Queen-Bee Policewomen

Derks, B., Van Laar, C., Ellemers, N., & de Groot, K. (2011). Gender-bias primes elicit queen-bee responses among senior policewomen Psychological Science, 22(10), 1243-1249.

Derks, Van Laar, Ellemers, and de Groot (2011) investigated the behavior of “queen-bees.” This term refers to successful women in male dominated workplaces who distance themselves from, and are not supportive of, other female employees. Although queen-bee behavior has been viewed as contributing to discrimination against women in the workplace, the authors hypothesized that instead it is an outcome of experiences with gender bias, particularly in women for whom being female is not central to their workplace identity. Sixty-three Dutch senior policewomen were assigned to two groups in which they were asked to write about either the presence or absence of gender bias in a work experience. They were also administered measures of gender identification, queen-bee behavior (e.g., masculine self-description, distancing from other women, denial of gender discrimination) and collective action (e.g., positive attitudes toward programs aimed at improving women’s outcomes, willingness to help female subordinates advance). As predicted, women with high levels of gender identification reported experiencing more discrimination than women with lower levels. In addition, when reminded of past gender bias, those with low gender identification scored higher on all three measures of queen-bee behavior and scored lower on measures of collective action. The authors suggested that efforts to reduce gender bias in the workplace are likely to reduce queen-bee behavior since it will no longer be perceived as a viable strategy for success.

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