Wednesday, January 03, 2007

Fight the Matriarchy!

Have you seen the new study that shows how "Queen Bee" women are actually holding back other women's careers? If not, here is an excerpt from Timesonline (Hat tip: Ginny at the Chicagoboyz):

FORGET “jobs for the boys”. Women bosses are significantly more likely than men to discriminate against female employees, research has suggested.
The study found that when presented with applications for promotion, women were more likely than men to assess the female candidate as less qualified than the male one.

They were also prone to mark down women’s prospects for promotion and to assess them as more controlling than men in their management style.

The findings, based on experiments carried out among more than 700 people, suggest that the “queen bee syndrome” of female rivalry in the workplace may sometimes be as important as sexism in holding back women’s careers.

What, women capable of stereotyping? Say it isn't so! I guess the "Sisterhood" is only alive and well when the drones know their place.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

I don't know if I believe a word of this. I work for a large defense contractor, and it's been my observation that women are doing everything they can to help other women up the ladder. And there have been quite a few interesting accommodations that would never have been made for men: "job-sharing," where two women who each work part-time sharing a management job; telecommuting among managers, whereby a woman who took a management position that would otherwise have required a man to be in the office every day was permitted to telecommute due to the needs of her children; "cheerleading" by the human resources staff for the women on the interview slate.


9:35 AM, January 03, 2007  
Blogger David Foster said...

I'm not sure this study really means what people think it means. This was an experiment in which people were presented with an imaginary scenario--not an actual business environment. Hence, if a woman marked a "candidate" as unlikely to succeed, it is unlikely that she was motivated by jealousy or fear of competition.

It's not clear from the description whether the experimental subjects were actual managers/executives. Note also that they were in southern Spain, which may or may not generalize to other countries.

9:43 AM, January 03, 2007  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

accommodations that would never have been made for men: "job-sharing," where two women who each work part-time sharing a management job; telecommuting among managers, whereby a woman who took a management position that would otherwise have required a man to be in the office every day was permitted to telecommute due to the needs of her children; "cheerleading" by the human resources staff for the women on the interview slate.

Think long term, about that one woman's career who is now PT "job sharing" and about the single woman working next to her FT.

Some would argue that this does not overall benefit women in the workplace. Rather it categorizes a special need for them, and other women pay the price in terms of diminished expectations, lower salaries and expectations of "cheerleading" for these special favors we should be so thankful for. Heh

9:58 AM, January 03, 2007  
Blogger Rizzo said...

I read a similar study years ago that also found that women managers and CEO's were less likely to promote women than men were, but the interpretation was different. It had nothing to do with a "Queen bee syndrome," but that the female managers were afraid that the female applicants would bring about more sexual harrassment grievances once promoted to higher positions. Plus, there was the issue of women requiring special priveleges that the men did not (i.e., more time off for children, etc.) It made more sense, and was generally easier, for the female managers to surround themselves with men to avoid the headaches.

I don't know how much of it is true, but it seems to me that it would make sense for women not to hire and promote other women as they would suffer fewer consequences for doing so and would not have to deal with some of the headaches. Men can't get away with not hiring or promoting women the way female managers or bosses can, so this might have little to do with the personalities of the female bosses and more to do with the issue of incentives and consequences.

10:49 AM, January 03, 2007  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I would totally agree. When I worked at a large, national law firm, the meanest, nastiest, harshest partners were women. Granted, they had had a tough row to hoe to get where they were, but still, that was no excuse for piling it on the younger women associates. It seemed from the associate's perspective that women partners and senior associates saw other women lawyers as more of a threat than other male lawyers. My husband saw the same phenomenon in medicine - the women were meaner in general and particularly meaner to each other during residency. The Queen Bee never disappears, she just switches hives.

10:51 AM, January 03, 2007  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I once had a decent full-time job with benefits as the typesetter and production manager for a print shop. I lost it so the female owner could replace me with two young male students each working part time, not give them benefits, and pay them less. At my next job, typesetting for a rubber stamp company, the female owner fired me for going into labor during a peak production week. She then attempted to deny me unemployment benefits (the male unemployment caseworker laughed in her face).

I now work as third-tier tech support on an all-male IT team (except for myself, of course) that supports oilfield engineers (almost exclusively male). I've never been happier in my life. I want to be an engineer myself. :)

10:56 AM, January 03, 2007  
Blogger Rizzo said...

I should also note that I did spend time briefly in an MBA program before I left for a field more to my liking, and I found the women there to be every bit as achievement motivated and goal-oriented as the men were. They weren't the type to get into the touchy-feely, feminist sisterhood crap. No, they wanted to get what was theirs and if they had to walk over other women to do it, so be it.

