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Do females in leadership roles help other women at work?

Across many industries and organizations, men are often in top-level leadership positions. This is one of the major gender disparities in the workforce. However, recently women have gained leadership positions in male-dominated industries. However, researchers have yet to examine if women who are in leadership positions in male-dominated industries contribute to or reduce gender disparities in these organizations. 

Some research has found that female leadership has a negative effect on the career advancement of other women within the organization. This research is based on the “queen bee phenomenon”—that women distance themselves from other women in an attempt to adopt to masculine culture. They do this to prove that they have what it takes to gain a senior position. Research that supports this phenomenon has found that female leaders are hostile and competitive towards their female employees. In some cases, they will undermine their female employees’ advancement opportunity by preventing them from moving up the corporate ladder. Some researchers have been skeptical of the “queen been phenomenon” arguing the women may be supporting other female employees in their careers. This, in turn, reduces gender disparities. 

Recent research the Leadership Quarterly aimed to see which is correct. Do women in leadership help or hurt the career development of female employees? The researchers used data from female mayors elected in Brazilian municipalities. They examined how female leaders influenced the gender makeup of the organization over multiple years. The data revealed an increase in the number of women in manager positions chosen by female leaders. The findings suggest that the “queen bee phenomenon” is less impactful than the “role model effect” or it may not exist at all. According to the “role model effect,” women serve as mentors to other female employees by inspiring and encouraging them. During these times, female leaders are considered to be “regal leaders” rather than queen bees.