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Gender Issues: Strategic Flirting

Aug 12, 2013 • 288 Views

By Lilli DeBode, guest blogger, Kent Place School alumna and freshman at Columbia University

According to a recent study, women are more likely to use strategic flirting in the workplace… and it often ends badly for them.

What is strategic flirting? It is a career strategy some women use to try to advance in the workplace. It could be anything from a seductive smile to a woman playing dumb and pretending she needs help from a male co-worker.

The study surveyed 281 women in 38 law firms. Of those women, two-thirds were married, and the average age was 30. The women were also asked to describe their workplace environment as either masculine (competitive and aggressive) or feminine (nurturing and welcoming).

The study found that strategic flirting was more frequent in masculine workplaces. According to Oklahoma State professor, Alexis Smith, “[masculine firms] encourage employees to aggressively use their assets, whatever they may be. Since it stands to reason that for women this will mean leveraging their sexuality, there tends to be significantly more flirting in these law firms than in others.” It is more frequent, yet the consequences are more harsh in these settings. Women who strategically flirt are not taken as seriously and are often excluded from meetings, ignored, or treated rudely. Not surprisingly, flirtatious behavior in feminine firms tended to be overlooked and forgiven.

Although the flirting is harmless and nearly undetectable, it comes with subtle repercussions that could ultimately be the difference between getting that promotion or being passed over.

Sources and resources: To read more about this study, click here or here.

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