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DTCI: 'Queen bee syndrome' in the workplace – true or false?

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dtci-thompson-stacyAnyone who has watched “The Devil Wears Prada,” “Working Girl,” or “Melrose Place” has seen the female boss who has worked her way to the top while undermining other women who can only wish they were that boss. This type of woman now even has her own name: the queen bee. Backed by years of research, the “queen bee syndrome,” which suggests women in positions of authority will treat female subordinates more critically than the male, has long held prominence in society.

If you are a woman trying to make it to the top of a law firm, can you expect a higher-ranking female attorney to take you under her wing? Do you need to undermine other women in order to advance or treat other women as threats?

Some studies have found that women often fail to help other women break the glass ceiling. These studies have suggested that female executives may fear that another woman with lesser qualifications could reinforce negative stereotypes about women. The studies have also suggested that a woman may feel threatened by highly qualified women and worry that they may be more qualified, competent or popular with co-workers. These studies have also found some female executives wanted to avoid appearing biased toward other women, so they did not advocate for them.

In an essay titled, “Why I’d Rather Work for a Man than a Woman,” Forbes contributor Susannah Breslin suggested that women should avoid other women in the workplace altogether. Breslin wrote:

“Tired of women-on-women jealousy at work? Nip that in the bud by eliminating women from the equation. Most women have had an experience with a female superior who wouldn’t let her advance because the woman in power was threatened. You might be insulted men see you as less of a threat, but that may be what enables you to climb up the ladder.”

However, a recent study found that the queen bee stereotype is not as prevalent as some think it is. This study showed that women are actually more likely than other men to help female coworkers advance their careers. It suggested that women do not view female subordinates as competition to be cut down. Rather, women view less-experienced female coworkers as potential talent and are more likely than men to develop that talent through mentorship. The study also showed that women who received career support went on to return the favor to the next generation.

Do women help or hinder each other in the workplace? Are female attorneys mentoring and developing the next generation of female attorneys? Are female attorneys helping other female attorneys advance? Whatever your opinion regarding the queen bee syndrome, law firms should consider these studies when it comes to attracting and holding on to a diverse group of attorneys. Attorneys should be taking an active interest in developing new talent. Almost all of the studies show that when men and women take an active interest in developing both male and female talent, everyone benefits. Of interest to most, some studies have even shown that both men and women who developed protégés actually earned more money than those who did not.•

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Ms. Thompson is a partner in the Bloomington firm of Clendening Johnson & Bohrer and is a member of the DTCI board of directors. The opinions expressed in this article are those of the author.

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  1. First comment on this thread is a fitting final comment on this thread, as that the MCBA never answered Duncan's fine question, and now even Eric Holder agrees that the MCBA was in material error as to the facts: "I don't get it" from Duncan December 1, 2014 5:10 PM "The Grand Jury met for 25 days and heard 70 hours of testimony according to this article and they made a decision that no crime occurred. On what basis does the MCBA conclude that their decision was "unjust"? What special knowledge or evidence does the MCBA have that the Grand Jury hearing this matter was unaware of? The system that we as lawyers are sworn to uphold made a decision that there was insufficient proof that officer committed a crime. How can any of us say we know better what was right than the jury that actually heard all of the the evidence in this case."

  2. wow is this a bunch of bs! i know the facts!

  3. MCBA .... time for a new release about your entire membership (or is it just the alter ego) being "saddened and disappointed" in the failure to lynch a police officer protecting himself in the line of duty. But this time against Eric Holder and the Federal Bureau of Investigation: "WASHINGTON — Justice Department lawyers will recommend that no civil rights charges be brought against the police officer who fatally shot an unarmed teenager in Ferguson, Mo., after an F.B.I. investigation found no evidence to support charges, law enforcement officials said Wednesday." http://www.nytimes.com/2015/01/22/us/justice-department-ferguson-civil-rights-darren-wilson.html?ref=us&_r=0

  4. Dr wail asfour lives 3 hours from the hospital,where if he gets an emergency at least he needs three hours,while even if he is on call he should be in a location where it gives him max 10 minutes to be beside the patient,they get paid double on their on call days ,where look how they handle it,so if the death of the patient occurs on weekend and these doctors still repeat same pattern such issue should be raised,they should be closer to the patient.on other hand if all the death occured on the absence of the Dr and the nurses handle it,the nurses should get trained how to function appearntly they not that good,if the Dr lives 3 hours far from the hospital on his call days he should sleep in the hospital

  5. It's a capital offense...one for you Latin scholars..

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