Imagine turning up to work every day knowing the person sitting opposite you is doing everything in their power to push you out of your job. That was the shocking reality for Naomi Joy, a 30-year-old former PR director from London, who witnessed and experienced 'toxic femininity' throughout her career. She reveals one female colleague in her thirties once declared everyone in the office 'hated her', while another tricked her into making a mistake so that she would be favourite for a promotion. It eventually led to Naomi quitting her job and penning The Liars, a psychological thriller about two rivals competing for a promotion, inspired by her own shocking experience.
It had been building for a while. I'd been walking on eggshells for months, trying not to provoke one particular female colleague prone to passive aggression and making snide remarks. In her early thirties, bright and energetic, she had seemed supportive at first, keen to be friends in the chic PR agency where we worked....
Evelyn Cotter, a career coach who founded SEVEN Career Coaching, told me that female clients routinely claim they have been undermined by other women.
'I've been consistently shocked in my career and business to see female rivalry and jealousy as the norm,' she said. 'Sadly, as women we exist in a world designed by generations of men. The office is a heightened masculine environment and a system that is not set up for women to flourish and thrive, unless they develop more masculine traits, and, even then, success is not easy. Women subconsciously understand that they start on the back foot. This breeds insecurity which, in turn, breeds fear.'
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Written by Hayley Richardson