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Why are workers more resentful of criticism when the boss is a woman?

Source | | Sarah Todd

When former US secretary of state Madeleine Albright gives speeches, there’s one line she returns to again and again: “There’s a special place in hell for women who don’t help each other.” Her signature sentence has appeared, with occasional variations, on Starbucks cupsT-shirts, and mugs, and supplied Taylor Swift with a ready retort after comedians Amy Poehler and Tina Fey cracked wise about her love life.

Most feminists would readily agree with Albright’s sentiment—namely, that women who help and advocate for one another play a crucial role in advancing gender equality. But the quote also hints at the gendered expectations that powerful women face.

It’s one thing to believe that women should support one another. Definitions of what constitutes supportive behavior, however, may vary. In some cases, it’s not such a far leap to the decidedly sexist belief that women should act as bottomless wells of altruism and kindness, supporting their male and female colleagues alike via praise, assistance, and advice, while never uttering a word of criticism.

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