I read with interest an article ‘’Making the Invisible Visible: A Cross -Sector Analysis of Gender Based Leadership Barriers’’ and I found the Queen bee effect as a barrier to women in leadership positions interesting. Is this a myth or reality? The idea of a Queen Bee syndrome dates to research first done in the 1970s. The syndrome encompasses a set of behaviors ranging from women disparaging typically feminine traits (“Women are soooo emotional”), to emphasizing their own “masculine” attributes (“I think more like a guy”), to seeing claims of gender discrimination as baseless (“The reason there are so few women at the top is not because of discrimination. It’s because women are just less committed to their careers”), to being unsupportive of initiatives to address gender inequality. The ultimate Queen Bee is the successful woman who instead of using her power to help other women advance, undermines her women colleagues who may even be more talented than her. If these ‘beta females’ are repressed from within their own gender, surely we have to ask ourselves what chance they have in a male dominated society? I have to say, I have seen and known a fair share of queen bees in my life.
Is there some truth in the Queen Bee stereotype? Are women nastier toward other women than men are to men or than women are to men?
Researches on these kinds of behaviors have found instances in which it is the case. Some women at the top fail to help other women or actively prevent their promotion. A while ago a friend of mine had this to say about a queen bee at her work place: ‘One of the women I ended up working with had a real problem with me. Every time I said anything I was accused of being aggressive and defensive and prevented any attempts of promotion’ Sad isn’t it?
Queen Bee behaviors are not reflective of some Mean Girl gene lurking in women’s DNA. Rather, to the degree they exist, Queen Bee dynamics are triggered by gender discrimination, researchers say.
So what prevents Queen Bee behaviors? - Identifying highly as a woman. Women who have experienced gender discrimination but who more strongly identified with their gender don’t react to such bias by trying to distance themselves from other women.
Remember a candle loses nothing by lighting another candle.
Food for thought!