Why Shouldn’t Women be Competitive?


I read a great post yesterday over at Rosalilium, and followed some of the conversation it sparked on Facebook.

The general thrust of the conversation was: competition bad; collaboration good.

Wouldn’t it be lovely if bloggers could support one another without question, celebrate others’ successes as we would our own, and view each other as peers?

And I’ve got to be honest – my gut reaction is to say no.

Put it this way – have you ever read an article that wonders why men in business can’t support one another, and be more brotherly? Have you ever seen a man in business be criticised for being too driven, too focused on success? When a man loses out on a contract to a competitor, do we expect him to smile and say, “Having you win is almost as good as winning myself!” 


It’s a conversation we have about women.

And that’s why I refuse to join in.

I’m a woman, and I’m competitive. I’m competitive when I play scrabble with my Mum. I’m competitive (in my head) against the other women swimming in the pool each morning. And I’m competitive in my work.

I refuse to apologise for this.

Being competitive means I look around at what other people are doing, and what I’m doing myself and I’m always asking, “How do I do it better?” 

Being competitive means I look for things other people aren’t doing, and try to do stuff first.

Being competitive means I absolutely do mind when I miss out on an opportunity to a competitor. I want to know why I lost out, and how I can win next time.

I am competitive and I want to raise a competitive daughter. In fact, I lectured my daughter in the car on the way to school this morning

Does that mean I don’t think women should support one another? No, of course not. Many of my best friends in blogging are people I collaborate with, sometimes. I think together, women can and do achieve amazing things. Plus, collaborating is often just really great fun.

If I can celebrate one of my friends who blogs, or writes, or runs a small business, then I am all over that.

But we also compete fiercely – and I suspect their drive is part of the reason I respect and like them so much.

Here’s the thing: women can support one another while also challenging each other to be better, to achieve more, to reach further.

When a friend writes a kick-ass blog post, when she’s named a top blogger by a newspaper, when she wins an award, or gets a mention on TV, I’m excited for her, but it also motivates me.

I want that achievement too. I want to be acknowledged for my work, too. It drives and inspires me.

When my friends are at the top of their game, it pushes me to be at the top of mine. And when a friend achieves something amazing, I don’t think it makes me any less of a friend to send them a card or a note saying how proud I am (but I’m TOTALLY gunning for that accolade next year). And I hope they’d do the same for me.

Would you? Let me know your thoughts!


15 thoughts on “Why Shouldn’t Women be Competitive?”

    1. Absolutely – I am 100% about supporting and helping other women but ONE of the ways I do that is by doing my absolute level best to achieve as much as I can, and in the process, I provide opportunities for other women to work with, and for my company. I couldn’t do that if I refused to compete.

  1. Where there is one winner (an award, a business contract, a race, even a game of scrabble) then I agree that we should be competitive. Sisterly love is great for when you winning doesn’t mean me losing e.g. if we both take part in a fun run (as if ;~) ) or if your business takes off and, as a teacher, I’m not even in business, Collaboration is fine if both sides gain equally from it. I wouldn’t collaborate on a project on your blog whereby mine gets no benefit. Having said that, we all do this in a way, all the time. Every time we write a comment on another blog we are collaborating to promote that blog. In this case we just have to believe in blog karma – and it actually does work :~).

    1. I think you’re right when you say if you winning doesn’t mean me losing – for me that’s it entirely. I can be supportive of you but I will compete with you just the same.

  2. I’ve really enjoyed the discussion around this topic both on the blogs and Facebook. It was something that came about as I was told that a peer said no to me working with them as I was their ‘competition’. It was the first time I’d heard anything like that and it totally weirded me out as I didn’t consider it that way at all.

    I think you’re right about the notion of competition being useful for pushing ourselves to achieve more. It’s seeing others doing well that encourages me to work harder.

    But I think the most important thing you mentioned is that men wouldn’t say these kinds of things at all. That’s given me some real food for thought. Thank you!

    1. Oh, thanks! Competition is a real spur to me, to do new things, to work harder. I thrive on it, really.

      Possibly there are projects I wouldn’t do in my work, because I wouldn’t want to raise the profile of a competitor. But only if that project was related to my work specifically. The fact that I do X and you do X doesn’t mean we can’t collaborate very successfully on Y, if you see what I mean.

