How to Get More Women in Top Leadership Roles

We have more than enough data and anecdotes to confirm that women in leadership roles are more of an exception that proves the rule. More often than not, there are structural reasons for that, whether through wage gaps or "boys' clubs" or lack of opportunity in the first place. The obvious solution is almost ridiculously so: Hire more women and support them in their career trajectories.

Cynics will point to "Queen Bee syndrome," the idea that women who make it in positions of power pull up the ladder behind them. But a new study paints a more uplifting picture — one many more women may recognize. Researchers in Brazil looked into political leaders, men and women with similarly narrow margins of electoral victory, and followed them as they built their power base. Crucially, they chose subjects who had won reelection, building on initial successes.

Their findings? Queen Bee syndrome isn't really real — at least, not in a sense with any scope. Instead, female leaders tended to hire women for top and middle management positions, providing mentorship and experience for those women to succeed. "The term 'Regal Leader' instead of 'Queen Bee' is thus a more appropriate characterization of women in top positions of power," writes the team in the study's abstract.

Hiring more women is in fact one way to hire more women, but the good news is that can have a multiplying effect. Paying it forward and giving women (and any other marginalized identities) space to thrive at the workplace is better for everyone involved.