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Book Review: The Twisted Sisterhood
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Business Insights for Women
PNC INSIGHTS Magazine Spring/Summer 2014 Issue
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Author Kelly Valen takes on the intricacies of women's friendships and working relationships in this book sparked by her own "mean girls" encounter.

In 2007, Kelly Valen put pen to paper and wrote an article about one of the most painful experiences in her life. Following a sexual assault in college, she turned to her closest female friends for support, only to find them hostile, scornful and even cruel. The event left her wary of close female relationships for years to come.

When her article appeared in the New York Times, it created a furious debate among women. Some felt that Valen perpetuated a stereotype of hypercritical "mean girls." But others revealed similar treatment at the hands of female friends and co-workers. Surprised and intrigued by the response, Valen surveyed more than 3,000 women about their relationships with other women and published her findings in a new book, The Twisted Sisterhood: Unraveling the Dark Legacy of Female Friendships.

Valen devotes a chapter to the workplace, where statistics show that about 40 percent of bullies are females who focus their bullying on other women more than 70 percent of the time. Most professional women, it turns out, prefer a male boss to a female one, and a University of Toronto study showed that female employees with female bosses reported the highest levels of distress among workers in various gender combinations.

The Twisted Sisterhood doesn't settle on a single answer as to why female relationships can turn bad so readily, although it offers a few theories. Whatever the root cause of the "dark side" of female relationships, Valen exhorts her readers to take personal responsibility for their behavior and ends with a call for women to forge healthier relationships with one another.



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