“Queen Bee Syndrome” Is a Myth

Devil Wears PradaWe’ve all heard of her: the “queen bee” woman who achieves professional success and then keeps other women from reaching her perch, or at least can’t be bothered to offer them a hand. This is who Madeleine Albright was referring to when she uttered her famous line, “There’s a special place in hell reserved for women who don’t help other women.” There are many who think that queen bees are partly responsible for the fact that women have a hard time advancing into leadership.The problem with this stereotype? Researchers at Columbia Business School say it just doesn’t reflect reality.After studying 1,500 companies over a 20-year period, the researchers found that having a woman in a chief executive position makes it more likely that other women will attain senior leadership roles. However, when a woman gets a C-suite position that isn’t the top job, the likelihood of another woman joining her in the C-suite falls by 51 percent.Their conclusion: women aren’t the ones holding women back. Men are the ones doing that, by imposing implicit, unconscious quotas on women in leadership and assuming that one female executive is enough.Backing up that conclusion is a 2012 Catalyst study that found women pay it forward at work more than men in general, and that women mentors also help more women than men do.This doesn’t mean that women are universally kind and generous to one another in the workplace; of course, there are women who are not (and you may know some of them). But, as author Kasey Edwards points out, there are men who undermine their colleagues, too; we just don’t refer to them as “queen bees.” And scattered anecdotes about female bosses behaving badly are not data. (Research even suggests that women may make better bosses than men).That’s enough evidence for us to support doing away with the “queen bee” myth once and for all. Who’s with us?