An argument we often hear when we question the bias that women face from men at the workplace is that of the queen bee syndrome. Aren’t women more hostile to their female colleagues? In fact, rivalry among women at workplace is the thing legends and pop culture are made of. So what right do women have, to call out hostile male behaviour at work, when they face the same, or worse, from their own gender? While Queen Bee syndrome and workplace rivalry is indeed a reality, let us not forget that women don’t necessarily hold each other down in offices. And if they do, there is a reason for that.

SOME TAKEAWAYS:

  • It is a common notion that women are their own kind’s fiercest rivals at the workplace.
  • But how true are the Queen Bee syndrome and workplace rivalry?
  • If women do impede the growth of their own kind, is it because they have to emulate male behaviour to succeed?
  • With the rise in conversation on gender issues, women have finally realised that their main rival at the workplace is misogynist mind-set, not other women. 

While Queen Bee syndrome and workplace rivalry is indeed a reality, let us not forget that women don’t necessarily hold each other down in offices. And if they do, there is a reason for that.

As a recent thread by physician Arghavan Salles pointed out in a Twitter thread, when women aren’t truly empowered, it becomes difficult for them to support their female colleagues, and this happens across all fields. She shared a research which says that women leaders who are afforded much managerial discretion behave in a benevolent manner toward subordinate women. This basically means that when women attain security in a high position, it becomes easier for them to uplift other women. But then why do women see other women as rivals in the first place? This is because the male-dominated power structures make it difficult for them to progress due to gender bias. Thus women end up seeing their own gender as a hurdle in their progress, and not the misogynist attitude which is the real culprit.

As Salles says in one of her tweets, “Basically, if women need to be different from other women in order to succeed (as they do in male-dominated fields), they distance themselves from their in-group—they think of themselves in more masculine terms and disavow other women.”

To understand this, go back to your childhood or teen years for a minute. We all have that one cool group in our class of which we wanted to be a part of so desperately. We begin to identify with their likes, habits and body language and abhor whatever keeps us outside of that coveted circle. This is exactly what women experience in power circles. They begin identifying with male thought process and aggression to be a part of the power circle they occupy. Why? Because even today women are a rarity in decision-making, power holding tiers across fields. And what is alienating them from these circles? They have the skills, they have the qualification and they have the experience. So eventually, it is their gender. Thus the cost women pay for progress is of adapting the very mind-set which is resisting the influx of their kind in higher positions.

Women have to compete among themselves, because there is a limited space for their gender on top. It is this space which needs to expand. It is the mind-set that encourages hostility among women which needs to go.

Another plausible reason for women rivalry at workplace is the limited opportunities their gender is given. There is no point in seeing men as rivals, because male privilege has their backs. Women have to compete among themselves, because there is a limited space for their gender on top. It is this space which needs to expand. It is the mind-set that encourages hostility among women which needs to go. Queen Bee syndrome, women rivalry are all true, but it is equally true that women can help other women climb the ladder of success if they don’t have to constantly look over their backs. Also, not all male colleagues are hostile, but just as women leaders, they are constrained by gender politics and have a limit to which they can help women colleagues out.

With the rise in conversation on gender issues, one can see the rise in empathy among women for their female colleagues. They have finally identified what the real impediment is in their progress, and that they can only overcome the hurdle of gender bias if they stand by each other, not against each other. Sky is the limit for women, but in between lies the proverbial glass ceiling, which wasn’t put in place by men, but the views they hold, due to conditioning.

So it isn’t women who are to be exactly blamed for their hostility towards their own kind. Thus the rectification can also truly not come from women, one hundred per cent. Eventually, the key is to loosen the patriarchal grasp on our power structures, to allow more influx of women and to assure them security. When women don’t have to trample over each other to emerge successful, they simply wouldn’t.

Also Read: Holding On To A Dead Relationship: Love Or Arrogance?

Yamini Pustake Bhalerao is a writer with the SheThePeople team, in the Opinions section. The views expressed are the author’s own.

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