Over in one corner sat Alice, a strong-minded 27-year-old who always said what she thought, regardless of how much it might hurt someone else. In the other corner was Sarah, a thirtysomething high-flier who would stand up for herself momentarily – then burst into tears and run for the ladies.
Their simmering fight lasted hours, egged on by spectators taking sides and fuelling the anger. Sometimes other girls would join in, either heckling aggressively or huddling defensively in the toilets. It might sound like a scene from a tawdry reality show such as Big Brother, but the truth is a little more prosaic: it was just a normal morning in my office.
The venomous women were supposedly the talented employees I had headhunted to achieve my utopian dream – a female- only company with happy, harmonious workers benefiting from an absence of men.
It was an idealistic vision swiftly shattered by the nightmare reality: constant bitchiness, surging hormones, unchecked emotion, attention-seeking and fashion rivalry so fierce it tore my staff apart.
When I read the other day that Sienna Miller had said there was no such thing as ‘the Sisterhood’, I knew what she meant.
I can understand why people want to believe that women look out for each other – because with men in power at work and in politics, it makes sense for us to stick together.
In fact, there was a time when I believed in the Sisterhood – but that was before women at war led to my emotional and financial ruin.