Think another woman is out to get you? Here's
how to watch your back.
By Aliza Pilar Sherman
|Do women sabotage other women in business, and, if so, what
can be done about it? We asked two experts with differing views for
advice. "Women are relationship-focused," says Cheryl
Dellasega, associate professor at Penn State University College of
Medicine at the Penn State Milton S. Hershey Medical Center in Hershey,
Pennsylvania, and co-author of Girl
Wars: 12 Strategies That Will End Female Bullying. "Early
on, women learn their connections with each other can be very powerful
or very damaging." Dellasega believes women who learn to get their
way through aggression as girls continue these behaviors throughout
life. "They may not even be aware of how sabotaging their behavior
According to Julie Overholt, a professional certified executive coach
and certified behavioral analyst in Plano, Texas, sabotage is committed
by anyone—male or female—who feels powerless. "Women running
businesses are not powerless and, in my experience, are far less
inclined to sabotage other women," says Overholt. "Women
entrepreneurs understand the real, long-term value of building
relationships instead of burning bridges."
For her next book, due out in 2005, Dellasega spoke with many women
in business and found women often sabotage other women out of a belief
that "if you succeed, it takes something away from me."
Sabotage can manifest itself in many ways, including "failing"
to pass along opportunities that might benefit another woman or sharing
them with her competitors instead. Saboteurs may also speak
disparagingly about the other woman or choose not to refer clients or
business to her.
Overholt says if a woman thinks she has been sabotaged, it could be
because, in trying to understand what she is experiencing, she may be
looking for evidence in situations and observations that validate her
suspicion she is being sabotaged. "If they need to believe that
women sabotage women to justify their own experience, then that's what
they will find."
Whether the sabotage is real or perceived, both Overholt and
Dellasega have advice for women business owners who believe they have
been sabotaged. "Honor your fear, but keep in mind that fear is a
caution sign, not a red light, so proceed with caution," says
Overholt. "Ask questions of people you respect and who respect you.
Listen carefully to their replies. Look dispassionately at the evidence
you gather about how women business owners behave toward other women
entrepreneurs. Does the evidence support your fear? Or does it lead to a
different conclusion?" She also advises looking within and asking
yourself if you have some responsibility in what you are experiencing.
Dellasega suggests several ways to protect yourself from sabotage:
Surround yourself with a solid network of women you know from experience
to be positive resources and great supporters. And get to know other
women you're thinking of associating with before sharing ideas and
If you feel you have been sabotaged by another woman in business,
Dellasega says sometimes the best thing to do is to rise above it and
turn to your personal and professional network for support. "There
can be legal options for restitution, but these remedies take
time," explains Dellasega. "For women, the emotional
connotations attached to sabotage often do the most damage." In
speaking with women who feel they have been sabotaged, she heard less
about the material damage and more about the pain of betrayal.
Overholt suggests if you believe another woman has sabotaged you, you
should be open, honest and direct in questioning the woman. "Often,
we find other people are acting out of their needs and really not
thinking about us. Any harm they do us is unintentional," she says.
"Calling it to that woman's attention in a forthright manner is a
good way to find out her true intention."
Aliza Pilar Sherman (www.mediaegg.com)
is an author, freelance writer and speaker specializing in women's
Marriage in U.S. Cities
|San Francisco Mayor Gavin Newsom ignited a nationwide furor
when he ordered city clerks to begin issuing marriage licenses to
same-sex couples on February 12, 2004. Following his lead, a number of
other U.S. cities began granting marriage licenses to same-sex couples.
Over 4,000 same-sex couples were married in San Francisco before the
California Supreme Court, on March 11, ordered the city to stop
issuing marriage licenses. In June, the court will decide a narrow
constitutional issue: whether Mayor Newsom had the right to follow his
own interpretation of the California constitution even though it
conflicted with Propsition 22 -- the California law that says
that marriage can be between only one man and one woman. The court will
also probably decide whether or not the marriages that were performed before
the court order are valid.
The California Supreme Court will also have to look at the broader
legal issues surrounding same-sex marriage, because the Lambda Legal
Defense and Education Fund and the National Center for Lesbian Rights
have filed legal challenges to Proposition 22. These will take some
time to move through the courts, but should result in a high court
decision about whether discrimination against same-sex couples in the
realm of marriage is legal.
The U.S. Congress is poised to consider a constitutional amendment to
ban same-sex marriage. In the meantime, marriages continue in New Paltz,
New York, despite New York Attorney General Elliot Spitzer's declaration
that the weddings are illegal, and in Multnomah County, Oregon. Two
clergypeople have been charged with crimes in New York for performing
same-sex weddings in defiance of Spitzer's order.
It's unclear what cities, counties, and states will recognize
marriages from the few locations where they are or have been available.
There are also questions about the impact of marriage on a couple's existing
domestic partnership or civil union. Gay and lesbian families are in
uncharted legal territory, and the status of same-sex marriage changes
from day to day and week to week. For the most current information,
check out the Lambda Legal Defense and Education Fund at www.lambdalegal.org,
the National Center for Lesbian Rights at www.nclrights.org,
and Equality California at www.eqca.org.
Enacts Sweeping New Domestic Partner Law for 2005
|Registered domestic partners in California will have many
new rights and responsibilities under AB 205, the new domestic partner
law that goes into effect on January 1, 2005.
Under AB 205, registered domestic partners will be entitled to the
same legal treatment as spouses in most areas of state law: Community
property laws will apply, as will the right to seek support from one's
partner after a breakup. Children born into a domestic partnership will
be considered the children of both partners, without the need for an
adoption. Partners will be responsible for each other's debts, and
in most circumstances will have to use the court system to terminate
their partnership, rather than simply filing a termination notice as is
possible now. This is only a partial list of the rights and obligations
created by AB 205. It's important to remember that this is a state law,
and that the federal government does not recognize domestic
partnerships. Domestic partners are not entitled to their
partners' Social Security benefits or to any other federal benefits that
married couples get. Domestic partners cannot file their federal tax
returns jointly, and are required under the new law to file state
tax returns under the same status as their federal, so they also can't
file state tax returns jointly. . Also, a domestic partnership in
California won't be recognized in other states (except Vermont, where
the civil union law is very similar), so partners won't necessarily get
the rights they are entitled to under California law when they move to a
The law doesn't go into effect until January of 2005, and in the
meantime there is an attempt underway to get a referendum on the March
2004 ballot to repeal AB 205. Stay tuned for further developments on
this important new law.