Tuesday, June 26, 2012

The Bee Hive of Washington Post

This is a hilarious lesson on how to write about women for the Washington Post and other mainstream places (coughMaureenDowdcough).   The successful female writer in those places bashes women.  That's to guarantee objectivity, you see.

Or so I believe.  In any case, Petula Dvorak discusses the University of Virginia debacle from a fresh new angle!  Given that the ouster of the current president, Helen E. Dragas, is a powerful woman and the current president, Teresa Sullivan,  is a powerful woman, too, could it be that what we are really witnessing here is the "Queen Bee Syndrome?"

It is difficult to understand exactly why Dragas called for Sullivan’s resignation. The best we got was “philosophical differences” and a charge that she wasn't moving fast enough on a vision for the university’s future, in her two years there.
That’s why the Queen Bee scenario seems to make so much sense here. It is the classic archetype of the female leader, the lone woman who has succeeded but slams the doors on the sisters behind her. She wants no other woman to share her spotlight. Just about any woman I know has had one of these female bosses. Do you remember the Bee who stung you?
According to a 2010 study by the Workplace Bullying Institute, the Queen Bee is still buzzing over cubicles everywhere. Female bosses who bully their underlings target other women 80 percent of the time, according to the study.
“In 2007, the woman-on-woman bullying prevalence was 71 percent. Now it is 80 percent. Looks like the American workplace is growing ever more toxic for women, at the hands of women,” the study said.

Let me get this right.  When a powerful man ousts another powerful man we are looking at the Harem Syndrome?  The Lone Alpha Male Syndrome?  I can't think of a good name for that very common syndrome but you get the point.  We don't ask whether men oust each other for gendered reasons.

Then to that 2010 survey (not a study but a survey):  It didn't cover just female-on-female bullying but bullying by everyone.  Among the findings:

    •    35% of workers have experienced bullying firsthand (37% in 2007, given the MOE, essentially equivalent)
    •    62% of bullies are men; 58% of targets are women
    •    Women bullies target women in 80% of cases
    •    Bullying is 4X more prevalent than illegal harassment (2007)
    •    The majority (68%) of bullying is same-gender harassment

 And as a picture (where blue is men and yellow is women):

 I haven't looked at the survey in detail, but one important variable which should be controlled for  (and probably has not been) is the extent of possible bullying.  Most bullying isn't going up in the organizational chart, for obvious reasons.  To the extent that it's behavior by bosses then the gender composition of the people under the bullying boss in the organization matters a lot.

If, for instance, women bosses supervise more women than men then we are going to find that a general bully would bully more women, not because she chooses to do that but because that's what is available for her to bully.  It could also be the case that a female bully would be more hesitant to bully men because of the residues of traditional male power.

Whatever.  The point to be gleaned from that survey is that men are probably more likely to be bullies than women, and we still have no neat term such as "The Queen Bee Syndrome" for the bullying men.

Now to the hilarity in the WaPo piece!  After doing all this prep-work, what does Dvorak do next?

She performs a neat 180 degree turn!

But hold on. Another study released just this month and written about by our leadership columnist Jena McGregor said that Queen Bees are a dying breed, that the myth of woman-on-woman scheming and backstabbing in the workplace is on the wane.
A nonprofit research group called Catalyst found that women are more likely to be workplace mentors. In its study, 65 percent of women who received career development support are helping others get ahead compared with 56 percent of men. Meanwhile, 73 percent of the women developing new talent are developing women, compared with only 30 percent of men, according to the study.
As more women join the ranks of upper management, the workplace becomes less of the the winner-takes-all crucible that helped create the Queen Bee. On campus, the woman-versus-woman clash is not so important.
“I don't see this as a Queen Bee situation, no,” said Sharon Davie, the director of the University of Virginia Women’s Center.
Davie said the only way that gender plays a role in this issue is that having a female president at a university that was once known for its exclusion — in 1969, the Board of Visitors only allowed “qualified student wives and daughters of staff members” to attend class — shows amazing strides in diversity. But today, Sullivan is a great leader, not a great female leader.
“Terry Sullivan is a great leader, but not because she is a woman,” Davie said.

What a wonderful pattern!  Load all the queen bee crap in the top part of the article and then wash your hands of it in the bottom part of the article!

Mmm.   I don't think women are any less likely to be bullies than men, by the way, in the sense of being morally superior.  Bullying is a human sin.  But we expect women to be nicer, don't we?  And those who speak about "the queen bee syndrome" seldom put it into the context where it would prevail:  An organization willing to have one woman on top, one woman on the panel, one woman as op-ed writer and so on.

When you frame the competition like that you will get in-fighting among the group under maximum quotas.

But none of this applies to the University of Virginia case.  As far as I can tell none of that is about gender at all.

Added later:  Sullivan has been reinstated as the president of the University of Virginia.