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  • July 28, 2014

    Queen Bee Syndrome

    Imagine you’re a bee. Oh come on, play along. Imagine you’re a bee, wafting around in all your yellow and blackness, annoying a few people, landing on a few flowers and vibrating in a generally irritating, buzzy kind of way. At the end of the evening, off you fly on your merry way to the hive, and behold! There she is, on her throne of honeycomb (do we reckon they have thrones?), humming away in all her glory –the Queen Bee. She’s dazzling, she’s regal, she’s practically…okay fine,I do have a point –I want to tell you about something called the Queen Bee Syndrome. Many women would love the idea of being at the helm of their very own hive, not for the honey, but for the power, the status etc etc, yes, we have those ego fantasies too. When we’ve smashed through the glass ceiling (with no help from the glass escalator) and managed to stop ourselves falling off the glass cliff (I can feel an irrational fear of glass developing…), you’d think we’d be sympathetic to our sisters who have yet to begin their glass-riddled journey. Maggie Apparently this is not so. Case in point –Margaret Thatcher. I don’t claim to know a lot about her, but what I find most interesting, is that for all her time in office, she did very little to improve the job prospects of women. The Queen Bee Syndrome suggests that when powerful women get to the top, they don’t want other women to follow suit, and will sometimes actively discriminate against their junior female colleagues –you remember the female boss of whom I speak… …it’s okay, you’re in a safe environment, deep breaths. In all seriousness – Queen Bees are a product of underlying sexism in the workplace. Historically, women trying to succeed in a “man’s world”have had to take on more “male characteristics”- cue the stereotypes of the “ball-busting”female CEO, who’s had to give up all sense of femininity in order to succeed. This adaptation to a more “male”style of leadership comes at great cost; the Queen Bee sees the men around her as a group she identifies with, making other women the “out-group”- in other words, the opposition. But why does there need to be an opposition in the first place? Another consequence of the gender inequality in the workplace. There is no belief that you can have too many, or not enough, men in the workplace; yet the lack of women has engendered a sense of competition. When I’ve attended group interviews in the past, I’ve never seen other men as my competition – always other women; is this because deep down I believe that only one woman could get through? Well, if that’s the case, it had damn well better be this woman – and so a baby Queen Bee is born. So what can we do about this? 1. Learn from your own experiences. If you have had a negative experience with a Queen Bee – remember those feelings. That old phrase “treat others as you would like to be treated”isn’t just a platitude – we could be the Queen Bees of the future. Or we could be something else. Something better. 2. Its not all about the Queen Bee. A more sinister side of sexism is the belief that one woman represents all women. It is not the sole purpose of a successful woman to make things better for those below her – we are responsible for our own destiny. Look at any such woman, and you’ll find she got where she is today with the help of men and women – just like other women should not be the opposition, neither should men. Learn from everyone – and be brilliant as a result. 3. Be yourself – the greatest victory for equality is that you succeed because you are you. Not because you are a woman, or because you have or haven’t encountered a Queen Bee. The worst thing about being a Queen Bee is that she is too busy worrying about either being like men in order to succeed, or preventing other women from stealing her crown. She doesnt get to just be herself. If you can succeed because of who you are, other women stop being a threat, and become a support – because of who they are. Just like that – no more Queen Bees! No rolled up newspaper required. Written by Martha Adam Follow her on Twitter & Instagram @marthamush

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