Queen Bees, Sexism, and Human Resources


I struggle with the phrase QUEEN BEE.

Early in my career, I hated working in Human Resources because I felt that my departments were full of uptight women who gained power through very sketchy and political ways — and then wreaked havoc on the other women in the office. Because of my inexperience in the workforce, I saw leadership as a zero-sum game. There could only be one leader — and if it was a woman, I saw her desire to hold onto that position. I often resented her lack of interest in developing the next generation of women in the company.

Then I matured, a little, and I recognized that women in Human Resources have so little power in the first place. Would I act any differently if I was given a VP role and told to lead a dysfunctional and often irrelevant organization? [Probably not.]

Finally, I am at the point in my professional life where I see women differently. No matter the role, women still struggle to attain true positions of leadership and fiscal authority. When we do succeed, we are expected to mentor the next generation of women in the company. When we aren’t interested in mentoring — which is totally reasonable because mentoring is an unpaid job and often a pain in the ass — we are labeled as QUEEN BEES instead of being labeled as what we are: regular employees who haven’t necessarily been mentored, ourselves.

I now see that most women in positions of leadership are trying to protect their roles, provide for their families, and do a decent job — just like most dudes in Corporate America. Mentoring is often something that happens by accident.

So I have these questions:

  • Does the Queen Bee syndrome really exist?
  • Is it sexist to suggest that it exist?
  • Does the Queen Bee syndrome exist but is it mislabeled? Is it just an example of failed leadership — without a link to gender?

What do you think?

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