In a recent article in the Wall Street Journal, titled “The Tyranny of the Queen Bee,” Dr. Peggy Drexler reported that the vision of a kinder, gentler corporate world with women in leadership positions was more pipe dream than reality. Women in leadership positions are not serving as mentors to the women under them. Rather, they are either ignoring them or deliberately sabotaging their efforts.
While disappointed, I was not surprised. My own research in social psychology indicated that even regular worker-bees can be just as manipulative and treacherous as any queen, and not all that different from the mean girls we all knew in high school.
In my studies, young men and women were assigned simple geometry puzzles to solve, but were given phony scores indicating either “success” or “failure” on the tests. When told their partners’ scores, the men attributed their female partners’ success to their skill, their failure to bad luck or difficulty of the material. The women, on the other hand, attributed their female partners’ success to luck, their failure to inability and incompetence.
The bell curve being what it is, not all of these young women could have been queen bees. Nor can my results be explained by geography since I conducted my research on both the East Coast and in the Rocky Mountains.
What gives me pause is that I conducted my studies decades ago, at the height of the feminist movement, when women (we were not to be called “girls”) were talking about sisterhood and empowerment and equality. What happened to the promise of a brighter future?
If sisterhood requires demeaning our siblings, and empowerment means kicking the legs out from under our colleagues, then it appears feminism itself needs a re-think. We have been blaming men/the system/the fill-in-the-blank for generations now for our inability to break the metaphorical glass ceiling. Perhaps some of our failure can be attributed to the fact that we have been holding our sisters by the ankles so that they can’t climb the ladder.