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Queen Bee Syndrome: Do Women Judge Women Leaders More Harshly? Kim Shepherd Weighs in with Working Mother

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Decision Toolbox CEO Kim Shepherd shared her thoughts on whether women in the workplace suffer from Queen Bee syndrome with Working Mother.

Excerpts from the article:

Certainly women are gaining corner offices, starting businesses in record numbers and flocking to peer-to-peer networking groups. Yet a part of this good news that refuses to die are the stories of spiteful, insecure senior women who block the rise of younger women. One recent study finds that narratives of high-ranking “mean girls” who backstab female rivals—behavior dubbed the “Queen Bee syndrome”—are more an Old Boy’s Club strategy to maintain executive male privilege than an actual girl problem. When women run the show, says the study, junior women thrive. And yet …

Royal Ambivalence

Kim Shepherd, CEO of nationwide recruiter Decision Toolbox, is often invited to deliver keynote talks to women’s business groups. A success story herself (“I believe in micro train and macro manage”), Shepherd understandably doesn’t want her talks to dwell on struggles or hardships. Rather, she says, “I want to lift up and empower women, to show we’ve truly arrived.”

But while she believes women now excel in business and “oppression is breaking down quickly,” Shepherd bemoans a common behavior she sees, when “women shy away from their feminine strength and flip to catty mean girls who criticize others’ hair and clothes.”

OK, not very nice, and maybe even disheartening. But why must we be paragons all the time? Who made the rule? Why must we be all one way or the other rather than sometimes some of each?

I began this article expecting to find that the Queen Bee syndrome was a myth or, at very least, is fading as more women gain power and as male bosses realize (slowly) that women can be leaders too. But I’ve had to revise my thinking. Like so much of the issues around workplace gender, the reality is way more nuanced. If men can be openly and aggressively competitive while choosing not to mentor up-and-comers without penalty, then why can’t women? Long live Queen Bees.

Check out the full article here.

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