The Queen-Bee-Phenomenon: How men and women interactively maintain gender inequality in the workplace


Most interventions to stimulate gender equality in the workplace take a one-sided approach, focusing either on stimulating women to pursue a career, or reducing sexism by men. I argue that gender inequality is perpetuated by interdependency between women and men and propose a two-sided approach, examining how the progress of women motivates men to protect their advantaged position, while gender bias by men motivates women to adapt to rather than fight male hegemony.
In exploring the interactive roles of women and men in preserving gender inequality the current proposal concentrates on the ?Queen-Bee-phenomenon?. Queen bees (QBs) are women who improve their own opportunities by adjusting themselves to male-dominated work settings, presenting themselves as masculine and different from other women, and explicitly supporting male dominance [1-5]. Men, in turn, encourage this behavior by promoting QBs over women who challenge male dominance [6].
Stressing the dynamics between men and women in the workplace the current research will establish (1) why sexism by men promotes QB-responses in women, (2) why improvements in the position of women stimulate men to work against gender equality by selecting QBs, and (3) what interventions help to change this powerful dynamic.
I offer an explanation based on Social Identity Theory [7], predicting that work contexts can induce threat to people?s social identity with which some men and women cope by protecting the current status quo. Notably, the project takes a multi-method approach by capitalizing on innovative psychophysiological paradigms developed in my VENI project (cardiovascular and neural responses), and using diverse research settings (experimental lab studies, intervention studies among men and women in the Dutch Police force and Royal Dutch Defence Academy) yielding the best possible understanding of the cognitive and motivational processes that underlie women and men?s preservation of gender inequality at work and ways to eliminate it.


Wetenschappelijk artikel

  • B Derks, D.T. Scheepers(2016): Revisiting social identity theory from a neuroscience perspective Current Opinion in Psychology pp. 74 - 78
  • b Derks, K Faniko, N Ellemers(2016): Queen Bees and Alpha Males: Are successful women more competitive than successful men? European Journal of Social Psychology pp. 903 - 913
  • N Ellemers, B Derks, C.Y Van Laar(2016): The queen bee phenomenon: Why women leaders distance themselves from junior women. the Leadership Quarterly pp. 456 - 469
  • B Derks(2017): Streefcijfers zijn nog maar een begin: Het weerbarstige karakter van ongelijke kansen. 89-103 Gedrag en Organisatie pp. 89 - 103
  • k Faniko, B Derks, N Ellemers(2017): Nothing changes, really: Why women who break through the glass ceiling end up reinforcing it. Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin pp. 638 - 651

Professionele publicatie

Publicatie bedoeld voor een breed publiek

  • B Derks(2016): Vrouwen aan de top – pas op voor de queen bee pp. na - na






Prof. dr. B. Derks

Verbonden aan

Universiteit Utrecht, Faculteit Sociale Wetenschappen, Departement Psychologie


Prof. dr. B. Derks, A.J.H. Domen, Dr. M.e.e. de Goede


01/11/2015 tot 31/10/2020