Summary: Researchers report when women are afforded more power and discretion in leadership roles, they act benevolently over their subordinate female colleagues.
Portrayals in the media and academic research suggest that females act like queen bees. When they succeed in male-dominated settings they mistreat subordinate women and stop their professional advancement–contributing to gender inequality in the work place. The latest study on the “Queen Bee” phenomenon, published in The Leadership Quarterly, presents a different perspective altogether.
The “Queen Bee” phenomenon is widely documented in the world’s press. For example, Margaret Thatcher, the UK’s first female prime minister, received the “queen bee” label for not promoting the careers of other women in her cabinet.
“Previous research on the queen bee phenomenon stems from illustrative case studies that are not representative or surveys that do not establish the true causal effects of appointing women to power,” commented lead author Paulo Arvate, Professor of Economics and Strategy at the São Paulo Business School of Getulio Vargas Foundation. “These studies have reinforced the stereotype that women do not make good leaders.”
The authors in this study advise that the “Queen Bee” phenomenon may be a myth. In environments where top leaders are afforded more power and discretion, female leaders act benevolently over their subordinate women. They chose more subordinate females at high managerial levels, which also reduced pay inequality relative to men in similar roles.
The researchers’ study took into account 8.3 million organizations distributed over 5,600 Brazilian municipalities. From this sample men and women who had won an election race with a very small margin of victory were compared to mimic a randomized experiment. The study took account of time, to allow for leaders to solidify their power and impose their will, and finally whether the leader was from a public or private organization based on the assumption that public leaders command more authority. The results showed that when a woman was elected leader there was in fact an increase in the number of women occupying top- and middle-management positions in public organizations.
“Our research has many methodological advantages relative to previous research and presents an entirely different picture,” Dr. Arvate said.
Source: Lyndsay Duncum – Elsevier
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Original Research: Abstract for “Sedentary behavior associated with reduced medial temporal lobe thickness in middle-aged and older adults” by The queen bee: A myth? The effect of top-level female leadership on subordinate females in The Leadership Quarterly. Published April 12 2018,
[cbtabs][cbtab title=”MLA”]Elsevier “Is the ‘Queen Bee’ Phenomenon a Myth?.” NeuroscienceNews. NeuroscienceNews, 12 April 2018.
<https://neurosciencenews.com/queen-bee-myth-8776/>.[/cbtab][cbtab title=”APA”]Elsevier (2018, April 12). Is the ‘Queen Bee’ Phenomenon a Myth?. NeuroscienceNews. Retrieved April 12, 2018 from https://neurosciencenews.com/queen-bee-myth-8776/[/cbtab][cbtab title=”Chicago”]Elsevier “Is the ‘Queen Bee’ Phenomenon a Myth?.” https://neurosciencenews.com/queen-bee-myth-8776/ (accessed April 12, 2018).[/cbtab][/cbtabs]
Sedentary behavior associated with reduced medial temporal lobe thickness in middle-aged and older adults
We investigate the effect of female leadership on gender differences in public and private organizations. Female leadership was constructed using a quasi-experiment involving mayoral elections, and our research used a sample of 8.3 million organizations distributed over 5600 Brazilian municipalities. Our main results show that when municipalities in which a woman was elected leader (treatment group) are compared with municipalities in which a male was elected leader (control group) there was an increase in the number of top and middle managers in public organizations. Two aspects contribute to the results: time and command/role model. The time effect is important because our results are obtained with reelected women – in their second term – and the command/role model (the queen bee phenomenon is either small, or non-existent) is important because of the institutional characteristics of public organizations: female leaders (mayor) have much asymmetrical power and decision-making discretion, i.e., she chooses the top managers. These top managers then choose middle managers influenced by female leadership (a role model). We obtained no results for private organizations. Our work contributes to the literature on leadership by addressing some specific issues: an empirical investigation with a causal effect between the variables (regression-discontinuity design – a non-parametric estimation), the importance of role models, and how the observed effects are time-dependent. Insofar as public organizations are concerned, the evidence from our large-scale study suggests that the queen bee phenomenon may be a myth; instead, of keeping subordinate women at bay, our results show that women leaders who are afforded much managerial discretion behave in a benevolent manner toward subordinate women. The term “Regal Leader” instead of “Queen Bee” is thus a more appropriate characterization of women in top positions of power.