Queen Bee Syndrome: Women in the Labor Market

Women’s participation in labor market is significant because they are gradually succeeding to place themselves in male dominated work setting.  Unfortunately, they are not out of males’ discrimination. They have to struggle regularly against male’s domination and gender injustice. But is it always true? Several studies show that women use to criticize the professional involvement, leadership skills and assertiveness of their female colleagues. According to Naomi Ellemers (2004), “stereotyping of women rather than differential work commitment emerges as a plausible reason that women have more difficulty than men to be successful in an academic career and—because of their own precarious position—women are more likely than men to engage in gender stereotyping in this context.”  It is due to the so-called “Queen Bee Syndrome”.

The term, Queen Bee Syndrome was first introduced by by G. Staines, C. Tavris and T.E. Jayaratne in 1973. The women considered as “Queen Bee”  are in high positions professionally   in men dominated organisations  and they use to distance themselves from other women. They show their gender stereotyping behaviors in their gesture and posture. Thus, the Queen Bee Syndrome is “a phenomenon that leads to gender discrimination in the workplace and is an inseparable attribute of successful women.” Further, “the ’Queen Bee’ is commonly constructed as a bitch who stings other women if her power is threatened and, as a concept, the Queen Bee blames individual women for not supporting other women.”

We see that stereotypical women are harmful to the reputation of other women. But they do mistake that it perceives ‘as more convincing and credible than the opinion of men.’ ‘In fact, the unequal treatment of women due to gender provides a strong foundation for legitimizing the disadvantages of women in the workplace. A successful woman becoming a queen bee during the development of her career may hinder the promotion of women who are their subordinates.’ It influences to emerge a fairly clear image of women seeking to mutually exclude rivals within their own sex.”   Research also indicates that ‘it is very often the case that women compete more with each other than with men. This is more noticeable because women know women, they also know women’s weaknesses and are able to use these against them.’ Thus ‘the reason for the discrimination of women by women is a whole range of negative “female“ features.’  It has been also studied that ‘no man can be as vile, cruel and mean as a woman to a woman—also at work.

One of the reasons may be simple jealousy, envy, a sense of competition, that a woman threatens woman more than a man.’ From stereotypical point of view, the Queen Bee Syndrome is because of ‘queen bee bullies subordinates and obstructs other women’s career advancement. They are seen as selfish, insensitive, and power hungry. If a senior woman leader has a reputation as a queen bee, women in less senior positions often are advised to avoid working with her.’ This behavior is “a response to social identity threat.“ Women who are poorly identified with the female gender in the workplace, and who are at the same time striving to achieve professional success are in such behaviour. Consequently, sexual discrimination motivates some women highly identified them as female ‘to take action to eliminate discriminatory practices in the workplace.’ ‘It strives for their individual chances of achieving professional success. It is a relational aggression creating rumors around victims for rejection by the rest of the group.’   In summary, “derogatory ’queen bee’ label is given to women who pursue individual success in male-dominated work settings (organizations in which men hold most executive positions) by adjusting to the masculine culture and by distancing themselves from other women”.

The queen bee women are ‘becoming more like men, emphasizing how they different from other women, and endorsing and legitimizing the current gender hierarchy.’ It separates one woman from other. Especially, older women make separate identity from younger as she is ‘more ambitious, much more agentic and willing to sacrifice for their career.’ This type of women is most harmful because for their personal achievement in men dominated organizations; they endorse and legitimate the gender inequality.’ They criticize ‘younger women, as well as strongly supporting the stereotypical perception of women as less ambitious and less engaged in work than men, emphasizing at the same time that they themselves are different from this group of women.’ These queen bees ‘are less in favor of a policy wanting to take affirmative actions, striving to equalize opportunities for younger women’s development and a career advancement, and are less likely to be mentors for their female subordinates.’

It has been seen that ‘the woman acting like a queen bee may succeed in organizations dominated by men, but she definitely will not be supported in being an effective leader from the younger women who are her subordinates.’ It has been also studied that ‘queen bees that maintain the gender stereotypes about their subordinates can have a significant impact on the careers of other women. Their stereotypical assessments are less often perceived as sexist, and thus appear to be more reliable than men’s stereotypical opinions of women, which leads to the creation of a “bad (and often false) image“ of younger women in the workplace. The behavior of queen bees can also destroy the self-confidence of younger women, and thus negatively affect their chances of successes.’  It is a tactical mechanism of ‘women’s success/promotion at work’.

The trajectory of the development of women’s situation at work plays important role instead of  their  ‘education and real competences of women, their personality traits and aspirations.’  The situation of women at work depends on other contexts related to culture and identity which is typically contemporary and constructed based on the body and sexuality. So, the movement against male’s discrimination and gender injustice are not enough to bring gender equity. Women should be come out from their queen be syndrome because individual success is not enough for their gender justice.


More by :  Dr. Harasankar Adhikari

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