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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. Call it unauthorized law if you must, a regulatory wrong, but it was fraud and theft well beyond that, a seeming crime! "In three specific cases, the hearing officer found that Westerfield did little to no work for her clients but only issued a partial refund or no refund at all." That is theft by deception, folks. "In its decision to suspend Westerfield, the Supreme Court noted that she already had a long disciplinary history dating back to 1996 and had previously been suspended in 2004 and indefinitely suspended in 2005. She was reinstated in 2009 after finally giving the commission a response to the grievance for which she was suspended in 2004." WOW -- was the Indiana Supreme Court complicit in her fraud? Talk about being on notice of a real bad actor .... "Further, the justices noted that during her testimony, Westerfield was “disingenuous and evasive” about her relationship with Tope and attempted to distance herself from him. They also wrote that other aggravating factors existed in Westerfield’s case, such as her lack of remorse." WOW, and yet she only got 18 months on the bench, and if she shows up and cries for them in a year and a half, and pays money to JLAP for group therapy ... back in to ride roughshod over hapless clients (or are they "marks") once again! Aint Hoosier lawyering a great money making adventure!!! Just live for the bucks, even if filthy lucre, and come out a-ok. ME on the other hand??? Lifetime banishment for blowing the whistle on unconstitutional governance. Yes, had I ripped off clients or had ANY disciplinary history for doing that I would have fared better, most likely, as that it would have revealed me motivated by Mammon and not Faith. Check it out if you doubt my reading of this, compare and contrast the above 18 months with my lifetime banishment from court, see appendix for Bar Examiners report which the ISC adopted without substantive review: https://www.scribd.com/doc/299040839/2016Petitionforcert-to-SCOTUS

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  3. So if I am reading it right, only if and when African American college students agree to receive checks labeling them as "Negroes" do they receive aid from the UNCF or the Quaker's Educational Fund? In other words, to borrow from the Indiana Appellate Court, "the [nonprofit] supposed to be [their] advocate, refers to [students] in a racially offensive manner. While there is no evidence that [the nonprofits] intended harm to [African American students], the harm was nonetheless inflicted. [Black students are] presented to [academia and future employers] in a racially offensive manner. For these reasons, [such] performance [is] deficient and also prejudice[ial]." Maybe even DEPLORABLE???

  4. I'm the poor soul who spent over 10 years in prison with many many other prisoners trying to kill me for being charged with a sex offense THAT I DID NOT COMMIT i was in jail for a battery charge for helping a friend leave a boyfriend who beat her I've been saying for over 28 years that i did not and would never hurt a child like that mine or anybody's child but NOBODY wants to believe that i might not be guilty of this horrible crime or think that when i say that ALL the paperwork concerning my conviction has strangely DISAPPEARED or even when the long beach judge re-sentenced me over 14 months on a already filed plea bargain out of another districts court then had it filed under a fake name so i could not find while trying to fight my conviction on appeal in a nut shell people are ALWAYS quick to believe the worst about some one well I DID NOT HURT ANY CHILD EVER IN MY LIFE AND HAVE SAID THIS FOR ALMOST 30 YEARS please if anybody can me get some kind of justice it would be greatly appreciated respectfully written wrongly accused Brian Valenti

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