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Debunking The 'Queen Bee' Stereotype Of The Modern Career Woman

Two new studies delve into the question of gender diversity in the workplace. Among the findings: businesswomen are more "fairy godmother" than "queen bee."

Post it! (Victor1558)
Post it! (Victor1558)

BERLIN - Two new studies show that perceptions of the importance of gender diversity to the success of a company differ between men and women, and that the idea that female managers are "queen bees' is more stereotype than reality.

The first study is based on a poll conducted by management consultancy McKinsey among 500 top managers in 53 German companies. The second is a report based on interviews with graduates of 26 leading business schools in the United States, Canada, Europe and Asia. Die Welt has obtained copies of both.

The McKinsey study comes as a surprise to many in view of the strong political focus recently in Germany on how important gender diversity is to the success of companies, a message that not only HR bosses but CEOs have taken on board and pay regular lip service to. The study, however, reveals that the message has apparently not reached large numbers of male managers, of whom only about a third believe that gender diversification is an important factor in a company's success. Sixty percent of women, on the other hand, believe that it is. Men who did not give the idea of gender diversity much importance rated the status quo in their company significantly higher than their female colleagues did.

Three out of four men also expressed the view that men and women in their company were treated the same, whereas only one in three (32%) of the women thought this. Thirty-six percent of male managers also believed that the company was doing enough for job equality, while only 16% of women did.

The results clearly demonstrate how much still needs to be done to iron out differences of perception, although Katrin Suder, a senior partner at McKinsey, said that most companies have actively taken equality principles on board but "incorporating them into the everyday life of the company, at all levels of the hierarchy, is hard work and will take time."

As other McKinsey studies have shown, the requirements to change mentalities can be laid out in strategic steps and successfully driven. Neutral talent management is the ultimate goal, says Suder.

No queen bees in the corporate world

The second study was conducted by Catalyst, a nonprofit organization supporting women in business, and shows that, contrary to popular views, women in top positions do support subordinate women on their way up. "The Queen Bee syndrome is a myth, and this study proves it," says Christine Silva, one of the study's three authors. "Highly qualified women don't try to trump other women. On the contrary: there's a higher probability with women than with men that they will support same-sex colleagues."

According to Catalyst, between 2008 and 2010 the salaries of women who supported other women were over $25,000 higher than those who did not.

One of the motivations for giving support, the researchers believe, is that by supporting others one's own visibility in a company increases --and with higher visibility the greater the chance of being offered a helping hand up the ladder oneself. Another hypothesis is that former mentees follow the example they were given by their mentors.

The researchers interviewed a representative group of over 700 male and female MBAs who graduated between 1996 and 2007 from top business schools. The researchers differentiated between several kinds of support, ranging from good advice to the "door opener" who puts in a good word for their mentee to help them get a position.

There was 66% chance that anyone with experience of a "door opener" would themselves later open doors for someone else, whereas only 42% of those looking out for themselves were likely to. In giving all the different types of help -- helpful advice, lending an ear when their mentee faced problems, or as role models -- women showed themselves to be more committed than men: 73% of women in the study chose to mentor other women, while 70% of men chose to mentor other men.

*This is a digest item, not a direct translation from articles by Ileana Grabitz and Inga Michler

Read the original articles in German here and here.

Photo - Victor1558

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