Published Summer 1991, Mt. Airy News, Frederick MD, column: Celebrity News
Though this article is dated, I believe the book it references addresses a valuable topic. Through Amazon, B&N, or out-of-print book sites, Ms. Barber's book can still be purchased.
If you're a woman in today's workplace, you need to read this column. Get a cup of coffee, find a cozy spot, and pay attention.
While setting up interviews for a trip to New York last April, I was offered a phone interview with Jill Barber, a Manhattan nonfiction book author. To be honest, at first I wasn't thrilled. For starters, I hate phone interviews. They never give the insight a face-to-face affords. Secondly, I wasn't sure how well a column on a non-fiction book author would go over here. It wasn't the norm.
I took the interview anyway. Standing in a hotel lobby, notepad and author's bio in hand, I spoke over the phone with Jill Barber. Her book, "Sisterhood Betrayed: Women in the Workplace and The All About Eve Complex," had recently been released by St. Martin's Press. I'd read the bio notes so I knew it was about how some women, when they "climb the corporate ladder," have no qualms about squashing other women in order to get to where they want to go. The "All About Eve Complex" is a reference to the 1950 film starring Bette Davis and Anne Baxter, where Davis' character betrays Baxter's (named Eve), by seeking her job, fame, even her boyfriend.
I knew all this beforehand. What I didn't know was how interested I'd become in the subject, and how much this goes on in the everyday workplace. Neither did I realize how many women today suffer from the repercussions of this problem simply because they haven't been trained to handle it. Barber decided to write the book from personal experience. She'd had a working relationship with another woman--had "lived in each other's pockets." The woman turned around and stabbed Barber in the back, using Barber to make her way to an authority position. It took Barber a long time to recover and, in talking to other women, she was surprised to discover she was not the only silent sufferer.
She feels the feminist movement has set women up to think they should be best friends, work together for a common goal. In the competitiveness of a workplace, this comraderie doesn't usually exist. The old work ethic, "The fittest survive," is the call of the day. Yet, now that mid-management is more and more populated by women who've not been taught to accept aggressive behavior as acceptable, the "buddy-buddy" idea of feminism can be detrimental. Backstabbing occurs as a defense mechanism more than anything else, and the women doing it don't necessarily realize it--nor will they admit to such actions. Because, as children, women learn to be caring and nurturing, they've never been taught proper competition.
Everything Barber explained made sense. The more she said, the more I agreed with. I even went so far as to offer a brief explanation of how this happened to me years ago, when I'd worked in an office and had a "real job." I could hear her voice perk up and she asked if I'd be willing to go on a TV talk show and discuss the incident.
Hence, a week later I was back in New York, at the studios of Lifetime Cable's "Attitudes," meeting Jill Barber. She was very forthright, honestly friendly, without any of the fake sugary sweetness of many female executives I'd met in the past. When she found out I'd been in that room for hours (having been flown in early by the TV show), she apologized. She said that if she'd known they would do it that way, she would've had me come to her Manhattan home instead of making me wait.
The panel consisted of Barber, myself, and two other women from different areas of corporate life who had been involved in "All About Eve" situations. I was impressed by how dedicated Barber was to her subject, as opposed to simply being an author on a book tour trying to sell books. She was impassioned, determined to show other women that they needed to take note of the "Eves" out there in countless American workplaces.
Even Linda Dano, host of "Attitudes" and star of NBC's daytime drama "Another World," had a war story to tell. On camera, she related that she'd been stabbed in the back when, as an office worker in her early twenties, a female co-worker played the game around Dano and slept with the boss to get a promotion both were qualified for.
I learned a lot by not turning down that interview with Barber. My eyes were opened and my experiences broadened. Her book, "Sisterhood Betrayed: Women in the Workplace and The All About Eve Complex" is available in all major bookstores. If your'e a woman working outside the home and in the company of other women, whether as a mid-level employee or an executive, it would behoove you to go out and buy this book. I'm sure that you, too, will learn a lot, both about yourself and the world you work in.