The buzz is that ‘Queen Bee syndrome’ is a myth

The long-held belief that, once a female executive is promoted to a top post she tramples over the ambitions of women below her – so-called Queen Bee Syndrome – is a myth, according to research in the US.

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A study over 20 years at 1,500 companies by Columbia Business School in New York found that the real reason so many women failed to get executive posts was still men's determination to remain in control.The research also found that, once one woman had been promoted to an executive role – but not the top post – the chances of other women achieving similar rank was reduced by 50 per cent.Queen Bee Syndrome has its roots in a study dating back to 1973, which concluded that women in positions of authority were far more critical of women subordinates than they were of men.Now, the Columbia researchers say that, in fact, the glass ceiling had been put in place by men anxious to preserve the boardroom as a male preserve."Women face an implicit quota, whereby firms seek to maintain a small number of women on their top management team, usually only one," said the study."While firms gain legitimacy from having women in top management, the value of this legitimacy declines with each woman, whereas the perceived costs, from the perspective of the male majority in top management, increase with each woman."Helen Fraser, former managing director of Penguin Books and chief executive of the Girls' Day School Trust (GDST), at whose conference the research was published, told the Sunday Times, "It used to be believed that women were less likely to help others with career advancement because of fear of professional rivalry or being undermined."This new research indicates that the notion female senior executives are 'queen bees' who are unwilling to support other women, needs to be put to rest."Indeed, it's more likely that too many companies feel that by appointing one woman they have somehow ticked the 'diversity box' and don't need to appoint any more."Ms Fraser pointed to separate research showing that two-thirds of women who received career went on to mentor other women.The GDST is asking 60,000 former pupils at the country's top girls' schools to share their knowledge, experiences and skills with future generations of female businesswomen.Among the attendees at the conference was Baroness Martha Lane-Fox, co-founder of, who advocates a quota system to bring about a situation where at least 50 per cent of company board members are women.At present, only six companies in the FTSE 100 are run by women chief executives.For more Re:locate news and features about leadership and management and women in business, click here

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