What Do You Do When Your Biggest Career Obstacle Is Another Woman?

chess queen with crown on head, queen bee syndrome

When I started my career, I wanted to be influential – a real professional in the workplace. I wanted to develop my voice, create my personal brand, and make an impact not only in the community, but in my workplace.

I landed what I thought was the perfect job for me: a great position in a great industry with a big corner office, along with incredible growth potential. Management laid out my future with their organization: I would eventually be developing new strategies, creating new initiatives, growing the business. All with the guidance of a mentor who would groom me for career growth within the organization. The list went on and on. It was the dream opportunity.

But as I moved up the corporate ladder, roadblocks started to occur, and obstacles suddenly started to appear when I tried to keep projects moving forward. I began to recognize there was a problem that was prohibiting me from further growth in the company. The problem was the person who hired me – it was my female manager.

It not only affected my professional growth, it affected my personal growth as well. Soon that beautiful corner office felt like a box, and work became a chore. I felt trapped and miserable. And what I realized is that this is a systemic problem affecting growth for women across every industry.

It’s called the Queen Bee Syndrome.

The “Queen Bee” refers to the alpha female who, instead of promoting her younger counterparts, feels threatened by them, judges them, talks about them and, in many cases, ends up obstructing their attempts to climb the corporate ladder in order to preserve her power at all costs.

A 2015 survey of 1,000 working women by the American Management Association found that 95% of them believed they were undermined by another woman at some point in their careers.

According to one group of German researchers, women who reported to female supervisors had higher cases of depression, headaches, heartburn, and insomnia than if their bosses were men.

“The most frequent form of workplace aggression is not physical, it is emotional and psychological in nature.”
– Loraleigh Keashly, Ph.D.

So therein lies the problem. My female manager didn’t feel like there was enough room at the table for two strong women, so she needed to shut me down.

While Sheryl Sandburg is correct in saying that women need to lean in more, who’s there to catch us on the other side? 

I don’t necessarily have an answer to how to stop the Queen Bees of the world, but I know that there’s enough room at the table. And I will be there to catch women on the other side.

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I give a voice to the women who are concerned about sharing their story publicly. My mission is to give a voice to the women who want to start conversations, but who are concerned with sharing their identity, for one reason or another. My posts don’t reveal personal details that can identify particular people nor do I promote bullying or bashing others. I am designed to give women who can’t share their names an equal voice in the important conversations we are having at She In The CLE. Want me to share your story? Submit a post at http://www.sheinthecle.com/she-speaks/.

2 CommentsLeave a comment

  • This is a generational problem — that unfortunately will take generations to completely address. When I was young in business, there certainly wasn’t enough room at the table and I am Gen X, and there certainly wasn’t for the female Baby Boomers I was working with back then. So now that the momentum has shifted, it’s hard for women who have been reared in such a tough environment to take a step back and adjust the way they are looking at their own career and how they are treating other women. It’s terribly tough to work in an environment where so many women are clashing on this issue – but we need to continue to lead by example. We need to continue to support each other and lift each other up. Eventually, there will be a complete shift — it just won’t happen soon enough for many of us. Thank you for sharing your story! And I hope you were able to leave that company and find one where your manager now supports you. You deserve it!

  • Definitely have ran into this numerous times in my career. I think sometimes it’s a trust issue, (“she’s young and must not know any better”), and other times it’s a jealousy issue where people around the office like you as an employee and said woman is jealous that she feels she doesn’t get the same attention, (this happened twice at my last job and both women were younger). It’s silly. Hopefully we realize strength is in building each other up, not tearing each other down.

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