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Overcoming ‘Queen Bee’ Syndrome
Blog / Entrepreneurs / Sep 24, 2020 / Posted by Professor M.S Rao / 356 

Overcoming ‘Queen Bee’ Syndrome

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“Can you imagine what the world would be like if women who constitute almost half of the global population had access to education and opportunities and were allowed to contribute their best? We would achieve prosperity globally in all spheres.” ―Professor M.S. Rao, Ph.D., #HeForShe

Women encounter several challenges to establish and become successful. Mostly they encounter challenges from their male superiors and colleagues. In rare cases, they find challenges especially suppression from the same sex which is known as ‘Queen Bee’ Syndrome. Cecilia Harvey, a London-based consultant and founder of global showcase platform Tech Women Today unfolds, “Queen Bees are adult versions of the mean girls from school—but now they have grown up and are more calculating. These socially aggressive behaviors include gossiping, social exclusion, social isolation, social alienation, talking about someone, and stealing friends or romantic partners.” The derogatory[1] “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. It is obvious that queen bees are the successful senior women who don’t allow other ambitious princesses to succeed in the workplace. Worse, they prevent young women from reaching senior positions. Their attitude and approach hurt the interests of other ambitious young women leading to decreased morale and increased litigations within the organizations. Their behavior adversely affects organizational performance and productivity. Therefore, Queen Bee Syndrome can be defined as the practice where the successful senior women prevent ambitious princesses from reaching the senior positions. The examples of queen bees include Margaret Thatcher and Indira Gandhi who were former Prime Ministers to UK and India respectively. In traditional Indian society, mothers-in-law usually turn out queen bees for their daughters-in-law.

Causes for Turning into Queen Bees

Research shows that women are meaner to each other than they are to their men. They are more ambitious to fast-track their careers than to advance the careers of their female colleagues and subordinates. There are several reasons for women turning into queen bees. They want young women to struggle and suffer because they struggled and suffered to reach senior positions. They lack empathy and sympathy toward the same gender. They turn out to be hard and their leadership style becomes autocratic.  There may be psychological reasons, their personality type, and the environment in which they were brought up. At times, they behave themselves more like men and distance themselves from other women thus endorsing glass ceiling. A few women turn into queen bees to flow along with the malestream to fast-track their careers.

Queen Bee Syndrome is a controversial topic that cannot be substantiated with research findings because it is based on perceptions. It may be a generational perception rather than gender perception. Therefore, it is essential to bust the myth that there is something inherent in women that hinders the growth of other women.

Queen bees must learn that great leaders pave the way for others by laying the ladder. To empower women and ensure their career advancement, we need righteous women, not queen bees. The young women must not give up their goals when odds are stacked against them including from the same sex. They must demonstrate their grit and determination to excel in all aspects of life to leave their marks for others to follow. To conclude, there is a need for righteous women who can mentor and support other young women to grow as leaders to close the gender gap at the top.

Note: This article is an adapted excerpt from my award-winning book, “Strategies to Build Women Leaders Globally: Think Managers, Think Men; Think Leaders, Think Women.” URL: https://www.amazon.com/dp/1949003108

About Author

Is the father of “Soft Leadership” and Founder of MSR Leadership Consultants, India. He is a C-Suite advisor and a sought-after keynote speaker globally. He advocates gender equality globally (#HeForShe). He has made the biggest impact on the world with his Soft Leadership which can be applied for companies and countries to achieve excellence.

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