Why Women (Sometimes) Don’t Help Other Women

It’s not because they’re inherently harsher leaders than men, but because they often respond to sexism by trying to distance themselves from other women.

There are two dominant cultural ideas about the role women play in helping other women advance at work, and they are seemingly at odds: the Righteous Woman and the Queen Bee.

The Righteous Woman is an ideal, a belief that women have a distinct moral obligation to have one another’s backs. This kind of sentiment is best typified by Madeleine Albright’s now famous quote, “There is a special place in hell for women who don’t help each other!”

.. The ultimate Queen Bee is the successful woman who instead of using her power to help other women advance, undermines her women colleagues.

.. they overlap in that they both further a double standard—that conflict between men is normal but between women it’s dysfunctional. When men battle it out, they are seen as engaging in healthy competition and vigorous debate. When women do the same things, they are Mean Girls locked in a heated catfight.

.. despite studies showing that men engage in indirect aggression like gossiping and social exclusion at similar or even higher rates than women, it is still widely believed that women are meaner to one another.

..  It turns out that it was the older generation of women professors, not the younger generation, who displayed this Queen Bee-like response.

.. Rather, to the degree they exist, Queen Bee dynamics are triggered by gender discrimination.

.. For women with low levels of gender identification—who think their gender should be irrelevant at work and for whom connecting with other women is not important—being on the receiving end of gender bias forces the realization that others see them first and foremost as women.

.. these women try to set themselves apart from other women. They do this by pursuing an individual strategy of advancement that centers on distancing themselves from other women.

..  It’s actually an approach used by many marginalized groups to overcome damaging views held about their group. For example, research has found that some gay men try to distance themselves from stereotypes about gays being effeminate by emphasizing hyper-masculine traits and holding negative beliefs about effeminate gays.

.. When a woman expresses a stereotypical view about another woman, it’s not see as a sexist statement but rather as an unbiased assessment, since there is a tendency to believe that individuals cannot be biased against members of their own group. But they often are.