A queen bee is the leader of a female group, such as a clique. The term has been applied in several social settings.
In a business environment, queen bee may refer to women who are emotionally immature and view other, especially younger, women as competition. They often will refuse to help other women advance within a company by, for example, preferring to mentor a male over a female employee. Some may actively take steps to hinder another woman's advancement as they are seen as direct competitors. Such tactics are sometimes referred to as heterophily (in the sense of positive preference and favoritism for opposite-sex colleagues) or the queen bee syndrome.
The term loophole woman, coined by Caroline Bird in her book Born Female: The High Cost of Keeping Women Down (1968), has a similar meaning. Marie Mullaney defines the loophole woman as one who, "successful in a predominantly male field like law, business or medicine, is opposed to other women's attaining similar levels of success. Such success, if attained by women on a large scale, would detract from, if not substantially reduce, her own status and importance."
A queen bee in a school setting is sometimes referred to as a school diva or school princess. They are often stereotyped in the media as being beautiful, charismatic, manipulative, and wealthy, holding positions of high social status, such as being head cheerleader (or being the captain of some other, usually an all-girl, sports team), the Homecoming or Prom Queen (or both). The phenomenon of queen bees is common in finishing schools.
Queen bees may wield substantial influence and power over their cliques and are considered role models by clique members and outsiders. Her actions are closely followed and imitated. Sussana Stern identifies the following qualities as characteristic of queen bees: