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“Ladies-only-queue culture affect women negatively in the workplace”

Eva Fernandes speaks to business psychologist Michelle Hunter to understand the larger implications of having a ‘ladies-only’ queue culture.

October 31, 2012 3:32 by

The argument over the validity and implications of having women-only queues in government offices has sparked an interesting debate from our readers. The responses have been vast and varied, from suggestions of a need for cultural understanding to accusations of over-analysing linguistics. The question remains whether being offended by gendered queues is a curse of post-modern feminism? Or do such issues really have a larger impact on society?

Michelle Hunter, Professor of Business Psychology at Heriot Watt, says the presence of such gendered lines in the public does affect one’s psyche: “I think anything that makes a physical separation between males and females is problematic, because of what does it do to our perception of who we are…Psychologically that is going to have some impact on the psyche in some way or another.”


Hunter argues such a mindset is likely to have a trickle-down effect to the way women are perceived in the workplace: “Whatever we observe or experience in society we psychologically carry that image or that knowledge into the workplace, it becomes baggage. It becomes the minds’ eye in terms of how we see future situations. Just say I am a man and I go into the workplace and I see a woman. I may be more inclined to treat women in a ‘special’ way. And by special, we mean that we are no longer equal and that is where the problem lies.”

Asked whether she thinks the ‘special’ perspective is indeed damaging for women in the workplace, Hunter responds in the affirmative: “Looking at it from another perspective, in terms of how males might consider women in the work place or in society I think the huge implication there is that we will never be treated as equals and it just seems a shame. It just seems we would be going backwards because for years we have been trying to fight for this stance of equality.”


Yet it is not just men’s perception which gets altered by the culture of ‘women-only queues.’ Hunter says women themselves are likely to internalise the ascribed identity of being ‘special.’

The sense of entitlement which comes along with accepting and expecting ‘special’ treatment wherever you go can be problematic in the business realm, especially when dealing with international clients and markets where such considerations for women may not be present.

“How do you feel when that ladies’ queue is not available? Do you then push in front or do you then showcase yourself as being special? And how do others perceive you when you perform in such a way? I think the issue of entitlement is very huge and it definitely does impact our mindset but not just in that environment, but in various environments and that is a problem” asks Hunter.


The issue at hand looks grave, but could we be taking the question of the impact of women’s queue too far? Could it be possible that a women’s queue is just that, a convenient way for women to get their work done. The common and usual response to the question of women’s queue is: “I don’t really care, I get from point A to point B and that is just as well” or “The women’s queue maybe sexist but it doesn’t really affect the way men see me in my life?”

Is suggesting deeper implications and psychological baggage of such a queue, overkill?

Hunter disagrees: “Some people are oblivious to the way in which situations will impact them because maybe they are in a different social class or strata that won’t be affected by the brunt of this all, but it will impact others who are in less favourable social positions”.

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