And, I liked those women better than the feminist types. They had a level of honesty that was refreshing.

10:57 AM, January 03, 2007  
Blogger Jeff Faria said...

"female rivalry in the workplace may sometimes be as important as sexism in holding back women’s careers."

Think about it... female rivalry of this nature, if it truly exists, IS sexism. To blithely presume that only men are capable of sexism, even when women are being accused of doing the very same thing (and assigning it a ridiculous description, to boot) is, well, sexist.

Having said that, I heard someone say this is the year to get rid of -ist words. They're foolish labels, and as this story demonstrates, are used to assign blame rather than actually resolve issues. Starting in 2007, let's get rid of the 'ists' and 'isms', starting with sexism, and start addressing these matters in more constructive ways.

11:15 AM, January 03, 2007  
Blogger David Foster said... say "women doctors are treated very poorly by the vast majority of the female nurses." How is this possible given the status and power differential between doctors and nurses? Doesn't "treating" in this sense tend to flow in the other direction?

11:41 AM, January 03, 2007  
Blogger 64 said...

If this study is true, it shows why we need to deep-six discrimination cases unless the state can reach the burden of a criminal trial- proof beyond a reasonable doubt.

Some men want to show everyone who is boss, some women are queen bees. Personality has given way to -isms. All this proves is that some bosses are mean, and some are nice, and it doesn't matter if they're male or female.

11:46 AM, January 03, 2007  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I think all of this is interesting, and got me thinking. There appears to be some stereotyping involved.

Me, I believe that some women are great bosses, and some are horrific people. "All" women don't fit any one mold, I think.

Just like men.

I do think that background matters. If a woman "rose through the ranks" twenty five years ago and dealt with very open sexism, she MIGHT be less patient with women in her employ who have not yet "paid their dues."

But men do much the same thing.

I once read that woman PhD advisors were more "nurturing" to their students than men. My jaw dropped over that one, considering my own advisor.

Just my two cents.

11:48 AM, January 03, 2007  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I can't tell you how many women have, unsolicited, told me how much they dislike working with/for other women. Based on my experience I have to believe this attitude is very common. I've spent many years working in health care which is, at least in my area, heavily biased towards women.

My personal experience has women taking both the top (best) and the bottom (worst) on my list of bosses -- by a wide margin both sides. And while I have had friction occasionally working with men, I've had far more drama from women. I'm out of the field at this time, but my feeling at the time was guys just wanted to do their work and get paid. It was just a job. Meanwhile, many (I'm not saying all women, just far too many) women seemed to take everything much more personally. It wasn't just a job environment, it was a social environment as well and that translated into cliques and hierarchies which lead far too often to drama including back-stabbing, malicious gossip and malevolent coalitions. I never saw a guy, or group of guys, on the warpath to take someone out. I witnessed it quite a few times among the women I worked with.

Reading this brings back so many memories. I spent six years in this company. Far too long. I'm studying now to enter a male dominated field. I'll be back in six years to tell you how that goes.

Flame Disclaimer: These are not statements about all women, or even all companies. Again, the best bosses I've ever had, by a wide margin, were women. Many of my female co-workers were exemplary. Also, it could be that the company culture I worked for exacerbated the conditions I describe and should these women have worked in a different company culture -- ie. leadership from the top -- that these problems wouldn't have happened.

12:03 PM, January 03, 2007  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I might not believe it if I wasn't experiencing it currently!

12:22 PM, January 03, 2007  
Blogger Banshee said...

I work at a company that's about 80% women. Almost all my bosses have been women, and they've all been competent and fair. My female coworkers have been great.

OTOH, certain women I don't work for are known for reporting the tiniest accidental dress code violation, and for going over people's heads to do so. There's also been some pretty fierce infighting among the women in some workgroups, from what I hear. But that's the exception more than the rule, as my company strives to hire and retain folks who are pleasant as well as hardworking and competent.

12:45 PM, January 03, 2007  
Blogger Shinobi said...

Just to point out, that while this study used a large sample of 700 people, it says in the Times Online peice that they were all located in southern spain. I don't know much about Spanish Culture, but I imagine that there are many cultures across the world that differ greatly from it. Basically I'm trying to say that this study isn't valid, outside of Spain, maybe europe if you streched it. But I wouldn't bring it all the way to the US.

1:23 PM, January 03, 2007  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

It's an individual woman thing.

If a woman is seen as a threat/competition, she is put in a position where the threat/competition is minimized. Because of age, looks or personality, some women are not seen as threats/competition to other women. Some are.

