CEOWORLD magazine - Latest - Tech and Innovation - Equality between men and women in the workplace: will we ever achieve it?

Tech and Innovation

Equality between men and women in the workplace: will we ever achieve it?

gender equality

This simple question often resounds in conversations and day to day debates. The subject is particularly delicate, and it needs to be discussed carefully as generalisations could create confusion. Much academic research has been already carried out on this topic, but an interesting aspect that I would like to subject to you is the “Queen bee phenomenon”. This event typically occurs when a woman leader has assimilated the masculine culture of a male-dominated work settings and she distances herself from the junior women employees, legitimising the gender inequality in the company.

In the scientific literature, the phenomenon is named this way because of the clear analogy between the queen bee, alias the leader, who reigns over a female community kept in a constant state of inferiority.

The real riddle here is: why do women in a leader position behave this way despite have been already the victims of this discrimination? The possible answer is that leader women act this way without realising the gender inequality attached to these behaviours, involuntarily creating the Queen bee phenomenon. More dramatically, it is one of the consequences of the gender discrimination that women suffer at work to promote those kinds of behaviours. Therefore, women subjected to discrimination are more likely to discriminate other women.

On the positive side, in recent years, several countries have started to focus on gender equality. The result is that people have started to realise how fundamental is the contribution of women in the workplace. This has also led to an increased number of women in leadership positions within companies. But this is not enough. Despite having gained space in the labour market, women continue to be discriminated and to be a minority in positions such as directors in company boards.

Interestingly enough, according to recent research conducted in various European and non-European countries, all companies whose board of directors included at least three women, have recorded significantly better economic and financial results than those companies with boards with only male directors.

However, as stated before, this type of gender equality becomes a bigger matter of debate than the number of women in relevant positions. In fact, even if some women are able to improve their careers and their roles, the main problem remains the mentality in those male-dominated workplaces. This culminates in women reproducing a leadership style with strong masculine characteristics, similar to the one they are subjected by male colleagues.

As seen before, this behaviour creates the dangerous queen bee phenomenon, where leader women play a negative role in the career advancement of more ambitious women in a lower hierarchical level. Thus, women in a leader position distinctively distance themselves from those women colleagues in lower hierarchical roles. In doing so, they believe they are more ambitious and committed to their work compared to those women at the beginning of their careers, who they belittle. Scientific research clearly shows that, as far as the commitment is strong, there is no difference between women and men at the beginning of their careers. It is only the end result of stereotyped ideas presented in those type of male-lead contexts.

What it needs to be done to try to overcome this vicious and very dangerous circle is to change people’s mentality and culture. Try to eradicate the negative stereotypes that underpin our society must be the first conscious step. Rethinking society in a truly inclusive way, so that every person can feel that they really have the same conditions and can express their potential freely and effectively.

I believe that business structures are, in a certain way, a small mirror of our society. We must all do our best to improve certain aspects that we know are damaging to us all.

Written by Riccardo Pandini.
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CEOWORLD magazine - Latest - Tech and Innovation - Equality between men and women in the workplace: will we ever achieve it?
Riccardo Pandini
Riccardo Pandini is an Academic Tutor at the University of Milano-Bicocca and a writer at the State of Mind, an online journal of psychology, psychotherapy, neuroscience, psychiatry, and various current affairs.

Riccardo Pandini is an opinion columnist for the CEOWORLD magazine. Connect with him through LinkedIn.