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Qualities Utilized to Engender Equity and Nurture for Success


November 16-17, 2007
Johnson C. Smith University
Charlotte, North Carolina

Thelma Baxter, EdD, Manhattan College

Joan Tropnas, Ph.D., St. John’s University


Purpose of the Presentation
This interactive presentation focused on the challenges and obstacles women need to overcome to achieve success in the academic environment.  We acknowledged the need for mentors in achieving success.  We also determined that not all people in leadership positions offer nurturing environments for their subordinates and reviewed some of the reasons why this may occur.  The analogy we chose to use was that of the Queen Bee.

Characteristics of the Queen Bee
In her natural setting, the Queen Bee is the leader of the hive.  All the worker bees are programmed to feed and provide her with protection.  Queen Bees emerge after killing their potential rivals, subsequently living in fear of dethronement and eventual death.

The human Queen Bee is a narcissist with an exaggerated sense of self importance.  She constantly speaks of her family, her life, and her work.  Externally the Queen presents herself as a confident and entitled individual who demands attention to reinforce her exaggerated sense of self-importance.  

Similarly, the human Queen also needs to dominate, control and strive for perfection.  She requires immediate gratification and can often demonstrate arrogance.  From her perspective the need to control everything and everyone is warranted because of her preconceived notion of subordinate incompetence.

This Queen will ignore or denigrate the abilities and contributions of others.  She finds her actions are useful because these actions inspire sympathy.  What one may learn upon closer examination is that she is accomplishing little or nothing while her workers are carrying the load and struggling to survive while acquiescing to her demands. The Queen in the insect kingdom is almost always female, but humans exhibiting these characteristics are not necessarily defined by a specific gender.  Queens are those individuals who prohibit the achievement of others, assuming that the success of those around them threatens their own status, resulting in their eventual downfall.

How to Dethrone the Queen and Survive
One method to “dethrone” a Queen is to render her accountable for her actions.  Requesting that the Queen inform others about decisions and the process by which they were developed help to determine accountability. Additionally, surviving this corrosive environment necessitates emotional detachment from these potentially destructive actions. To succeed one must maintain strong individual emotional boundaries.  Constructing boundaries can prevent the Queen from disrupting the equilibrium.    

When confronting what she perceives as threatening behavior as manifested by an individual determined to succeed, the Queen may show signs of resistance. Some forms of resistance might include derailing, misinformation, and even character assassination. 

Trust is at the Core
Trust in oneself is a core attribute that can override these destructive actions.  Remembrance and trust in an individual’s unique natural potential is imperative. Understanding that the rationale for the Queen is not one of strength, but of desperation, facilitates the development of self-confidence.  The ability to succeed on any level demands self trust and reliance.  Trust in one’s own skills can lead to empowerment of self, competence, and belief in the potential for others. It is mandatory to position goals into manageable segments and undertake self examination along with an assessment of the motives of others.

Mentoring and Creating a Legacy for Women in Academia
It is our position that mentoring is the most significant means for women in academia to provide the development of sustainable leaders. “Mentoring can be thought of as a form of structured interaction wherein faculty act as role model, friend, and counselor to increase the probability of degree completion and career success of students.’’  (Brown et al, 1999). 

An examination of the feminist model of mentoring finds that the individuals involved with the experience form a “relationship with one another with the expressed desire of assisting in a particular goal, including reciprocity, empowerment, and solidarity.”  (Heinrich, 1995).   A true leader, interested in the growth and development of her workers, becomes a mentor. These mentors can be the essential component of an individual’s development and success.  They also serve as credible role models for women who need to overcome the notion that gender is a hindrance to the attainment of personal or professional goals. “One aspect of a job well done as a servant leader is what we do to prepare others to carry on after our season of leadership is completed.  Your succession planning efforts will speak volumes about your motives as a leader.”  (Blanchard and Hodges, 2003).

A mentor supports collaboration and seeks to maximize the potential of others in their environment. Additionally, a mentor is accountable for her actions; she understands and promotes growth. 

When a mentor cannot be found in the immediate environment, it becomes imperative to seek other potential possibilities elsewhere.  A mentor may initially be sought at the home institution, by discipline or department, from outside departments and disciplines, or from other academic institutions.  Sometimes the mentor may not be from academic circles, but may be found in the community, in another type of work environment, in one’s social network, or religious institution. The important objective is to find someone to serve as a mentor.

Becoming a Sustainable Academic Leader
The current structure of academia is male centered.  “Many departments may lack a focus on race and gender in the curriculum and these research areas may be perceived as secondary or marginal - departments may also have a ‘hidden curriculum’ that works to further reproduce stratified and unequal social relations through gender hierarchies and stereotyping (Margolis and Romero 1998). These structural inequalities present a challenge for women in higher education that can be overcome by implementation of the mentoring process.  Once women recognize the power of their academic achievements, they can draw upon their influence to reciprocate and offer a helping hand to those interested in following the newly blazed trail. 

Having achieved a goal, there remains a responsibility to provide an example for others.  A mentor must inspire a shared vision that enables others to succeed by translating thoughts and ideas into action.  “Vision is seeing with the mind’s eye what is possible in people, in projects, in causes and in enterprises.  Vision results when our mind joins need with possibility. . . . When people have no vision, when they neglect the development of the mind’s capacity to create, they fall prey to the human tendency toward victimism.”  (Covey, 2004).

Discovering and believing in one’s own purpose provides a challenge for others to believe in themselves. 

This presentation began with an examination of the ‘Queen Bee’ personality. The Queen Bee was identified as narcissistic and uninterested in becoming a sustainable leader.  These negative qualities prevent her from providing assistance and developing competencies of potential successors. Wasted time, effort and self doubt can be avoided when a realization of the true character of this individual has been determined. Realization that this individual perceives others as threatening and fears her own demise will subsequently save time, effort and self doubt.  Subsequently, recognition that the Queen, as boss or leader, is unwilling to nurture success in her subordinates should lead to the search for a qualified mentor.  The mentor may be a family member or someone in the community, in the social network or in the religious organization.  The mentor can also be a peer who serves to encourage, support and provide advice and assistance. “Mentoring …provides psychosocial support for women because they know that others believe in them (Tenenbaum et al. 2001).  The confidence they develop from this interaction compels them to act in their own best interests.  The qualities utilized to engender equity and nurture success are dependent on a mentor who consciously intends to make a positive impact on the lives of others.  The purpose of creating a legacy of sustainable leaders as well as fostering their own inner core of trust and strength is the means by which women will succeed in academia.   


Blanchard, Ken and Phil Hodges.(2003). The Servant Leader.  Nashville, Tennessee: J. Countryman.

Brown, M. Christopher, Guy Davis and Shederick  McClendon.  (1999).  “Mentoring Graduate Students of Color:  Myths, Models, and Modes”.  Peabody Journal of Education.  74:  105-18.

Covey, Stephen, R.(2004). The 8th Habit, From Effectiveness to Greatness.  New York:  Free Press.

Dua, Priya.(2007).  “Feminist Mentoring and Female Graduate Student Success:  Challenging Gender Inequality in Higher Education.” Sociology Compass.  Vol. I:2, 594-612.

Gregory, Bruce. (1999). Impact of Narcissism on Leadership and Sustainability.

Hannig, Paul (1999).  What is a personality disorder? The Online Journal of Psychiatry, Narcissistic Personality Disorder

Kouzes and Posner.  (1997). The Leadership Challenge. New York: Jossey Bass.

Vaknin, Shmuel.  (2000). "Malignant Self-Love -Narcissism Re-visited"

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