I also think men operate in the same way. If a man perceives another to be a threat/competition to him -- b/c of age or looks or athletic ability or family power background or whatever -- he often "tests" the other man. Men accept and understand this and are more outright about it. Finding their role and accepting it in forming the overall system/team.

Women without this team background still think they are playing on a team of their own, or that they as an individual player are mightier than the team. They make up their own rules, and prance away without facing the conseqences.

There are less social norms on women to discourage them, overall rewarding them for putting the team before their individual competition. Too many queen bees got where they are exactly for selling out others, or avoiding fair competition. They don't play for the love of competiting but for the trinkets winning can bring.

Those who love to play -- and win -- you can bet are a threat/competition to those who just want to live like winners, but not do what it really takes to keep themselves there.

The value of looks/appearances over substance/true competition is something that can be examined here with regards to men and women.
Though with the rise of men as victims, and the metrosexual men trend, unfortunately this line may be blurring too between the genders and not for the better if you don't think you are your superficial appearance, but what you can DO.

1:44 PM, January 03, 2007  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

competing, not competiting.

But someone could examine that small chest/ large chest worthiness comparison thing that goes on too...

1:48 PM, January 03, 2007  
Blogger Shinobi said...

Also, after a more careful reading of the article, it looks like participants were TOLD to take gender based stereotypes into account. So not only were they dealing with a fictional corporation, and fictional job applicants, they were also asked to take stereotypes into account. I don't see how this translates into women holding eachother back for their own benefit. It seems to me that a more valid conclusion would be that women have less positive stereotypical views of other women than men do. Or perhaps that men overcompensate for those views when evaluating women.

I don't see how queen bee enters into this at all.

1:52 PM, January 03, 2007  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

"Queen Bee" women are actually holding back other women's careers?

That is more or less what women have been telling me for a long time...and I'm a man, imagine what they say when no man is around?...

I know a lot of women who say they would rather work for a male boss than a female...

2:46 PM, January 03, 2007  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I think you meant to say, "...when the WORKERS know their place." Drones are male bees...

3:28 PM, January 03, 2007  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

It's my understanding that, when polled, the majority of working women prefer male managers/bosses. But I don't think that this is because we perceive men as inherently more capable, just that they are easier to get along with and there's less drama.

Female superiors often have a bad habit of getting WAY too personal in their direction and criticism, and they're often passive aggressive. I'd nearly quit a job recently because one of my bosses, a female, kept relating my work performance to some stupid new-agey school of psychotherapy that she's into. I had to go to my other, male, boss to get him to intervene.

She was telling clients all about my personal life and constantly trying to diagnose me!

Granted, this incident is unusual, but in my experience only an extreme version of a common problem.

4:39 PM, January 03, 2007  
Blogger Helen said...


Yes, worker bees are females but I used drone in this instance to mean a person who does tedious work for the queen bee.

4:40 PM, January 03, 2007  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

In the IT world there are many women who were fast tracked into management in an effort to create phony diversity. I've worked at a number of big brokerage and financial services firms and since they all have efforts to hire and promote women in a male dominated field they all have these same practices. They also seem to equate a lack of technical knowledge as an indication that the person will be a good manager but that goes across genders. The women who are promoted are smart enough to know they will most likely never be replaced by a man but know that their competition is from other women. They also know that they tend to be less knowledgable than many of the people who work for them. This is basically the problem with all affirmative action and why in the long run it actually hurts the groups it's supposed to help. All the recipients look like they got their jobs based on favoritism and not merit.

9:28 AM, January 04, 2007  
Blogger David Foster said...

1)Any manager who picks subordinates based on a feeling of competitiveness with those individuals is bound for failure--at least in any reasonably-decently-managed organization. The manager is judged on results, and he/she had better hired people who will achieve those results, not those who are non-threatening.

2)The whole idea that an individual needs to have a single, formally-identified "mentor" strikes me as silly. Why not have a whole set of "mentors," and learn about different aspects of the business from those who know most about it? The person who can teach you the most about big-deal selling may not be the person who can teach you about employee motivation.

Jack & Suzy Welch said much the same thing in a recent BusinessWeek column.

9:51 AM, January 04, 2007  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I would agree with shinobi and others regarding the applicability of this study to the US. It does, however, make for some interesting conversation.

In my experience, the 80s were the golden age of the bitch-boss. This may have been due to the general "I want it all" atmosphere that prevailed back then. Greed and ambition were cool. It seemed most pronounced in young college graduates and even interns. In fairness, it wasn't confined to females - but for some reason they seemed to make a point of being in your face about it, often to the point of being unpleasant. And I don't mean "unpleasant because it's a woman/you wouldn't say that if a man acted that way." I mean mean.

