There's no such thing as an executive queen unless you're in the hotel industry.

Yesterday Fellowology iMessaged me a link to a brief post pointing out the discrepancy in the monikers given to male and female executives. Mr. Gruber, the author, shares headlines from The Mac Observer:

March 5: "Apple CFO Peter Oppenheimer to Retire, Luca Maestri to Take Over"

May 7: "PR Queen Katie Cotton Leaving Apple"

He then passes on a similar observation made by one Julia Richert on Twitter. She points to the following headlines from a CNN/Fortune/Money blog:


January 2012 (upon the hiring of John Browett to replace Ron Johnson): "A New Boss at the Apple Store"

May 2014: "Angela Ahrendts' Big First Week as Queen of Apple Retail"

Mr. Gruber puts this perfectly and succinctly in his post, so I'll quote him here:

Maybe you can find an article in which Peter Oppenheimer is described as Apple's "finance king", but I can't. It's true that Oppenheimer's official title ("CFO") aptly describes his position in a way that Cotton's ("vice president of worldwide corporate communication") does not. "Queen", however, is the wrong way to shorthand it. Boss, chief, head, leaderhoncho perhaps, if you want to be casual — any of these words can be used to convey authority. Queen, though, emphasizes something else: gender. It carries other connotations, none of them flattering: queens are arrogant, distant, prissy, entitled, superior; they become queens by birthright or marriage, not through merit.2

Unintentional sexism is sexism nonetheless. There's almost never a good reason to use a different word to describe a woman's job than the words you'd choose if the position were held by a man.

I agree wholeheartedly. To me the use of these terms almost gives the impression that women executives are playing pretend and cannot be taken seriously. This is problematic for reasons other than the connotations of the word "queen." Insisting on using other terminology for women is counterproductive to our efforts to bring the glass ceiling crashing down. How can we expect to be promoted into positions of authority when the very job titles are deemed masculine by default? They must be if we need different, gendered words when the positions are held by women. Is unintentional sexism harmless sexism? I think not. I'm sure the intentions of the journalists here were pure and benign, but these kinds of headlines are still harmful.