Do sexist organizational cultures create the Queen Bee?


Dr Belle Derks, Social and Organisational Psychology Unit, Institute for Psychological Research, Leiden University, PO Box 9555, 2300 RB Leiden, The Netherlands (e-mail:


‘Queen Bees’ are senior women in masculine organizational cultures who have fulfilled their career aspirations by dissociating themselves from their gender while simultaneously contributing to the gender stereotyping of other women. It is often assumed that this phenomenon contributes to gender discrimination in organizations, and is inherent to the personalities of successful career women. We argue for a social identity explanation and examine organizational conditions that foster the Queen Bee phenomenon. Participants were 94 women holding senior positions in diverse companies in The Netherlands who participated in an on-line survey. In line with predictions, indicators of the Queen Bee phenomenon (increased gender stereotyping and masculine self-descriptions) were found mostly among women who indicated they had started their career with low gender identification and who had subsequently experienced a high degree of gender discrimination on their way up. By contrast, the experience of gender discrimination was unrelated to signs of the Queen Bee phenomenon among women who indicated to be highly identified when they started their career. Results are discussed in light of social identity theory, interpreting the Queen Bee phenomenon as an individual mobility response of low gender identified women to the gender discrimination they encounter in their work.