These 80s women tended to wear their feminism on their sleeves. I witnessed actual group hugs among female office workers and lower level managers. Also at various times heard women referring to each other as "sister" - as in "right on, sister" - and being completely serious. I never witnessed any major competition among them.

I found those women to be capable as workers, but also hypersensitive and ready to see sexism in the slightest comment or behavior. It did not always make for a pleasant work environment. Fortunately, most of us had other things to worry about at the time.

Twenty years on, I find that some women who started in business back then still seem to harbor the same sensitivity regarding gender issues. Their younger co-workers, apparently, do not. Things seem much more democratic and comfortable in the office now. Bitch-bosses are that way due to their personalities, not politics.

I've seen no general tendency in my business for women to sabotage each other, nor is there any apparent reluctance for women to work on the same team.

Having said that, I have noticed in a number of 'dysfunctional' offices that happen to have predominantly female staff that the female manager tends to form a very obvious clique with a few of her lower-level "girlfriends." This usually results in a lot of high-school-level bitchiness and rumor-mongering by the women in the "out" group. In this unhealthy atmosphere, career sabotage is pretty routine. Back-stabbing and dirty tricks prevail. I have seen women managers and their hangers-on literally gang up on a less-favored female worker, set them up for an ethics violation, and succeed in getting her fired. Real 'law of the jungle' stuff.

I don't think any of this is intentional. I get the impression that these particular women are somehow more "caught up in" each other emotionally than men might be in a similar situation. Once somebody feels slighted, the gossip and game-playing begin and often don't end until somebody gets fired. And the creepy thing is, I get the impression sometimes that they really enjoy this kind of thing. They'll tell you how miserable they are because X did Y, but they enjoy telling you. It's addictive

Anyway,I think that any office can be dysfunctional, but offices dominated and staffed by women are dysfunctional in their own, uniquely "bitchy" way. Guys do it differently. So if there's any tendency for women to prefer working with men, maybe it's becaus they find the "men's game" easier to play. Less likely to engage the emotions and cause emotional exhaustion, probably.

What can you say? It's human nature.

2:18 PM, January 04, 2007  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

From that article:

FORGET “jobs for the boys”. Women bosses are significantly more likely than men to discriminate against female employees, research has suggested.

Forget reducing women to "girls"; but upgrading to "princess" or "angel" will do. And we know princesses don't have to do the grunt garbage work, and are not oppressed to go off and die for us, so let's just not talk about that, but allow us to quickly degrade men by reducing them to boys. It's the same story, the bottom line and what is remembered is: women are discriminated against, give them more advantages, but forget the responsibilities, the real work.

The study found that when presented with applications for promotion, women were more likely than men to assess the female candidate as less qualified than the male one.

Sure.. men are still given an unfair advantage.

They were also prone to mark down women’s prospects for promotion and to assess them as more controlling than men in their management style.

“Female and older participants showed more prejudice against the (idea of a) female leader than did male and younger participants,” said Rocio Garcia-Retamero, a psychologist at the Max Planck Institute for Human Development in Berlin and lead author of the report.


Garcia-Retamaro said the findings showed that many people adopted a stereotypical view that leadership was a masculine notion. “(This) leads to a bias against a female candidate’s promotion to a leadership post,” she said.


Nicola Horlick, the City financier nicknamed “Superwoman” for combining a demanding job with a large family, said some women looked on other women as a threat and preferred to surround themselves with men.

Women can super-hero around or play the victim role, let them choose and change when fitting because they are superior.

The ever-memorable ending to the article is the same nonsense:

Katherine Rake, director of the Fawcett Society which campaigns for sexual equality, said stereotyping was more important than female rivalry in holding back women’s careers: “Stereotypes about what is an appropriate role for women are still very strong in people’s minds and there is still a cultural barrier to women making it into senior positions.”

She may as well have just said: women are still (as if ever) getting the raw deal, so give us the right to discriminate further against males via the law, so us women can now have both the lower AND higher positions handed to us, because God knows we're entitled to it. This pretty much sums up the intent of the article: women are still being treated unfairly, you better believe it and allow the feminization to continue.

I'd have to guess that men would have a much tougher time even getting a foot in the door at a daycare center or suchlike, then women have these days trying to climb a ladder that they're already holding on to, a ladder that they were given priority over men to hold in the very first place.

I can only imagine what Katherine the Ignorant does for fun. I'd have to guess she puts on a different shiny princess outfit, grabs one of her magic wands, and *waves it* at a banana, fully believing she has can turn it into a peach.

3:53 PM, January 04, 2007  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

The article seems kind of limited in its sample group.

5:47 PM, January 04, 2007  
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