Women race to the last seat at the table. Art courtesy of Ana Galvañ.

The Women’s Network: How Women Everywhere Can Win

The Women’s Network: How Women Everywhere Can Win

Competition is part of our nature. It’s how natural selection works. Whoever does better, will last longer. It’s what English naturalist Charles Darwin cited as a contributing factor of natural selection in the 1800s and it’s what we’re taught to do every day in society: be the best. 

But at what cost? When do we stop trying to be the best and instead encourage others to be their best? Why does that seem so hard? 

For one, because we live in a male-dominated society, there’s a notion in place that there is only “one seat at the table” for women and, to get that seat, you have to make sure no one else does. In theory, it should be easy for a woman to encourage another to ‘reach for the stars.’ Nonetheless, when the stars are a single seat in the conference room of your dream job, it’s not so easy. 

However, there are many ways to overcome this mindset and I have been lucky enough to be a part of one on my campus: The Women’s Network.

While competition is in nearly everything we do, I’d like to focus on the competition that exists between women: what it is, why it happens, and how organizations such as The Women’s Network act as a solution to this problem. 

In a literature review done by author Tracy Vaillancourt on rivalry between women, she noted that women tend to use “indirect aggression over direct aggression” because, to put it lightly, it “maximizes the harm inflicted on the victim while minimizing the personal danger involved.” This means that women direct aggression in a more passive way because we understand that the effect can be more detrimental. It’s not only manipulative, but it’s intelligent manipulation. While this proves that women are intelligent, it also proves that sometimes our intelligence can be misplaced when we are pitted against each other. 

It was also found that females direct this aggression mainly towards other females for what the study reasons as “primed mating motives.” However, in a society where women are destined for more than just having babies, mating motives have become centered around other aspects of life such as school, jobs, and friends. 

In an article in the New York Times, writer Emily Gordon discusses her opinions on where this rivalry has come from. One of her main theories of female competitiveness is that “We aren’t competing with other women, ultimately, but with ourselves-with how we think of ourselves.” She is essentially saying that anyone who has ever felt resentment towards another woman for, for example, getting the job that they wanted, is just insecure. This could be true. But if so, where is this insecurity rooted? 

Well, maybe it’s the fact that even if we worked harder than our male counterparts, we know he is still going to get the job. Or if we both get the job, he will be paid more.

Women stand in the shadow of men at a company. Art courtesy of Jason Stout.

When digging deeper into the gender wage gap, its existence can be broken down into three components according to writer Robin Bleiweis. Bleiweis says that the gender wage gap is caused by differences in industries or jobs worked, in years of experience, and in hours worked. These components can each respectively be explained by women being forced into industries that succumb to gender norms, women being disproportionately forced out of work

to accommodate caregiving, and women working fewer hours to be a caregiver. All of this really boils down to one main component: discrimination. 

Since the beginning of mankind, or humankind dare I say, men were hunters and women were gatherers. Times have obviously changed, but not as much as they should. Hunters have turned into breadwinners and gatherers into caregivers. 

With these norms in place, insecurity is natural. How can we expect to be looked at as equals to our male counterparts if they already have a predetermined idea of what we’re supposed to be? 

Say that a woman does get the last seat at the table. She not only felt like she had to put her female coworkers down to get it, but once she’s there, she isn’t even considered an equal amongst her male coworkers. In a study done about men and women in leadership positions, it was found that women are viewed as more harsh when speaking by both men and women. And, unsurprisingly, women receive more negative feedback than positive compared to male leaders. 

It feels like women simply can’t win. 

But maybe there is a way. In an article for the Harvard Business Review, author Mikaela Kiner provides some ways to “break the cycle of female rivalry.” Among these, on the most basic level, she encourages women to “amplify other women” by reinforcing their ideas and giving credit where credit is due. By doing this , women are more likely to be heard and acknowledged for their work. Kiner also says that if you have a skill that is in “high demand” to be open to teaching others that skill rather than gatekeeping it with the one seat at the table in mind. While the list of solutions goes on, overcoming this competitive feeling is still easier said than done (keeping in mind why women even feel the need to compete in the first place). 

TWN-SDSU's logo.

Luckily, The Women’s Network exists to make it easier. The Women’s Network, or TWN for short, is an organization that exists on college campuses across the United States. I am lucky to be a part of TWN at San Diego State and to have found a community where competition is unheard of. Instead, TWN provides a comfortable space for women to come together to do what society has made it so hard to do: uplift each other. 

In an interview with the co-president of TWN-SDSU, Ariel Sabas, I got a little more insight on how TWN helps combat competition between women and instead promotes the idea that there is a seat for everyone at the table. 

Sabas touched upon how TWN personally helped her overcome her competitive nature that came along with being a part of a competitive cheerleading team. 

“From transitioning from my previous outlook on life and competitiveness and getting involved in TWN, I understand the value of uplifting my peers and learning from one another on our career and personal journeys. TWN is a constant reminder of how much you can accomplish when putting yourself in an environment that emphasizes women supporting women and working together to reach a common goal.” 

Sabas felt the insecurity that Gordon touched upon in her article and turned to TWN for help.

“I joined TWN at one of my lowest times where I doubted my own success and questioned my career journey and was uplifted by the positive environment and non-competitive peers who persisted through such barriers.” 

The Women’s Network helps women understand that they are not alone in their struggles, allowing women to relate with other women. In doing this, TWN replaces competition with empathy. 

Through this empathy at The Women’s Network, women all around the country and beyond can find a space where everyone has a seat at the table. One where women are comfortable and embraced. A space that allows every woman to feel like a winner. 


https://hbr.org/2020/04/its-time-to-break-the-cycle-of-female-rivalry https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3826209/ 

https://www.nytimes.com/2015/11/01/opinion/sunday/why-women-compete-with-each-other. html 

https://www.americanprogress.org/issues/women/reports/2020/03/24/482141/quick-facts-gend er-wage-gap/ 

https://psycnet.apa.org/fulltext/1990-14605-001.pdf?auth_token=ad0a7a577806a1f6ea30dc3fce9 e25b289c1d0c2 

https://www.refinery29.com/en-us/becoming-an-activist-help-women-guide?utm_source=pi nterest.com&utm_medium=pin&utm_campaign=branded