Source | LinkedIn | Sepideh Moussavi | Corporate Trainer, Consultant and Coach| Cultural Intelligence, Diversity & Inclusion, CSR, Women’s Development Advocate
Don’t underestimate the power of women connecting and supporting each other at work. As my experiences from being a junior specialist to a managing director of my own business have taught me, conversations between women have massive benefits for the individual and the organisation. When I graduated college in the 1990s, I believed that women would quickly achieve parity at all levels of professional life now that we had “arrived” — I viewed the lack of women at the top a “pipeline” problem AND a cultural one. But the support I expected to find from female colleagues — the feeling of sisterhood in this mission — rarely survived first contact within the workplace.
I mentioned this story in one of my previous articles but it is worth mentioning again. When working as a junior in one of the largest multinational organisations, I kept asking the only woman senior to me to go to lunch or for a coffee, until finally, she told me, “Look, I honestly don’t have the time to be anybody’s mentor here. Plus we are at a different hierarchical level so you and I are not going to be friends.” Unfortunately, she was acting rationally. Senior-level women who champion younger women even today are more likely to get negative performance reviews, according to a 2016 study in The Academy of Management Journal.
My colleague’s behaviour has a (misogynistic) academic name: the “Queen Bee” phenomenon. Some senior-level women distance themselves from junior women, to be more accepted by their male peers. Especially in this part of the world (Middle East). As a study published in The Leadership Quarterly concludes, this is a response to inequality at the top, not the cause. Trying to separate oneself from a marginalised group is, sadly, a strategy that’s frequently employed. It’s easy to believe that there’s limited space for people who look like you at the top when you can see it with your own eyes.