Can the “Queen Bee” be a “He?”

Bracknell Queen Bees

There’s a good article in the Wall Street Journal – The Tyranny About the Queen Bee –  about women who reach senior positions in organizations and turn out to be worse at mentoring and supporting women than their male counterparts.

Why?  A variety of reasons but among them are to show that they’re tougher than anyone else and to keep their (singular) position of power as the only female. As the WSJ notes, “women who achieved success in male-dominated environments were at times likely to oppose the rise of other women.

But can the Queen Bee be a “he?”


The world is filled with men who in some form or fashion have achieved rank based on who they are amongst people who don’t look exactly like them.

It’s the gay guy who is the only out member of senior management and who pontificates on what stuff means to all things gay for his straight colleagues; a “professional queer” as it were in the words of some people in my LGBT world.

Or it’s the African-American male – sometimes called an Uncle Tom in the vernacular of the black community – who has achieved a position of power in an organization but never seems to have the ability to help other black people, or even other people of difference, join him as he tends to his standing with white straight people.

You can fill in the blank with any identify group and each time you do – whether it’s a male or a female – there are people who have attained positions of power or authority by that identify and who are interested in derailing others to keep themselves on the top of their proverbial heap.

My first encounter with the phrase Queen Bee came via Michael Reid , when he was doing a search trying to surface preferably ethnic minority candidates for a role reporting to me when I held an SVP of Human Resources role at McKesson. Many male and female candidates were dinged by a colleague on the corporate HR side who was a female African American. I still remember Michael saying “People in my community have a term for people like “Suzy” who likes being the queen bee (the only senior HR person of color) – she doesn’t want anyone (male or female who is an ethnic minority) threatening that position.”

So that Queen Bee just might be a “Queen He.”

Life Back West is an occasional set of writings focused on ways people, teams and organizations can be both more effective (doing the right thing) and more efficient (doing the right thing well). More about executive, career and team / leadership coaching services can be found at the “About J. Mike Smith and Back West, Inc.” sidebar or the “Hire Me” tab above. You can also read an online interview with me at WhoHub, as well as participate in my learning community courtesy of KnowledgeCrush.

 Bracknell Queen Bees – Photo credit: Wikipedia

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