• Fri, May 13 2011

Chutes And Ladders: Why Women Sometimes Pull Up The Ladder Behind Them

The concept of “pulling up the ladder,” isn’t just specific to women in the workplace. It’s a term for anyone who achieves a certain level of stature, then turns their back on their own kind. The phrase dates back as far as the middle of the nineteenth century when immigrants came to America in pursuit of a better life and once they were established, absolved their moral (and shall we say human?) responsibility to give other immigrants the same chance they had.

To be completely candid, this is a white man’s world. While both women and minorities have made huge accomplishments in the professional world, they are still a small fraction of the pie chart. As with any group that has been oppressed, the struggle to achieve success is ongoing, and at the same time nothing new.

However despite this, there is a disturbing trend among successful women of pulling up the ladder behind them and preventing the same professional glory to either their just as qualified peers, or their up and coming subordinates. It’s as though they’re happy at the top and don’t see the need in sharing it with any other female employee no matter how talented or skilled they may be.

It has been proven that women take on male attributes when they reach high levels of success and in doing so, they become cut-throat and tend to lose that perceived feminine soft side. Their priorities become more about career and money, and less about fostering relationships. It’s a trend that is sad, and one that is doomed to leave the successful woman in question eventually alone. That’s why they say it’s lonely at the top.

A perfect example of this behavior would be Jodie Foster. She sits at the peak of a list of female directors who are actually able to get financing for their films, but instead of casting new faces or employing other women, she opts for the likes of Mel Gibson. When asked about being a female director in Hollywood, Foster condones their actions by pointing out that male executives want directors who “look” like them and “talk” like them.

Frankly, the term “pulling up the ladder” can be equated to any female boss who goes out of her way to prevent the success of those around her. Other examples of famous vindictive and mean bosses known to keep younger women from reaching a higher level of success: Vogue’s Anna Wintour and Naomi Campbell. Campbell is known to be ruthlessly oppressive both verbally and physically. When she’s angry and holding a phone, it’s best to run like hell.

But the question remains: is it every successful woman’s responsibility to help out a fellow woman? If the female boss in the fancy expensive chair got there on her own, does this mean she has to give handouts to all who follow her? What it really comes down to morals.

No one is morally obligated to help anyone else if they can sleep at night. And some will say if I did it, you can do it, too. In fact, no one seems to be affected or care if a man pulls up the ladder behind him. Women seem to be expected to stand by each other and stick to the sisterhood pact, even though no one can seem to remember who agreed this should be the case.

What do you think?

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You can reach this post's author, Amanda Chatel, on twitter.
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