Equality between men and women at work: will we achieve it one day?
This simple question often resonates in everyday conversations and debates. The subject is particularly delicate and must be discussed with care because generalizations could create confusion. Much academic research has already been done on this subject, but one interesting aspect that I would like to submit to you is the queen bee phenomenon. This event usually occurs when a female leader has assimilated the male culture of a male-dominated workplace and distances herself from junior female employees, legitimizing gender inequality in the company.
In the scientific literature, the phenomenon is so named because of the clear analogy between the queen bee, alias the leader, who reigns over a female community maintained in a constant state of inferiority.
The real conundrum here is: why do women in leadership positions behave like this when they have already been victims of this discrimination? The possible answer is that female leaders act this way without realizing the gender inequality attached to these behaviors, unwittingly creating the queen bee phenomenon. More dramatically, it is one of the consequences of the gender-based discrimination suffered by women at work to promote this kind of behavior. Consequently, women who experience discrimination are more likely to discriminate against other women.
On the positive side, in recent years several countries have begun to focus on gender equality. The result is that people have started to realize how fundamental the contribution of women in the workplace is. It has also led to an increase in the number of women in leadership positions within companies. But it’s not enough. Although they have gained space in the labor market, women continue to be discriminated against and to be in the minority in positions such as administrators on boards of directors.
It is interesting to note that according to recent research carried out in various European and non-European countries, all companies whose board of directors included at least three women recorded significantly better economic and financial results than companies whose board of directors administration is made up of only men.
However, as noted earlier, this type of gender equality is becoming a bigger topic of debate than the number of women in relevant positions. In fact, even if some women manage to improve their careers and roles, the main problem remains the mentality in these male-dominated workplaces. This results in women reproducing a style of leadership with strong masculine characteristics, similar to that to which they are subjected by their male colleagues.
As seen earlier, this behavior creates the dangerous phenomenon of the queen bee, where female leaders play a negative role in the career advancement of more ambitious women at a lower hierarchical level. Thus, women occupying a leadership position clearly stand out from their female colleagues occupying lower hierarchical positions. In doing so, they believe themselves to be more ambitious and committed to their work compared to these women at the start of their careers, whom they belittle. Scientific research clearly shows that, as long as the commitment is strong, there is no difference between women and men at the start of their careers. It’s just the end result of stereotypical ideas presented in these kinds of male contexts.
What you have to do to try to get out of this vicious and very dangerous circle is to change people’s mentality and culture. Trying to eradicate the negative stereotypes that underlie our society must be the first conscious step. Rethinking society in a truly inclusive way, so that everyone can feel that they really have the same conditions and can freely and effectively express their potential.
I believe that corporate structures are, in a way, a small mirror of our society. We all need to do our best to improve some aspects that we know are hurting all of us.
Written by Ricardo Pandini.
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