Research: Women Are More Successful When They Support Each Other

Hell Yes: Women Are More Successful When They Support Other Women

Happy female runners hugging at charity run finish line, celebrating
Image via Caiaimage/Sam Edwards / Getty

Strong, close female friends might be part of the key to workplace success for women

From the moment we enter any life scene, be it school, work, or social, women are taught to compete with one another. It’s all over the media we consume — movies like Mean Girls and TV shows like The Bachelor, while admittedly some of my favorites, are some of the worst when it comes to conditioning women and girls to be catty, underhanded and manipulative, not toward men, but toward each other.

So when the highest-level and highest-paying jobs are dominated by men, can we really be surprised? What if, instead of cutting each other down and constantly competing, women supported one another, built one another up? Would we then become as competitive in the workplace as we know we can be?

Research says yes.

A new study published in the Harvard Business Review shows that people of all sexes and genders benefit from having a close inner circle of successful, supportive people. But the research showed that women are more likely to achieve the highest possible levels of success in their careers if their inner circles are made up of successful, supportive ladies. For men, the gender makeup of that close group of friends didn’t really matter in the numbers.

Researchers posited that this is because women in particular face certain systemic challenges in the workplace (like pay inequity and unconscious bias) that can get in the way of their success. But when they surround themselves with supportive ladies, they find themselves with a network of people who truly understand the unique challenges women face and can offer advice and support that men simply can’t. This is apparently the push we ladies need to get to the next level of success — the women in the study who had these supportive inner circles of other ladies were found to be more likely to land jobs that have higher levels of responsibility and higher pay.

You know, the jobs that are statistically more likely to go to men.

“There’s a new girls’ club that we didn’t have before, because the workplace was largely male dominated,” Sider Road CEO and office culture and politics expert Jocelyn Greenky told Forbes. “Now that so many more women are entering the workplace, we’re finding our voice. We’re also building circles of trust with one another because we may be experiencing similar hurdles, and have each other’s backs.”

This study isn’t exactly presenting brand new information, either. A past study showed that women are more likely to continue education in undergraduate engineering programs if their programs have healthy female populations. Another study showed that girls who are friends with women who are high performers in STEM fields are more likely to pursue education in math and sciences themselves. And West Point, a prestigious military academy, collected data from the first of its classes to allow women and found that dropout rates for female recruits fell as their overall numbers in the school rose.

The science here is clear. When women support one another, we only do better — in work, in school and in life.