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Confessions of a Queen Bee

Confessions of a Queen Bee

Y’all know I’m a fan of a guest blog post. (Spammers, buzz off.) I’m talking about real guest blog posts from real women in banking with real perspective that pertains to my platform. When Kim reached out about her article, I couldn’t wait to post it here for all of you to read. I love the points she makes and I know most, if not all, of us can relate! Enjoy!

Confessions of a Queen Bee | Kim Rampenthal, Vice President, Business Development, Solutions Bank, Illinois

At the recent virtual Illinois Bankers Association Women in Banking conference, the opening address was given by Natalie Bartholomew, of “Girl Banker” fame.  I enjoyed her remarks and her five principles for being a successful Girl Banker—even though the only people who still call me a “girl” are my old friends I’ve known since high school, which was waaay back before Al Gore invented the internet.

Well, except for one thing…   Under her topic of “Support the Girls,” Natalie mentioned a phenomenon known as the “Queen Bee Syndrome”– the attitudes and actions of older women in the workplace who seem to resent the younger up-n-comers, possibly out of fear they will be edged out.   Natalie encouraged Queen Bees not to worry, as there is room at the table for all of us.

Convicted.  Yes, I felt somewhat “convicted” as Natalie talked about this.  Not in the courtroom sense… but in the church-y sense, like when the pastor talks about a sin category with which you are all too familiar.   Gulp.  I whispered to myself, “Yikes, Pastor Natalie is talking about me…”

So I thought that by confessing to and owning my Queen Bee-ism, I could shed some light on what we QBs are feeling, so that our mutual understanding can indeed lead to “room at the table for all of us.”

First, yes, we QBs do have some insecurity at times, re: the younger Girl Bankers who are so competent in their roles, so at ease with technology, so much more successful at younger ages than we were at that age.  We worry that we are going to seem old-fashioned, with our handwritten thank-you notes and Kiwanis Club and our marveling at technology.

Another feeling QBs have is envy.  We envy our younger colleagues, career-wise and age-wise.  It’s an exciting time to be ramping up a career in banking, which in my estimation has become a much more interesting, dynamic field that it was many years ago.   There’s a lot to it, many ways to engage and excel.  Not that I don’t experience the same excitement, but who knows what changes they will see as they go forward in their careers?  They have more working years ahead to see how it all plays out.

Our younger colleagues stir up our nostalgia.  I miss those early years of entering the working world, buying a first home, having my kids, raising them, all while balancing my career.  Those were stressful yet happy times, and it’s fun to relive those days vicariously through my younger colleagues.

OK, this sounds superficial, but there’s also the physical beauty thing, I will admit.  I envy their young skin and lack of facial lines. So many lovely young faces when we had our bank headshots updated recently, wow!  Though I must say, our photog Joey was somewhat of a miracle worker, and we QBs looked pretty darn good ourselves! 😉

And there’s the relatability issue. We QBs try not to pipe up too much with sentences that start with “Back when I was your age…”  or “When my kids were little….” or “I remember when we didn’t have all this technology to help us do our work….”  While that is our way of relating to the younger women, it can get tedious.  Times are different.  Do we always want to draw attention to our age differences?

HOWEVER…. We also feel the weight of some faulty assumptions, such as:

More mature workers balk at learning technology.  While I’ll admit I’m late to the party on a lot of this stuff, I’m also educated, intelligent and a good lifelong learner.  So don’t write me off.

Our bank’s outward facing “brand” needs to be represented by hip young avatars.   Well, it does, but not only by those avatars.  As I wrote in my “OK Boomer” article a few months ago, workers of various ages/life stages can contribute to the organization’s marketing planning and can be one of many faces of the bank in the community and on social media.

Queen Bees are such naysayers, eschewing new approaches and ideas, so stuck in he past.   (See first assumption above.)  I’ll admit I fall into this trap sometimes, feeling that “keep it simple” and low-tech can still be a good approach, thinking to myself, “Do we really need all this fancy high-tech stuff?”   Luckily, at my bank, we do feel there’s value in customizing communication modes and banking solutions to fit with the customer/prospect. So my old-school ways are still OK in some situations.  But not all.

Older colleagues might be boring or dowdy as presenters or trainers.  Awhile back, a closer-aged colleague and I made a presentation about business banking to a group of local business owners/entrepreneurs.  A younger colleague came to record our presentation, and she later expressed surprise at how good we were.  Now she and I get along well, and she immediately realized how that sounded when she said that.    I swallowed my slight offense, chuckled, and said “Umm, thanks.”

Back to Natalie’s thesis related to “Support the Girls… I do agree that all of us are important to our organizations.  In fact, that’s what’s going to make our banks richer, stronger, and more responsive to our communities.  I think what’s needed is for the younger up-n-comer bankers, the more seasoned women bankers, and the ones in between, to acknowledge the biases, insecurities, and misperceptions we may have about one another.  Also, we all have gaps in our knowledge or experience, in one way or another.  We make our organization better when we complement one another’s skillsets and personalities.

Some say that women “higher up the ladder” don’t always reach back and lend a hand to the younger ones coming up.  I think that’s sometimes true, and it’s too bad.  As Natalie has said, mentoring takes many forms and doesn’t have to be a big formal arrangement.  But it seems that mentoring can go both ways – we Queen Bees can also learn something from our younger colleagues.  We can keep growing and ascending, motivated by the younger women nipping at our heels on the ladder (or the jungle gym, as Sheryl Sandberg would call it).

Or… since we’re using a beehive analogy, are the younger women the worker bees?  The drones?  Not sure…. But they are buzzing behind us and we need to keep moving!

Yes, as Natalie said, there’s room for us all at the table… or in the beehive.  😊

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