Queen Bee Syndrome in Higher Education: Myth or Reality?

Webinar Category
Webinar Date
Webinar Description
Dr. Bonomi and Dr. Guinot Talbot have found critical information and guidance for what we do and not do in the gray space of bullying. The presentation includes some clear and concise conceptual models, along with strategies of how to address issues stemming directly from participants.

WorkLife Office Presents: Queen Bee Syndrome in Higher Education: Myth or Reality?

Queen Bee Syndrome (QBS), a concept introduced in 1973, describes women in positions of authority in male-dominated environments who are unsupportive of female subordinates. Since its inception, there has been mixed empirical support for whether the QBS exists within organizations. Additionally, critics argue that the QBS concept is woman-blaming, perpetuates gender stereotypes, and undermines women’s progress. However, given the challenges women describe in higher education settings that align with aspects of the QBS—especially at the intersection of race, ethnicity, and sexuality—we sought to explore women’s experiences and understanding of the QBS. Using an intersectional lens, focus groups were conducted with 20 cisgender women staff and faculty to explore their experiences of the QBS and its impacts. Focus group participants experienced the QBS as bullying by women superiors—including criticism, intimidation, threats, attacking identity (race/ethnic identity, DEI/social justice scholars, whistleblowers), punishment, gaslighting, slander, and recruiting others (“mini bees”) to enforce the culture. This resulted in professional derailment (including leaving the university), isolation, and adverse health and financial impacts. Women suggested the antidote includes talking about the QBS, establishing allyship bases, and addressing structural inequalities (including redesigning leadership training to support female supervisors in navigating gendered culture).

Dr. Bonomi and Dr. Guinot Talbot have found critical information and guidance for what we do and not do in the gray space of bullying. The presentation includes some clear and concise conceptual models, along with strategies of how to address issues stemming directly from participants.

Applicable to anyone on campus and applies to many people across MSU -- ranging from those in leadership positions (chairs, deans, HR directors, supervisors, etc.), to those working on professionalism and bullying issues, to those working in OIE and OI3, and more. 

Speakers:

Dr. Amy Bonomi is the Founder of Social Justice Associates (Boulder), an organization that trains organizations on equity and inclusion, including bias, structural barriers, and intersections with gender-based and sexual violence. She is also Affiliate at the Harborview Injury Prevention and Research Center of the University of Washington (Seattle). Dr. Bonomi is widely consulted worldwide for her research focused on women, including victim recantation. As founding/former director of the Women’s Leadership Institute at Michigan State University (2015-2020) and co-author of the American Psychological Association-endorsed book Women Leading Change (2019), Dr. Bonomi's research tackles gender-based bias and related issues impacting women’s success. Dr. Bonomi is serving a three-year term under the Biden Administration as chair of the Board of Scientific Counselors for the U.S. Centers for Disease Control’s National Center for Injury Prevention and Control. Dr. Bonomi's research has been featured on ABC News, BBC, Breitbart, Campus Reform, Canada AM Television, CNN, The College Fix, Fox News, MSNBC, National Public Radio, and NBC.

Dr. Amanda Guinot Talbot is the director of undergraduate education and an assistant professor in MSU’s Department of Human Development and Family Studies. As the Women’s Leadership Institute acting director and Mason Soneral faculty fellow Dr. Guinot Talbot works on institute programming, curricula, and student engagement. Dr. Guinot Talbot also is a co-administrator of the financial literacy educational campaigns at MSU (Go for the Green). She received her master’s degree in Family Studies and Ph.D. in Human Development and Family Studies from Michigan State University.