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Queen Bee Syndrome?

Yes, it's Mother's Day weekend but I am distracted by a report that was featured on the Today show a few weeks ago. Apparently the latest news being discussed among psychotherapists and academics before the Royal Wedding kicked off was that by the time women make it to the top levels of leadership in the workplace, she's so fearful & insecure of losing her spot at the top that she becomes mean, vindictive, backstabbing, and generally makes the worst boss you could ever have. It also suggests that only the most competitive, ruthless women make it to the top in a workplace culture that encourages these kind of qualities in their successful males, yet they are not as appreciated in women--whether they're successful or not.

These experts also explained that ironically, the social theorists foretold a future where women bosses would be more compassionate and more supportive leaders. And their innate nurturing abilities would help foster the development of all their subordinates, particularly if they were also women. But no, these new studies show that pretty much the exact opposite is true. Women are actually more likely to help their male reports get promoted over their female reports to boot.

So what's going on here? The experts featured on the Today show seemed to have different ideas about why the Queen Bee Syndrome exists, but no one mentioned the biggest problem that seems blatantly obvious to me: Where are the nice women, the smart & capable women, and the nurturing women in this theory? Do they fear accepting higher roles in business because they don't want to be perceived as a Queen Bee, or a plain old be-ach? Do they have better things to do with their time than walk this path? What good does it do to label the successful women as bad, evil or overly masculine when they are so highly outnumbered by men, if not to keep it that way? Some stats help inform this perspective: according to the US Department of Labor, women made up 46.8% of the labor force in 2009, yet only 15.7% of corporate officers are women1. That is such
a disproportionate figure about today's workplace, I don't know how one can talk about working women without acknowledging such a severe imbalance.

Considering that Fortune 500 companies with a high percentage of women as corporate officers show an average 35% higher return on equity, it's not difficult to argue we need more women in the senior levels of business, not less. With more women at the top leading higher-performing companies, perhaps these associates would have better things to talk about than their Queen Bees.

Thrive Theory is the idea that we all need to be surrounded by people who want the best for us to actually achieve our best. Here's a good test: ask yourself if you're holding yourself back for fear that those around you might resent when you do succeed. If your gut response says yes, then you probably need more support in your life to become who you dream of being. We all need to be cheered on as we step into our futures, whether we're hitting our stride or hitting a speed bump. Everyone needs love & support to thrive, and we'll either help each other get there together, or we'll continue to hold ourselves back.

Take care of your Mothers and yourselves this holiday weekend!


1 2008 Catalyst Census of Women Corporate Officers and Top Earners of the Fortune 500 

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