Queen bee syndrome

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 women 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

Middle school and high school seems to be the place in which the queen bee syndrome is born. Much research has been devoted to the investigation of the interactions of adolescent girls. This is where vicious bullying of teen girls shows up, often with the operations spearheaded by one individual, who has as of late been dubbed the "queen bee." 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

The queen bee syndrome is a common occurrence in adolescence, mainly in grade school settings. As many people can remember their own queen bee examples from the schools they attended, many examples are also portrayed within the media of modern society. Queen bees are commonly seen in television shows and movies. A popular example of a movie based on girls with queen bee syndrome is the 2004 film, Mean Girls.

In the workplace

Recent research has postulated that queen bee syndrome may be a product of certain cultural influences, especially those related to the modern workplace. Although significant steps have been made towards gender equality in most modern workplaces, research shows that, on average, women are still paid less than and achieve fewer promotions than their male counterparts.[7]

Based on these statistics, researchers have hypothesized that queen bee syndrome 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 any attempts of subordinates of their own sex to advance in career paths, women with queen bee syndrome hope to fit in with their male counterparts by adhering to the cultural stigmas placed on gender in the workplace. Belittling female subordinates allows “queen bees” the opportunity to show more masculine qualities, which they see as more culturally valuable and professional. By showing these supposedly important masculine qualities, queen bees 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.

Under the opposite circumstances, when a given workplace implements conscious efforts (including but not limited to affirmative-action programs) to increase the role and prominence of women, a queen bee's actions may represent an attempt to capture for herself a disproportionate share of the benefits provided by those efforts: Preventing the advancement of women below her is one way for a queen bee to reduce the number of competitors for resources and positions (e.g., promotion opportunities) formally reserved or informally designated for allocation to women at and above her level, thereby easing her own progress up the "career ladder."[8]

See also


  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. Retrieved 26 May 2010.
  2. Roger Dobson and Will Iredale (31 December 2006). "Office queen bees hold back women's careers". The Sunday Times.
  3. Ellemers, N.; van den Heuvel, H. (2004). "The underrepresentation of women in science: differential commitment or the queen bee syndrome?". 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.
  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. Merens, A., & Hermans, B. (2009). Emancipatiemonitor 2008/Emancipation Monitor 2008. Den Haag : Sociaal en Cultureel Planbureau.
  8. Sutton, R. M., Elder, T. J., & Douglas, K. M. (2006). Reactions to internal and external criticism of outgroups: Social convention in the intergroup sensitivity effect. Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin, 32(5), 563.

Further reading

External links

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