HR Indaba discusses how queen bees and imposters affect women in C-suite leadership


Dr Aradhana Ramnund-Mansingh highlighted the challenges of women ascending to leadership roles.

Academic, gender specialist and research coach Dr Aradhana Ramnund-Mansingh gave fascinating insights into “queen bees” and impostor syndrome and how they hinder the career trajectories of women at yesterday’s HR Indaba.

Aradhana highlighted that there are three types of queen bees: first, the “princess bees”, who support other women just as long as they stick to the boundaries and do not step into their space. “Then we have the phantom bee, who will motivate for a male to get a position that is vacant in the specific department. And then, of course, there is a Cinderella complex, where the nasty stepsisters work together to undermine the success of another sister.”

She added that many leaders do not address or review women’s issues. She also explained that the construction of reality surrounding women and the bullying by the “so-called sisters” can entrench impostor syndrome.

Aradhana defined impostor syndrome as the momentum of the fear of failure. She said that out of this fear, imposters tend to overwork and go the extra mile to prove that they are deserving. “Impostors see themselves as unworthy of any leader praise they receive and do not believe that they have earned commissions based on their abilities,” she said. She added that this lack of confidence can lead to significant stress. She also revealed that efficient research indicates that imposter syndrome commonly results in anxiety, low confidence, and self-doubt.

Aradhana further explained that toxic masculinity has also contributed to the challenges that women are facing. “It's time we actually started looking or delving deeper into the poisons that contaminate the root of these problems,” she said.

She added that discrimination against women begins the moment she becomes an embryo, “because at that point, her entire life is destined to be ruled by social constructions, toxic masculinity and the boys’ network. And every single gender stereotype is rooted in this concept of toxic masculinity: things like, ‘Oh, you cry like a girl, don’t play with the doll,’ etc.”

Aradhana said women in the workplace and ascending the corporate ladder have positive legislation to support them, and principles of ubuntu, which unifies a nation. She added that the most important tool is to ensure the success of women in the workplace. She also emphasised the power of women to succeed on their own.

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