Women Pay a Price for Promoting Other Women  

4 March 2019:

As women attempt to advance from mid-career leaders into senior and executive positions, plenty of roadblocks stand in their path — but one of those barriers may come as a surprise: other women.

“In some cases, women who have broken the glass ceiling do not sponsor, promote, or support the career advancement of mid-career women leaders,” explains Sophia Zhao, a senior researcher at CCL.

This “queen bee syndrome,” a term first coined in 1973, is often referenced during CCL leadership training programs, where mid-level women mention the lack of support from senior women. “For these mid-level women leaders to further advance their careers, it is very important that diversity and inclusion is advocated and valued in their organizations,” says Zhao.

“So why wouldn’t women — especially senior women — strive to support the advancement of other women?” asks Zhao, lead author of our white paper, Queen Bee Syndrome: The Real Reason Women Do Not Promote Women.

Instead of blaming senior-level women, our researchers asked if there was another factor at play: Could it be that senior-level women are penalized for supporting other women leaders?

Gender Bias Matters
To better understand the lack of diversity in senior leadership teams, our research team first took a step back to get a big-picture view. They wanted to see how leaders — both men and women — are viewed by their peers when they openly value diversity in the workplace.

Researchers looked at the results of 360-degree data collected from leaders who came to CCL leadership development programs to examine the relationship between diversity-valuing behaviors and competency/performance ratings.

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Source: Center for Creative Leadership

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