Queen Bee Syndrome

We have come a long way in society to narrow the wage gap between men and women. We are also seeing more women in executive level positions in large companies 😀 But females are still disproportionately represented in corporate leadership roles 😐 For example, compare the Senior Management team to the other staff members of the company below. Click image to enlarge.


Coincidence or sexism?

I read an article recently that suggests part of the reason it’s still more difficult for women to climb the corporate ladder than men, is because of women themselves 😯  A recent Gallup poll in the U.S. shows that 41% of Americans don’t have a preference which gender their boss is. However 35% preferred a male boss, and only 23% prefer a female boss. What’s surprising to me is that more women in the poll (40%) than men (29%) said they would prefer a male boss. I thought girls would want to stick together, but the research says otherwise ( ・_・)

There appears to be some kind of conflict of emotions when women witness other women get into positions of power and authority. On the one hand everyone celebrates the accomplishments of hard working women as they achieve success in the corporate world, much of which is still dominated by men. Yeah! girl power! 😀 But on the other hand, it’s often women who perpetuate the worst stereotypes about working for other women. As one editorial director puts it “Everyone applauds when they shatter that glass ceiling. Then they pick up the shards, and start cutting away.” Yikes 😕


But why do female bosses get such a bad reputation? According to Doctor Robi Ludwig, a woman, bad female bosses may have Queen Bee Syndrome, which describes the “actions of the alpha female in the workplace who tries to preserve power at all costs.” She explains how this is a very real and common thing.

Instead of promoting her younger counterparts, she feels threatened by them, judges them, talks about them and, in many cases, ends up obstructing their attempts to climb the corporate ladder…. According to one group of German researchers, women who reported to female supervisors had higher cases of depression, headaches, heartburn and insomnia than if their bosses were men. ~Dr. Robi Ludwig

I know there are genuinely good female bosses in the world 😀 so maybe these negative stereotypes perpetuated in the media are overblown. Would you want your next boss to be a man or a woman? Personally I’ve enjoyed working with all of my previous bosses, both men and women 😀 so I don’t have a preference. Below are some online reactions to the article I read, from random commentators on the interwebs 🙂

  • I am female but some of the worst bosses I’ve had were female. Most can do the job as well as or better than a man IMO but the attitude and treatment they can give out to underlings is just OMG.
  • The biggest problem with female Bosses are their mood swings and PMS tan-drums in the work place…
  • I can count 6 horrible bosses that I had. Incidentally they are all women.
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save. spend. splurge.
11/18/2013 6:58 am

The worst bosses I have had were female. The reason why I prefer guys?

1. They leave you alone to do your job and aren’t micro-manager-y.

2. They typically understand my job (many of my female managers didn’t really get what I did, because they don’t DO my job, they just “manage” me..)

3. They defend other people (read: women) whom they are friends with that I may complain slightly about (as project managers), rather than objectively saying: “I will look into it.”

4. They didn’t fight / negotiate for a higher salary or bonus for me, whereas guys are more likely to do that.

That said… I knew one manager at my work who was fantastic, who was a woman. She was a lot like me, which is probably why I wished she was my manager instead of the women I got stuck with.

save. spend. splurge.
11/18/2013 6:59 am

Er sorry.. about #3 I wanted to say that they DON’T defend other people (read: women or men) whom they are friends with and I may complain about.

Guys tend to objectively look at what you are saying and then see where to go from there. Obviously if I am saying something, there’s something there.

Amanda @ My Life, I Guess
11/18/2013 7:34 am

I had two bosses in my last job – one male, one female. They were both AWFUL.She was the biggest gossip, was very phoney, and took things personally. He would flip out, swear, and even became physically violent with two of my male colleagues. These two were by far the worst bosses I’ve had, but to be honest, I can’t think of a single boss that I would consider to have been GOOD.

11/18/2013 8:14 am

I don’t really have a preference but I’ve been lucky in having a really great female boss for the past 3 years who was a big inspiration for me. If she could do it so could I! Though she was the only female at her level in my department, everyone else was male.

11/18/2013 4:01 pm

My take on this is people are people, and in some situations women have a more appropriate skill set (physiological differences) then men, and vise-versa. As an engineer I have worked with both men and women in all types of situations and at all types of levels (stay at home parents to CEO’s and private company owners. The best welder I have ever met was a women; best home cleaner was a guy; best ER doctor (I ever had/needed) was a female, best dog trainer, well they were transgender, so not sure how that fits here? Stereotypes are there because of generational bias. Back in the days of my parents, well women could not do many things (they could, but society (which was somehow structured to work the way it does by men) did not really accept it). As the boomers pass on and our generation and the ones we bring up and nurture accepts the fact that invisible barriers only stifle the human experience, we’ll see the equality gap shrink. It will take time though as it is only in the recent past that equality was a somewhat introduced. – Cheers

11/18/2013 7:52 pm

My current boss is female and the best mentor I’ve ever had. But, I know where you’re coming from – most other females I’ve known in leadership roles were not really cut out for it. Any ideas on how things could even out?

Alicia @ Financial Diffraction
11/20/2013 7:45 am

I’ve had predominately female bosses, though my experience is fairly limited. It’s actually quite interesting that most (all, except for my current boss) have been female since I work in a very male-dominated field of science (I have been the only woman in an audience at conferences, no problem!). I don’t have a comment as to who is better or worse, because it’s not a gender line, but there have been studies shown that women are judged more harshly than men who have the same behavioural traits (even by other women). There is a lot of undertones that people don’t even realize are there. I’ve been a called a feminist (as an insult) when in reality I am just trying to draw attention to the differences that exist. To be continued in a half-finished blog post 🙂

The Asian Pear
11/21/2013 5:03 pm

To be fair, my BEST manager was female. But my worst boss was also female. Overall, I’ve had more bad female bosses than bad male bosses though. I tend to find the female bosses actually more lacking in the HR department.

11/22/2013 7:33 pm

I haven’t had a female boss since I was about 20 but it is just natural that different genders would manage different. It is always nutty to me when people who desire equality try to ignore that the sexes are just wired differently

KK @ Student Debt Survivor
11/24/2013 8:33 pm

I’ve had great female bosses and bad male bosses and vice versa. A lot of it is about personality for me. I hate micro-managers and I hate it when a boss doesn’t “go to bat for you” when there’s a situation where they should. As a manager I always stand up for my employees (when they’re working hard and doing what’s asked) and never throw them under the bus. I also think a good manager acts as a buffer between upper management and the line staff (something I work really hard to do).

11/26/2013 2:19 pm

I have had a mixture of female and male bosses. Most, but not all, of my female bosses, were alright. I didn’t really feel a connection with them. Almost all my males bosses, including my current one, were more easy going, down to earth. I hate to say it, I prefer having a male boss and working with mostly females. My experiences working in a mostly female environment just seemed too dramatic and gossipy.