Queen bee syndrome - displayed by leading professional women who keep other females out - is a myth, according to a new study.
Researchers at Columbia Business School in New York claim that a lack of women in top roles is down to men's determination to retain control, according to reports.
Their findings contradict an influential 1973 study which suggested that women in authority are more critical of female subordinates.
The new research reportedly looked at top management teams in 1,500 companies over a 20-year period and found that where women had been appointed chief executive, other women were more likely to make it into senior positions.
But when a woman had been given a senior role that was not the top position, the likelihood of other females following them to executive level fell by 50pc, the academics found.
The research team said: "Women face an implicit quota, whereby firms seek to maintain a small number of women on their top management team, usually only one.
"While firms gain legitimacy from having women in top management, the value of this legitimacy declines with each woman."
Helen Fraser, chief executive of the GDST and former managing director of Penguin Books, said:"This new research indicates that the notion female senior executives are 'queen bees' who are unwilling to support other women needs to be put to rest."