Is your boss a Queen Bee?

An article in DNA, talks about the queen bee syndrome – a phenomenon high-ranking women actively limit the advancement of their female subordinates; along with inputs from Kunal Sen.

HR experts say that female boss who won’t let those of her gender progress is a myth.

It is a widely believed notion that high-ranking women actively limit the advancement of their female subordinates, a phenomenon known as Queen Bee syndrome. But how much of it is true?

A new study by the Credit Suisse Research Institute suggests that there aren’t as many Queen Bees as conventional wisdom might suggest. Female executives are actually more likely to promote women who work under them than their male counterparts are, the study has found.

So how does it play out in the Indian context? Shradha Kapoor, managing director at Black Turtle, a talent management consultancy, says such thing doesn’t exist. “Not only have we recruited female employees for female leaders, I have myself recruited many female employees. There are renewed efforts to ensure that there are enough women in senior positions to bring in equality,” she says.

The Queen Bee theory gained currency after a study in Michigan in 1970 came-up with findings that women leaders refuse to hire women in managerial roles.

Devil wears Prada
Female bosses are accused of being extremely tough on their sub-ordinates. The theory says that women are not natural leaders, and fear their effectiveness. The others just abuse their supreme role as if it were a prize. A demonised female boss from the famous movie, ‘The Devil Wears Prada’, has done no good to this manner of thinking either.
Experts, however, say that the truth is far from the bandwagons. “I do not subscribe to the view. It is possible for both men and women to be effective leaders without being bossy or domineering. A lot of leaders of both genders are choosing a hands-on approach towards increasing productivity,” says Kunal Sen, senior vice-president and SBU head at TeamLease.
Queen Bee is just one, female leaders of this gender face a lot of stereotypes such as they are incapable of managing companies with a large male workforce, and put their family first. And career-obsessed women suffer from lack of balance that a family provides.
Women leaders are subjected to harsh judgements. “Women who rise to higher positions have to work for ten years without a break and only 14% can manage it. Those who make it are also under scrutiny,” Sen adds.

The Suits
Women leaders are advised to think like men and behave like them too, springing the age-old theory that men are built to be leaders. They are expected to mask their femininity with either a poor sartorial sense which does not attract attention, traditional wear which ‘softens’ their image to make them look maternal.
“After I became a deputy manager, my boss told me to dress like a man with pant suits et cetera. He said my team would be more receptive to a man. The next best thing to a man is a woman who dresses and acts like one,” recounts the senior VP, who chooses to remain anonymous. She also informs that she never heeded her boss’s advice and yet remained successful.


Kunal Sen

TeamLease Services Ltd

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