A new study by the Columbia Business School debunks the widely held theory known as the “Queen Bee Syndrome,” based on a 1973 study, which says that leading women are unwilling to support other women in their careers, and that they even work to keep them out of top positions. The Columbia researchers, however, found that a lack of women at the top is due to men’s determination to retain control. Their research, which will be presented at a conference of leading girls’ schools on Wednesday, looked at top management teams in 1,500 companies over a 20-year period. They found that in companies where women had been appointed chief executive, other women were more likely to make it into senior positions. However, when a woman had been given a senior role that was not the top position, the likelihood of other women following them to executive level fell by 50 percent. The research team’s explanation for this phenomenon? “Women face an implicit quota, whereby firms seek to maintain a small number of women on their top management team, usually only one. While firms gain legitimacy from having women in top management, the value of this legitimacy declines with each woman.”
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