The queen bee: A myth? The effect of top-level female leadership on subordinate females

Published: 26 May 2018| Version 1 | DOI: 10.17632/68rhz2csjf.1
Paulo Arvate, Gisele Galilea


We investigate the effect of female leadership on gender differences in public and private organizations. Our research used a sample of 8.3 million organizations distributed over 5600 Brazilian municipalities. Our main results show that when municipalities in which a woman was elected leader (treatment group) are compared with municipalities in which a male was elected leader (control group) there was an increase in the number of top and middle managers in public organizations. Two aspects contribute to the results: time and command/role model. Our work contributes to the literature on leadership by addressing some specific issues: an empirical investigation with a causal effect between the variables (regression-discontinuity design – a non-parametric estimation), the importance of role models, and how the observed effects are time-dependent. Insofar as public organizations are concerned, the evidence from our large-scale study suggests that the queen bee phenomenon may be a myth; instead, of keeping subordinate women at bay, our results show that women leaders who are afforded much managerial discretion behave in a benevolent manner toward subordinate women. The term “Regal Leader” instead of “Queen Bee” is thus a more appropriate characterization of women in top positions of power.