“Queen Bee Syndrome” in 2013??

Randolph H. Freking

The “Queen Bee Syndrome” – originally coined in the 1970s – is getting more and more attention as female executives have made controversial decisions (Yahoo CEO Marissa Mayer)and published controversial books (Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg).  It has long been believed that women who have reached positions of power would be a mentor to those females who followed, but many believe that something has gone wrong in the professional sisterhood.

Four decades ago, an article in Psychology Today found that women who achieved success in male-dominated environments were at times likely to oppose the rise of other women. According to a recent article in the Wall Street Journal, this syndrome is alive and well.

The theory is that this generation of queen bees are no less determined to secure their hard-won places as alpha females.  It is indeed ironic: the very women that have complained for decades about unequal treatment now perpetuate many of the same problems by turning on other females.

In employment discrimination cases brought by females, employers often invoke a defense that is disingenuous: that women cannot discriminate against other women.  Just like the fact that older managers can discriminate against older employees, these recent studies demonstrate that anyone can act upon either conscious or subconscious biases, even if those biases are against members of their own “protected class.”

For more information, read the Wall Street Journal article The Tyranny of the Queen Bee and the related article “Office Conflict: Women and the Catty Trap.”