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More like men, 'queen bee' women endorse, legitimise current gender hierarchy

By Harasankar Adhikari* 

Women’s participation in labour market is significant because they are gradually succeeding in placing themselves in male dominated work settings. Unfortunately, they are not victims of male discrimination. They have to struggle regularly against male’s dominance and gender injustice. But is it always true?
Several studies show that women used to criticise 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 G Staines, C Tavris, and TE Jayaratne in 1973. The women considered "Queen Bees" are in high positions professionally in man-dominated organisations, and they use to distance themselves from other women. They show their gender stereotyping behaviours in their gestures 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 reputations of other women. But they do mistakenly think that it perceives “as more convincing and credible than the opinion of men... In fact, the unequal treatment of women due to their gender provides a strong foundation for legitimising 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 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 also been 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, or the fact that a woman threatens women more than a man.
From a stereotypical point of view, the Queen Bee Syndrome is because queen bee bullies subordinate and obstruct 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 behaviour is "a response to a 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 exhibiting such behaviour. Consequently, sexual discrimination motivates some women, who are highly identified as female, ‘to take action to eliminate discriminatory practises in the workplace.
It strives for their individual chances of achieving professional success. It is a relational aggression that creates rumours 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 (organisations 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, emphasising how they are different from other women, and endorsing and legitimising the current gender hierarchy.” It separates one woman from another. Especially, older women have a separate identity from younger women as she is “more ambitious, much more agentic, and willing to sacrifice for their career.”
This type of woman is most harmful because of their personal achievements in men dominated organisations; they endorse and legitimise gender inequality. They criticise “younger women, as well as strongly supporting the stereotypical perception of women as less ambitious and less engaged in work than men, while emphasising at the same time that they themselves are different from this group of women.”
These queen bees “are less in favour of a policy wanting to take affirmative action, striving to equalise 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 organisations dominated by men, but she definitely will not be supported in being an effective leader by the younger women who are her subordinates.” It has also been studied that ‘queen bees who maintain 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 behaviour of queen bees can also destroy the self-confidence of younger women, and thus negatively affect their chances of success. It is a tactical mechanism for “women’s success or promotion at work.”
The trajectory of the development of women’s situation at work plays an important role instead of their “education and real competences as women, their personality traits, and their aspirations.” The situation of women at work depends on other contexts related to culture and identity, which are typically contemporary and constructed based on the body and sexuality.
So, the movement against male discrimination and gender injustice is not enough to bring gender equity. Women should come out of their queen bee syndrome because individual success is not enough for gender justice.



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