Published on 23 May 2022

Work/Life: Man v woman, or is it woman v woman?

Asst Prof Chong Sin Hui explains the Queen Bee phenomenon, where successful women block policies that support the rise of junior women

Woman: They say the people against gender equality are not men, but women who made the summit and pulled up the ladder.

It is called the Queen Bee phenomenon, where successful women block policies that support the rise of junior women, as assistant professor of organisational behaviour at Nanyang Technological University Chong Sin Hui tells me.

She says: "It emerges when successful women believe they have made immense self-sacrifices to attain their career achievements, thus they view themselves as being more committed than other junior women.

"They also see themselves as the exception... and tend to self-distance themselves from other junior women, especially those who prioritise family."

These women question why junior women ought not to be put through the same trials and tribulations, says Prof Chong. And if they had conquered gender barriers - childbearing, caregiving, bullying from colleagues in suits - why couldn't junior women do the same, without help or concession?

Unless, of course, these junior women are Not. Determined. Enough?

I am a woman. And Prof Chong's insights are frightfully callous.


I cannot imagine myself pushing colleagues over the bridge of success unless it is over a doughnut, which, in such an instance, both sexes are fair game.

I, however, constantly question why women need token seats on boards or in management, or be singled out as needing a lift.

Isn't the push for gender equality to show men that women are as good? Does not "=" mean the same in sums? Aren't women admitting that we are less good and need topping up when we say "take us to add up"?

I am wrong, wrong, and not quite right on all the three counts, explains Prof Chong.

Ratios for women representation make up for systemic and structural disadvantages that women face, based on the assumption that "if two candidates have equal credentials, it would have taken women greater effort to get there", she said.

So, against a man with equal credentials, the woman is not just as good, but better - because she would have had made dinner, put the kids to bed, fed grandma her pills - while the man was watching Netflix - and still scored the same distinction.

Biologically and physically, "=" is not the same. Women carry babies, give birth and nurse children. These set us back, based on current societal norms and practices, whether we like it or not.

Source: The Straits Times