  3. I think women really struggle wit being competitive and also being supportive, it’s a hard balance and one we could really improve on if we truly saw each other as in it together

    1. Absolutely I think as women we ARE in it together. Every woman who succeeds makes it a little easier for other women to follow them. But not trying to compete doesn’t do anyone any favours, I don’t think. You’re right though, this is hard stuff.

  4. There are two sorts of competition that people engage in. One is to my mind okay, the other unhelpful.

    Competing to do the best you can and be the best isn’t inherently wrong, and in a society where we have non competitive sports day and “delayed success” in studies, I think it’s absolutely right to push competition and push yourself and encourage it in your kids.

    On the other hand, for some succeeding isn’t enough, they have to succeed at the expense of others. I also refer to it as Conan Syndrome: “What’s the best thing in life Conan?” To which the Cimmerian replies, “To crush your enemies, to see them driven before you and to listen to the lamentations of their women.” This is quite negative obviously.

    I think we all struggle to stop veering into the second when we aim for the first, especially as bloggers. That’s why I seldom enter competitions where a blog post is your entry. I have a 50% success rate in the ones I’ve chosen to enter but it brings out the worst in me when I don’t win because obviously I should have won.

    I am fiercely fiercely competitive, which is why I chose not to compete much.

    Bringing it round to the actual subject of whether women should be competitive though, it reminds me of a comment I put on FB the other week. I’ve been a long standing member of a FB Dad Bloggers group. It’s mostly Americans as there are an awful lot of American dad bloggers (enough for their own conference, with hookers, and blackjack etc) but it is incredibly supportive. I then look at the one UK parent blogger group I’m still in and the first post I see is by an admin warning people to be aware that members are screen shotting comments and emailing them to PR agencies for personal gain. I made the throw away comment that whenever you get a group of women together back-biting and chaos will ensue and I wasn’t really being serious but I’ve left other groups with a large majority of female members for pretty much those same reasons, so maybe I was being serious in my usual offhand flippant manner. Having said that I don’t really know enough male bloggers to know if it’s a trend there too; most of the male bloggers I know are either ‘tech or film bloggers and they’re all quite matey with each other.

    1. That Conan quote is going RIGHT onto my business cards.

      Also, you know what – women are generally more liable to spat then men, when put into groups. I suspect it’s frustration because they’re so often disadvantaged and have to fight harder for recognition, but that’s just my theory. But it’s 100% not just a blogging thing, much less just a parent blogging thing. The exhausting spats I’ve seen in buy and sell groups, PTAs, the church choir… people fight. Human nature, blah blah.

      It’s interesting about recognising your own personality and how you respond to competition. I think most people who know me will tell you that when I feel like I’ve lost a competition I rage for about 12 hours and then I put my mind to doing something better. It spurs me on to do more stuff. But some people react badly to competition and perhaps that’s where you get problems – someone who feels they lose might look for an excuse (it wasn’t fair, it was because I’m stupid/untalented/whatever) and then you end up with hostility and/or unhappiness. That’s not good. But perhaps if we had more competition people would learn to be better sports about such stuff. Which brings me onto the nonsense of the non-competitive sports day…

  5. Absolutely it is good for us to be competitive and I particularly dislike the idea that being competitive isn’t feminine

    I’m fairly certain most bloggers ARE competitive (haven’t you seen the fuss when a metrics changes it’s methodology / someone posts a ranking of the ‘top’ bloggers???)

    And yes I am so competitive I ‘race’ the satnav on long journeys….

  6. Such a great post to read and muse, My instant thought is that I’m not particularly competitive but actually as I ponder on it more I’m sure I am. I think it is like others have said, if me winning is not at the expense of you then that is OK but if I have to trample and crush people to get there then I’m not interested. Mich x

  7. I like this and I agree with it. I’m fiercely competitive, but only when I know I can win. I’m not a competitive blogger because I’m not good at it. I love it, but it’s not my thing. But get into the water on the opposing side to me in a water polo match and heaven help you. Of course we should be competitive, but competition is about winning, not about taking part. That doesn’t stop us from taking part in things we’re crap at but I do think there is an important distinction.x

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