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Woman Boss

This is What People Really Think About Having a Female Boss

Workers who currently have a woman boss are more likely to prefer a female boss in the future.

Perhaps that’s because surveys show that “female managers in the U.S. exceed male managers at meeting employees’ essential workplace requirements. And female managers themselves are more engaged at work than their male counterparts.”

But there’s a catch. In surveys, most Americans don’t have a preference about the gender of their boss. But when they do have a preference, it tends to be for a male boss.

A Gallup poll published in October 2014 found:

  • 46% of respondents say gender doesn’t make a difference to them.
  • 33% of Americans are more likely to say they would prefer a male boss
  • 20% are more likely to say they would prefer a female boss

While women are more likely than men to say they would prefer a female boss, they’re still more likely to say they would prefer a male boss overall:

  • 39 percent of women said they would prefer a male boss if they were to take a new job.
  • While 26 percent of men stated that they would prefer a male boss if they were to take a new job.

Why Do People Say They Prefer a Male Boss?

Familiarity

In the US, men still hold a majority of senior posts. People tend to prefer what’s familiar.

Also, because male bosses are standard and women bosses are novel, women bosses stand out. As described by Jill Filipovic in The Guardian:

The problem isn’t the fact that some female bosses suck, it’s that if you have a crappy boss and he’s a man, the conclusion is “I had a crappy boss.” If you have a crappy boss and she’s a woman, the conclusion is “I had a crappy female boss, so female bosses are crappy.”

Personal Values

A 2013 Gallup survey found that:

  • 46% of Republican respondents preferred a male boss
  • 16% of Republican respondents stated a preference for a female boss
  • 29% of Democrat respondents a chose male boss
  • 25% of Democrats said they would prefer a female boss

For Men, Feeling Threatened By Female Authority

A Business Insider article covered a study that found men act more aggressively toward hypothetical female bosses because they feel challenged by the women’s authority.

It also found that “men’s unwillingness to confront their resistance to having a female manager could make it difficult to change workplace dynamics.”

For Women, a Feeling of Competitiveness

Some women feel more competitive working for a female boss than a male boss. This Forbes article explores this issue via quotes from several young women, though it’s very circumstantial.

The Queen Bee Myth

Women are seen as cattily competitive, even though data shows the “queen bee” factor is a myth, and women are more likely to support other women as they rise through the ranks. Read more here.

Negative Cultural Stereotypes

Women bosses are often portrayed as icy, self-absorbed, emotionally fragile yet controlling. Think of the Miranda Priestly in “The Devil Wears Prada,” Patty Hewes on Damages, Sandra Bullock’s character in “The Proposal,” Sigourney Weaver in “Working Girl.” and so on.

I think there is something positive in those portrayals – but they also prey on the stereotype of the “bitchy” female boss.

Power and Ability to Dole Out Favors

We’ve covered Rosabeth Moss Kanter’s work in the past. Her Wall Street Journal article “The Real Reason Men and Women Prefer Male Bosses” is worth quoting at length:

“I hit upon the power factor when trying to understand why surveys showed that men and women alike preferred male bosses, whether or not they had congenial personalities. I looked behind this apparent bias to find that the difference was an expectation that men had more power to do things for their associates, whereas women rose as individual contributors. A woman, even one admired for her talent, was seen as able to achieve success for herself but not have the power to take others with her into the next opportunity. People wanted bosses who could open doors, make connections, offer favors and elevate the status of the people around them. But the jobs women were clustered in, even in the C-suite, weren’t the ones where they could accumulate and exercise power; for example, to dole out resources, including money, connections, and deals.”

However, Data Shows Female Managers Exceed Male Managers By Engagement and Business Outcomes

On a positive note, employees are increasingly indifferent to their bosses gender. Back in 1953, just 5 percent or people said they would prefer working for women. Today, 20 percent would prefer working for a woman, and 46 percent say it doesn’t matter.

But the 2014 Gallup poll uncovered an even more startling fact: workers who currently have a woman boss are more likely to prefer a female boss in the future.

Workers who currently have a woman boss are more likely to prefer a female boss in the future.

Maybe that’s because according to a 2013 Gallup survey, “the best workplace motivators are female bosses.“

That survey found female managers of every working-age generation are more engaged at work than their male counterparts, regardless of whether they have children in their household.

  • 41% of female managers are engaged at work
  • vs. 35% of male managers are engaged at work

It also found that:

  • Employees who work for a female manager are more engaged, on average than those who work for a male manager.
  • Female employees who work for a female manager are the most engaged.
  • Male employees who report to a male manager are the least engaged.

 

via Female Bosses Are More Engaging Than Male Bosses

Higher Levels of Engagement And Higher-Performing Workgroups

The Gallup data shows “female managers in the U.S. exceed male managers at meeting employees’ essential workplace requirements. And female managers themselves are more engaged at work than their male counterparts.”

That higher level of workplace engagement from female managers makes a significant positive impact.

  • Employees who work for a female manager are 1.26 times more likely than employees who work for a male manager to strongly agree that ‘There is someone at work who encourages my development.’”
  • Those who work for a female manager are 1.17 times more likely than those with a male manager to strongly agree that “In the last seven days, I have received recognition or praise for doing good work.”
  • Those who work for a female boss are 1.29 times more likely than those who work for a male boss to strongly agree with the statement “In the last six months, someone at work has talked to me about my progress.”

Powered by this data, let’s hope attitudes about women in management continue to change. The implications of the data are clear: promoting female managers is good for business.

And finally, as Gallup notes:

“Organizations should use talent as the basis for their selection decisions. Talent is an equalizer that removes gender bias in the hiring process. Talent gives organizations a proven, scientifically sound method for choosing the best candidate, regardless of gender.”

Edward Shepard

I’m a writer and producer who loves gathering people around the digital campfire to share unforgettable stories, well told.

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