Photograph: David Levene for the Guardian

‘Queen Bee Syndrome’ among women at work is a myth

Research from Columbia Business School negates idea that female senior executives are unwilling to support other women in their careers

Researchers at Columbia Business School in New York claim that a lack of women in top roles is down to men’s determination to retain control, the Sunday Times reported.

The finding, which will be presented at a conference of leading girls’ schools on Wednesday, contradict a 1973 study which suggested that women in authority were more critical of female subordinates.

The new research reportedly looked at top management teams in 1,500 companies over a 20-year period and found that where women had been appointed chief executive, other women were more likely to make it into senior positions.

But when a woman had been given a senior role that was not the top position, the likelihood of other women following them to executive level fell by 50%, the academics found.

The research team said: “Women face an implicit quota, whereby firms seek to maintain a small number of women on their top management team, usually only one. While firms gain legitimacy from having women in top management, the value of this legitimacy declines with each woman.”

At next week’s Girls’ Day School Trust (GDST) conference, a scheme will be launched to channel the mentoring skills of 60,000 former pupils from the schools the organization represents.

Women including Martha Lane-Fox, the co-founder of, Stella Rimington, the former MI5 director general, the Labour MP Margaret Hodge and historian Bettany Hughes are reportedly expected to be among those who share their knowledge.

Helen Fraser, chief executive of the GDST and former managing director of Penguin Books, 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 of 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.”

Source: The Guardian


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