Queen bee syndrome

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Queen bee syndrome was first defined by G.L. Staines, T.E. Jayaratne, and C. Tavris in 1973.[1] It describes a woman in a position of authority who views or treats subordinates more critically if they are female.

This phenomenon has been documented by several studies.[2][3] In another study, scientists from the University of Toronto speculated that the queen bee syndrome may be the reason that women find it more stressful to work for female managers; no difference was found in stress levels for male workers.[4]

An alternate, though closely related, definition describes a queen bee as one who has succeeded in her career, but refuses to help other women do the same.[5]

In adolescence[edit]

In recent years, research has shown that adolescent girls form (often small) groups called cliques, which are often created based on a shared characteristic or quality of the members such as attractiveness or popularity. Association with such a group is often wanted by those who are part of the larger, all encompassing group, such as a class or school. It is the association with these groups that brings an individual similar treatment.[6]

Notable cases[edit]

A popular example of a movie based on girls with queen bee syndrome is the 2004 film, Mean Girls. The authorized biographer of Margaret Thatcher, Charles Moore, stated in an interview his belief that the former British prime minister had herself suffered from the syndrome.[7]

In the workplace[edit]

Recent research has postulated that queen bee syndrome may be a product of certain cultural influences,[8][9] especially those related to the modern workplace.[citation needed]

Researchers have hypothesized[9] that queen bee behavior may be developed by women who have achieved high workplace positions within their respective fields as a way to defend against any gender bias found in their cultures. By opposing attempts of subordinates of their own sex to advance in career paths, women displaying queen bee behavior try to fit in with their male counterparts by adhering to the cultural stigmas placed on gender in the workplace. Distancing themselves from female subordinates can allow for the opportunity to show more masculine qualities, stereotypically seen as more culturally valuable and professional. By showing these supposedly important masculine qualities, women displaying queen bee behavior seek to further legitimize their right to be in important professional positions as well as attaining job security by showing commitment to their professional roles.[8][9]

Criticisms of the theory[edit]

Recent research, that uses a robust causal identification mechanism (i.e., regression discontinuity design), strongly contests the existence of the queen bee phenomenon[10]; the results of this study suggest that previous research was biased either by eliciting confirming cases (as is often done in qualitative research) or that observational data based on questionnaire measures was biased because of endogeneity issues.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Francine D. Blau and Jed DeVaro (2007). "New Evidence on Gender Differences in Promotion Rates: An Empirical Analysis of a Sample of New Hires". Cornell University ILR School. p. 16. Archived from the original on 2011-07-18. Retrieved 26 May 2010.
  2. ^ Roger Dobson and Will Iredale (31 December 2006). "Office queen bees hold back women's careers". The Sunday Times. Archived from the original on 2011-06-04. Retrieved 2010-05-26.
  3. ^ Ellemers, N.; van den Heuvel, H. (2004). "The underrepresentation of women in science: differential commitment or the queen bee syndrome?" (PDF). British Journal of Social Psychology. 43 (September): 313–338. doi:10.1348/0144666042037999. PMID 15479533.
  4. ^ Chris Irvine (23 September 2008). "Women find working for female bosses more stressful". telegraph.co.uk. Archived from the original on 2018-07-13. Retrieved 2018-04-03.
  5. ^ Judy Klemensrud (13 April 1981). "WOMEN IN MEDICINE FIND A NEED FOR SUPPORT". New York Times.
  6. ^ Closson, L. M. (2009). Aggressive and Prosocial Behaviors Within Early Adolescent Friendship Cliques
  7. ^ Somerset, Guy (6 June 2013). "Charles Moore interview". New Zealand Listener. Archived from the original on 2017-02-27. Retrieved 26 February 2017. Partly there was a genuine problem about the talent within the Tory Party at that time – it was not great. But I think also she did suffer, as her critics say, from what they call the queen bee syndrome: she thought, 'I can do it, why can't others? It's not for me to fish around to find the right women, I'm just going to get the nearest good person to hand' ... All her comments, even as a young woman about other women in letters to [her sister] Muriel, tend to be competitive and sometimes quite critical. She didn't have much personal solidarity with women if they were also ambitious. She was very close to some women who were in subsidiary positions, such as her diary secretaries – she's extremely fond of them and very nice to them - but I don't think you'll find much closeness to any female equal.
  8. ^ a b Derks, Belle; Ellemers, Naomi; Van Laar, Colette; De Groot, Kim (2011). "Do sexist organizational cultures create the Queen Bee?". British Journal of Social Psychology. 50 (3): 519–535. doi:10.1348/014466610X525280. PMID 21884548.
  9. ^ a b c Derks, Belle; Van Laar, Colette; Ellemers, Naomi; De Groot, Kim (2011). "Gender-Bias Primes Elicit Queen-Bee Responses Among Senior Policewomen". Psychological Science (Submitted manuscript). 22 (10): 1243–1249. doi:10.1177/0956797611417258. PMID 21873568.
  10. ^ Arvate, Paulo Roberto; Galilea, Gisele Walczak; Todescat, Isabela (2018-10-01). "The queen bee: A myth? The effect of top-level female leadership on subordinate females". The Leadership Quarterly. 29 (5): 533–548. doi:10.1016/j.leaqua.2018.03.002. ISSN 1048-9843.

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