the sense of having a big brother or sister whenever I need it. When I started blogging I had so many bloggers willing to give me advise, usually in their comments, but they did it. They took time out to be sure I understood what they were writing. Mentors. Just yesterday, Brankica, gave me great advise. She did not need to. She could have simply said, “thanks for coming by”. But she didn’t, she gave me more than I needed.

        And, as for competition, it’s a good thing. Have you ever seen gas stations on every corner? Or hamburger joints lined up on a main boulevard? They know competition works. Online, we just tend to help each other a little more.

        It is so much easier to meet nice people online. If you seem in the least bit mean, the mob will go after you. I have seen it on forums and blogs. It can get scary.

        Thanks for the great article!!! I kinda went off topic but I do believe people, especially women online, are much more receptive online to their competition than offline. I would work with my fellow women bloggers any day over business women offline.

        ~Allie

        1. Allie, I don’t think you went off topic. I think this is a great conversation to have and it makes a good read. I always appreciate receiving comments and opinions that make me think. (Yes, I did have to really think about what you said and how to respond to it – which is good!)

          Your point about competition and gas stations is a a great observation. The thing about having competition is you can be pretty confident that there is a need/want for whatever it is you’re selling. Building awareness of your brand is hard enough without having to convince people that they need or want what you’re trying to sell. That’s an uphill battle.

          Bottom-line, sounds like you feel the same way as I do about our fellow female bloggers. Go team! 🙂

  26. Oh my gosh yes Sherryl, times have most definitely changed!

    Here’s a story for you – When we started our company in 1990 the men I work with/for offered help openly and the women seemed to despise that. They were in office positions for the most part, very skilled at their important positions but not the “business owner”. Of course being in construction, women were generally outnumbered in the on site aspect of the business as well. The men oftentimes treated us women as interns rather than experts in our trades.

    Today it’s quite a different construction world, women do go out of their way to help and support each other. The increase in women in construction overall has also seemed to level the playing field. Men aren’t so quick to treat you like a girl in a mans world!

    The women like you, Tia, and Marley who work/do business online are most supportive but not all are like you. I have to agree with Roberta, it seems there are quite a few on the “me” track. I really try hard to avoid that crowd.

    Great read, thanks Sherryl!

    1. Thanks Kathleen for sharing that with us. It’s great to know that things are changing in fields that used to be primarily looked at as a career path for men only.

      When you mention the “me” track, I can’t help but wonder if long term that those people won’t ever achieve their full potential. I don’t believe anyone can operate in a silo. We all need help. Those people will not build the long term relationships that will help them when they need it the most.

  27. Hi Sherryl,

    When I first started in marketing in the corporate world it was all men. Then as more women joined there was a greater level of competitiveness that I never understood.

    To me those that help both men and women are ones that are comfortable in their own skin which are the ones I have relationships with both online and offline. I would add that women are helping each other but still do not always ask for help and try and go it alone to solve problems.

    Great article.

    1. Susan,
      Do you think that women are more reluctant to ask for help than men? I wonder if we just may be in that caregiver mode and don’t want to bother anyone. I for one do always try to find my own solutions when I can.

      1. Yes I think they are. You are probably right about the caregiver mode and not want to bother them, which is rather silly when you think of it and can waste time or not get you to a solution more quickly.

  28. Sherryl. Having seen the corporate world during the same period you did, the self preservation model for many women existed and still exists.
    In the on-line world, Solopreneurs do help each other more but that depends. There are still a lot of people for whom everything is a one way street. And in the last 2 years, it has become even more of what’s in it for me.
    People, especially women can understand the long term investment in relationship but women can also be more vicious if they think they are being taken advantage of.

    1. Roberta, I’m actually relieved a little knowing that other women shared similar experiences to mine. I could write a book about my experiences at a large co-op owned by cranberry growers.

      I have been very fortunate to connect with a lot of very giving and knowledgeable people (both men and women) online. A lot o the “givers” congregate at the same sites and blogs – like the great bloggers who comment here! 🙂

  29. Sherryl — the question of whether women help other women has been asked so many times over the years. If it’s still being asked that means that it is not commonly accepted that women help other women. Some people are selfish: this includes women as well as men. So we should avoid them. They’re takers, not givers. I honestly believe you have to give first to get. Offering something without the expectation of something in return is probably contrary to what the business books teach us. But I believe that you’ve got to build trust before you can build a business.

    You are a member of my LinkedIn bloggers group so I know that women will help other women because we’ve been helping each other (thank you for your help). I belong to a professional group in New York called the Financial Women’s Association. I have met the most wonderful, giving women (we also have male members) in this group. They have helped me professionally and personally. That is one of the key reasons for its existence: women helping women. It works. But there will always be women — and men — who don’t give. That’s life.

    1. Jeannette, I’m overwhelmed by the support that I get online from both women and men. I agree with you that a lot of us help and collaborate. Reading Marlee’s post, (she’s quite a bit younger than me), I couldn’t help but think what a long way we’ve come and what a wonderful environment we’ve created for each other online. It’s been years since I’ve been in the corporate world but I still have female friends and relatives and (depending on the organization) from what I hear, it can still be very competitive and almost ruthless at times. On the other hand there are wonderful organizations run solely by women to support and promote women. I wish those resources had been available to me – way back when. 🙂