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Psychol Sci. 2011 Oct;22(10):1243-9. doi: 10.1177/0956797611417258. Epub 2011 Aug 26.

Gender-bias primes elicit queen-bee responses among senior policewomen.

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Department of Social and Organizational Psychology, Leiden University, Leiden, The Netherlands.


Queen bees are senior women in male-dominated organizations who have achieved success by emphasizing how they differ from other women. Although the behavior of queen bees tends to be seen as contributing to gender disparities in career outcomes, we argue that queen-bee behavior is actually a result of the gender bias and social identity threat that produce gender disparities in career outcomes. In the experiment reported here, we asked separate groups of senior policewomen to recall the presence or absence of gender bias during their careers, and we measured queen-bee responses (i.e., masculine self-descriptions, in-group distancing, and denying of discrimination). Such gender-bias priming increased queen-bee responses among policewomen with low gender identification, but policewomen with high gender identification responded with increased motivation to improve opportunities for other women. These results suggest that gender-biased work environments shape women's behavior by stimulating women with low gender identification to dissociate with other women and to display queen-bee responses as a way to achieve individual mobility.

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