Women are very familiar with the concept of teenage "mean girls" and adult "catty" women who don't support other women. It's a popular idea, but in the real world, women help each other, "professionally and personally," writes Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg in a New York Times column. "The biggest enemy of women, we’re warned, is a powerful woman. Queen bees refuse to help other women." Women are concerned about encountering a female boss who, they are warned, might make it difficult for them to advance. Statistically, though, this idea just doesn't hold water: One study, for example, found that male CEOs are actually more likely to block women from senior management than female CEOs. Other research supports the same idea. "Women create opportunities for women," whether it's in business or politics.
So why the stereotype? Men are expected to be aggressive, whereas women are expected to be "nice," and are judged when they're seen as otherwise. Men can get away with a lot of "mean" behavior before being called mean; women can't get away with much of anything. "When men argue, it’s a healthy debate. When women argue … meow! It’s a catfight." Even the "queen bees" who do exist are simply a response to gender inequality—they may be trying to protect their own standing by not hiring other women. Other studies have shown that while men aren't penalized for choosing a female candidate over an equally qualified male one, women are rated as less effective. This needs to stop: "It’s time to stop punishing women and minorities for promoting diversity," because the more women advance in their careers, the fewer "queen bees" there will be. Click for Sandberg's full piece. (Read more Sheryl Sandberg stories.)