Good News for BFFs! Friendships Between Women Have Health BenefitsDr.Peggy Drexler

The term “guys’ girl” has been used to describe women—typically adolescents and younger women—who relate better to or feel more comfortable around men, or who simply have more male friends than female friends. As an adolescent, a girl might make a conscious choice to identify as either a guys’ girl or a girls’ girl, depending on what sort of attention she’s after. If she wants to appear emotionally controlled or powerful—“tougher”—she may take on a masculine attitude or strive to be part of a largely male group. If she’s interested in attracting boys romantically—or if she believes that beauty equals power—she may lean towards the side of girlishness, spending more time on her appearance and even holding back the stronger aspects of her personality. This is something many girls grow out of as they become women.

Or do they? With each new study offering proof that women are getting more freedoms, more job offers, more money, and the like, there also come the inevitable suggestions that women are becoming “more like men.” They aren’t of course; if anything, women are becoming more like modern women. At the same time, it’s hard not to wonder if perhaps these women share some common ground, and to ask: Are guys’ girls more likely to succeed in the workplace?

Consider the Queen Bee phenomenon, defined as successful women opposing the similar rise of other women, most typically in male dominated fields. In some cases, this opposition is unconscious, and the result of a patriarchal work culture that creates a situation in which the few women who rise to the top become obsessed with maintaining authority at any cost. In others, however this opposition is driven by women who come into the system predisposed to criticize their female counterparts whom they may deem “too girly,” too weak—or “girls’ girls.”

If this is true, it’s a shortsighted approach, given there’s ample evidence to believe that, at work, it’s the girls’ girls who can really make a difference. Studies show that women have an essential need—personally, but also professionally—for other women in their lives. At work, close intrapersonal relationships are what help form bonds, foster loyalty, and encourage people to be team players; these relationships often have the potential to be stronger, and more essential, between women. What’s more, friendships between women have considerable health benefits. A 2009 University of Michigan study published in the journal Hormones and Behavior, for example, found that when women feel emotionally close to other women, their bodies produce more progesterone, boosting mood and alleviating stress—a handy workplace survival kit if ever there was one.

That’s not to say girls’ girls will win out over guys’ girls, but that women should embrace working together no matter how they identify—especially since in many instances whether you’re a guys’ girl or a girls’ girl is less about reality than about self-perception.

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