Second-Generation Bias

I received this graphic today and I thought this wonderful example of the importance of removing structural barriers might be a great start for a discussion of an important current opportunity for women and leadership research - second generation bias.   (I wish the characters were young womensmiley).   

This would be a great thread for sharing articles or suggesting potential second-generation bias examples that might merit future research.  

I hope you'll join this discussion or begin new forum discussions on other theories or concepts that interest you.


One great article is:

Ely, R. J., Ibarra, H., & Kolb, D.M. (2011).  Taking gender into account: Theory and design for women's leadership development programs. Academy of Management Learning and Education, 10(3), 479-493.


Daniel Roberts's picture Daniel Roberts | April 21, 2017 5:33 am MST

The article by Hurst, Leberman, and Edwards (2016) is related to second-generation bias and women's leadership in that it discusses women managing women.  Various approaches to women and the leadership of other women are discussed including women's solidarity, the queen bee syndrome, and aggression against other women.  Second-generation bias comes into play with the queen bee syndrome.  The queen bee syndrome is an attitude of, "I made it in this male-dominated world on my own, other women can do the same."  The queen bee may not recognize the positional advantages, male favors, and other benefits she experienced that helped her along the way (Hurst et al., 2016).  She may not see the institutional barriers that exist for other women and is not inclined to help other women achieve the same success.

According to Hurst et al. (2016), there is a need for research in the relationship between hierarchal relationship among women and the resulting impact on women's careers.  There is also a lack of research in how the expectations for women placed on them during their formative years impact their hierarchal relationships with other women in the workplace (Hurst et al., 2016).  My own addition to these recommended research areas is that any such research should be situated within the cultural context of the participants.  Cultural and racial context should be key factors in any second-generation bias research.

Hurst, J., Leberman, S., & Edwards, M. (2016). Women managing women: Intersections between hierarchal relationships, career development, and gender equity. Gender in Management: An International Journal, 31(1), 61-74. doi: 10.1108/GM-03-2015-0018

Lynne Devnew's picture Lynne Devnew | May 2, 2017 7:29 pm MST

There is going to be a chapter in the upcoming book I am senior editor for, More Women on Boards of Directors: An International Perspective on the Queen Bee Syndrome written by Malli Gero, President and Co-Founder of 2020 Women on Boards and Evelyn Garrity, their Communications Coordinator.  I asked Malli if she'd be willing to create a response on the Queen Bee Syndrome.  I'm posting the response they sent me.  (You can learn more about 2020 Women on Boards at


The Queen Bee Syndrome

For too long corporate culture has perpetuated the idea that some successful female professionals actually hinder the professional growth of other women. This image of the corporate “Queen Bee” has grown out of stubborn narratives about the supposed “cattiness” of women-to-women relationships in general.


2020 Women on Boards (2020WOB), with its mission of increasing the percentage of women on boards to 20% or more by 2020, is working to fight this harmful stereotype—especially because it is untrue. 


In our report When Women Lead, we looked to answer the question, “What happens to the gender diversity of a board when the CEO or Chair is a woman?” The results are remarkable: while women held 17.9% of all Fortune 1000 board seats in 2015, boards headed by women CEOs and Chairs had 30.0% and 27.7% women, respectively. Of these women-led companies, 88% of companies with a woman CEO and 86% of companies with a woman Chair had already met or surpassed 2020WOB’s goal of getting 20% women on the board. Boards headed by men lag behind their female counterparts: only 39% of male CEOs and 40% of male Chairs have 20% or more women on their boards.


This data suggests that—despite the Queen Bee myth—women directors are more likely to help one another get a seat at the table. We knew that this finding is supported by first-hand experience, too. Marjorie Magner, Chair of Gannet Corporation, remarked:


“When women have a platform as CEO, Chair, Lead Director or Head of the Nominating and Governance Committee, the culture is already moving in the right direction with further progress more likely.  Male colleagues on the board become comfortable with seeing women as leaders with capabilities and experience that let them acknowledge women in the board room are a plus, contributing on many levels to the board and the company.  It’s much less comfortable for male board members to declare to these women in leadership positions that there are no capable or prepared women to join the board than it might be for them to say this to their male colleagues.”


2020WOB hopes that by drawing awareness to the falsehood of the Queen Bee myth, we can stamp out one more obstacle facing women striving to rise to the top of their companies.  



Daniel Roberts's picture Daniel Roberts | May 4, 2017 4:57 am MST

Thanks for posting this.  After reading this, I looked back at the article I referenced.  The article did state that the evidence supporting the Queen Bee syndrome was weak.  In response to Queen Bee syndrome assumptions, Sheppard and Aquino (2013) suggested that conflict between women at work is a result of gender inequality rather than being produced by queen bees.  In reviewing a range of studies, Sheppard and Aquino (2013) argued that the Queen Bee syndrome was not only weakly supported, but that a variety of other factors might be in play, such as the backlash effect.  Further, Sheppard and Aquino (2013) conducted their own study and found that female-female conflict was perceived by observers to be more problematic than male-male conflict or male-female conflict.  This suggests that male-male conflict is more socially acceptable or overlooked while female-female conflict is highlighted.  This is like many other gender assumptions that are deeply imbedded in our society and culture.  It seems that men get free passes while women are criticized, regardless of what they do.  


Sheppard, L. D. & Aquino, K. (2013). Much ado about nothing? Observers' problematization of women's same-sex conflict at work. Academy of Management Perspectives, 27(1), 52-62. 

Lynne Devnew's picture Lynne Devnew | May 5, 2017 7:05 am MST

Anne Litwin wrote a book on women to women relationships at work called New Rules for Women  Anne will be at Omega. Her presentation will be on a different topic, however, as she is wrapping up a study on women's leadership development programs.  



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