• Humaira Ahmed

I am not a Queen. It is time to break the hive.

Updated: Aug 7, 2020

It is time to break the hive.

Ever wonder why a certain female leader did not support you when they could have? Maybe they were suffering from the Queen Bee Syndrome. I have seen it happen. I have done it myself — I am guilty. 

All over social media we read about #womensupportingwomen and I did not realize the power of that until I founded Locelle — a platform to connect women with support and mentorship.

Throughout the process of building out the company, not only did I learn a lot about our members and their challenges, I also experienced what it is like to be a female founder and CEO in the tech industry.

Fact has it: There are less than 5% female CEOs in tech in Canada and it can be incredibly isolating. Everywhere I looked for guidance, I was referred to a man. That can be okay — in fact some of my mentors are still men, but I wanted to learn and hear from other women. Women who were starting out, women who had reached some big milestones and women who now invest in other women.

So I reached out to some incredible women leaders and, going with the supportive theme here, they shared their time, advice and learnings which have been invaluable to me. Their unwavering support reminded me of  the hashtag (#womensupportingwomen) and the value of that especially because these women were strangers. They helped a stranger because they could relate to some of my challenges and passion and they wanted to share their knowledge. Sometimes they also went out of  their way to help. Because I am a woman and women support other women; that is what we do.

As I worked tirelessly to build a brand for my company, Locelle, I also started to build my own brand. It was not planned but it happened and it was good. I started to get VIP invitations to events and often was asked to share my experiences, especially where gender diversity was needed. 

I started to learn that actually, there were perks to being a woman CEO in tech and then some. I found that if you as a woman CEO find your voice and build influence within the tech industry, you have the opportunity to stand out. I was being called a trailblazer, rockstar, unstoppable and a Queen! I had become an influencer.

And I started supporting other women. I had found my passion. All was fairly good on the #womensupportingwomen front. Until one day, it wasn’t.

One day, a fellow female founder who I had gotten to know quite well through my journey was seemingly doing amazing. Her company was taking off better than mine. I was proud of her and always showed my support to her. 

And then, it happened. She asked me to make an intro to one of the investors I, personally, have always wanted to work with. I said yes — but immediately realized I did not want to. That day I had to acknowledge an undesirable human emotion — Jealousy. This emotion is real and becomes apparent in the business world. It hit me in the gut. I remember telling myself, “Humaira, you support women. Period. You need to do this.” But I did not take action. To be fair, she never asked again (because maybe this is something women do - don't ask enough questions, or maybe she knew too).

I did not get the investor’s money and neither did she. Then one day, I saw her again. I was embarrassed, sad, hurt and curious. She ended up doing okay and still better than me. And I started to learn more about why women sometimes don’t support each other. I could have made that introduction. That is all she asked for. 

Why did I not make that introduction? I was jealous — plain and simple. 

I wanted to keep that investor for myself — after all, I had built that relationship over many months. But I was wrong. Looking back, I was wrong. I should have made that introduction. 

Since that incident, I started looking into the topic of jealousy in the workplace and that’s when I stumbled upon the term “Queen Bee Syndrome.” It is a thing!

First defined by psychologists at the University of Michigan in 1973, Queen Bee Syndrome describes a woman in a position of authority in a male-dominated environment who treats subordinates more critically if they are female.

Ever wonder why a certain woman leader did not support you when they could have? Maybe they were suffering from the Queen Bee Syndrome. I have seen it happen. I have done it myself — I am guilty. Once I learned about it, I started to see it happen more and more — perhaps because I was more aware of it. I saw other women in positions of power hinder other women’s growth and opportunities. There was this unseen competition, ironically, due to lack of gender diversity. 

Overtime, the word “Queen” became a trigger for me. The reality is that there can only be one Queen and the rest are supposed to be building the hive. There is no hive here and we are not Queens (except for maybe Beyoncé!). We need to  let go of our “Queen” titles and make room for other women. This will allow us to build a stronger community.

The truth is: there is plenty of room for all of us and if we truly support one another, we can achieve royally great things together.

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