New study weakens "queen bee" theory about female executives

Despite the popularity of the female executive "queen bee" theory circulating the workplace and popular media, a new study featured in The Washington Post proves that the long-held stereotype might not be as true as some believe.

According to The Washington Post, a "queen bee" is an "executive female who, at best, doesn't help the women below her get ahead and, at worst, actively hinders them."

Researchers at Columbia Business School and the University of Maryland's business school conducted a study that uncovered what happens when a female is placed in one of the highest-paying executive jobs at an S&P 1,500 firm. According to their findings, such a situation decreases the likelihood of another female getting a top position by 51 percent.

The study is set to be published in the Strategic Management Journal.

David Ross, one of the study's co-authors, said that female executives are not necessarily attempting to suppress other women in the workplace. Instead, the authors believe the stereotype has to do with "implicit quotas" — the idea that companies feel pressure to add women to their team, but once they do, they believe they've fulfilled their duty.

Therefore notion of "implicit quotas" only weakens the "queen bee" theory, according to Mr. Ross.

To further disprove the "queen bee" stereotype, research shows that women executives are more willing to serve as mentors than men. According to a 2012 study from Catalyst, while 30 percent of male mentors were helping other men, 73 percent of female mentors were helping other women. Sharon Mavin, director of the business school at University of Roehampton in London, had similar findings. "For a woman to survive in that context, there's a lot of strategies she can take. But a lot of them mean assimilating into that culture rather than changing it," she said.

However, a survey from Development Dimensions International shows that 20 percent of women had never been asked to be mentors and only 50 percent of women in the workplace had only been asked a few times.

As Mr. Ross pointed out, the issue of too few women in top management positions will certainly not solve itself. However, he also believes that if the "queen bee" syndrome exists, it could have to do with sexism in the workplace. Competition among women for executive positions is "not arising from some kind of innate female quality, but from the behavior of the men and their colleagues," Mr. Ross said, according to the report.

Copyright © 2024 Becker's Healthcare. All Rights Reserved. Privacy Policy. Cookie Policy. Linking and Reprinting Policy.


Featured Whitepapers

Featured Webinars