‘Queen Bee’ Boss is Obstacle to Other Women

What follows are excerpts from a study by psychologists at the University of Cincinnati concluding that female ‘Queen Bee’ bosses tend to be “cogs in the machine” to other women in the workplace.According to the researchers, a female boss is more likely to wreck a woman’s promotion prospects in male-dominated environments and men who report to a female manager get much more mentoring and support than their female colleagues. The researchers say that women who manage to break the glass ceiling may not want competition from other women and/or may want to blend in as much as possible with their male counterparts.  The excerpt is from:  Maume, David J. ,  Meet the new boss…same as the old boss? Female supervisors and subordinate career prospects,  Social Science Research Volume 40, Issue 1, January 2011, Pages 287-298.

… Drawing a 2002 national sample of non-managerial workers, men exceeded women in receiving job-related support from female supervisors and were more optimistic about their promotion chances as a result. Although cross-sectional data precludes drawing firm conclusions regarding processes that occur over-time, the results are consistent with the notion that female managers are cogs in the machine, in that female supervisors have little or no effect on the career prospects of female subordinates, and instead foster men’s career prospects.

… when women attain jobs paying wages similar to men’s, informal workplace dynamics are unleashed that seek to restore men’s more privileged position in the workplace. These processes include isolation and exclusion from informal networks and professional growth opportunities ([Purcell, 2007] and [Reskin et al., 1999]), ratcheting up job demands to determine if women will put work ahead of family life as men do ([Fried, 1998] and [Hochschild, 1997]), and harassment of a general and/or sexual nature ([Acker, 1990] and [Roscigno, 2007]). The cumulative effect of these informal processes is that women’s work effectiveness is compromised, increasing the likelihood that they will either quit their jobs or be fired.

Given gendered informal dynamics that are pervasive in the workplace, some contend that female bosses either lack the power to impede organizational preferences to foster men’s careers, or that female bosses agree with negative stereotypes of female workers ([Cooper, 1997] and [Deaux, 1985]; Wajcman, 1998). And of course, female supervisors may themselves be the victims of informal processes to marginalize them and compromise their effectiveness ([Kanter, 1977] and [Fried, 1998]). In either case, when subordinates report to female supervisors, they may not perceive them to be any different from male bosses who give male subordinates more attention and more chances for promotion as way to advance their own careers. If so, female subordinates will be more likely to quit out of frustration or be fired, even though they may hold jobs paying wages similar to men’s. Jacobs (1989) characterized this process as one of “revolving doors,” in which women enter high-paying male-typed jobs only to exit these jobs later. This dynamic could reconcile the apparent inconsistency between studies reporting an association between more female managers and a lower gender wage gap, and this study’s finding that men’s, but not women’s, career prospects are enhanced when reporting a female superior.

… Despite these caveats, this study is the first representative analysis of how subordinate career prospects are affected by directly reporting to a female supervisor. The results are consistent with much research showing that workplaces are pervasively male-oriented in their customs, policies, and structures, and that female bosses are no different from male bosses in reacting to organizational preferences to invest in men’s careers more so than women’s. Additional research is needed on the organizational mechanisms fostering or impeding women’s ascendance to supervisory positions in order to assess progress toward the goal of affording men and women equal opportunity to exercise managerial authority. Yet, irrespective of what future studies of managerial attainment show, those who expect that female bosses will dramatically change the nature of superior-subordinate relations are likely to be disappointed.


  1. S. Sheridan says:

    This stuff is right on. I had a Queen Bee Bully as a supervisor (who was a Bully in high School by the way) when her Administrator changed from a Female to a Male, the ‘fun’ started happening. He (the Administrator) was a devoted skirt chaser and nothing mattered but that. She (the Manager) caused a lot of damage. Her right hand man was treated like a paramour. he was off the scale lazy (because he could be) and she sang his praises to all, he could do no wrong. There were two in her mob, he was one of them. After I left he turned on his former female mob partner. and started to discredit her. She got some of her own medicine. I have experienced this stuff first hand and what your saying is right on the mark.

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