Business of Men

Why women prefer a male boss

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The male manager is favoured by everybody, but why do women prefer a male boss?

Hit comedy The Office had us all cringing in recognition of the traits of bosses we’ve known. But while it’s funny on television, a boss can in real life be the cause of either your stronger performance of your results-sapping anxiety. Expectations, perceptions and deadlines can be a heavy load, no matter what your role or in what kind of business. But does this burden lessen or become heavier depending on the gender of the key manager?

Research has shown that both male and female employees tend to prefer a male boss. A study of 1000 employees across 200 companies found that Jeff Weiner, the CEO of LinkedIn was the number one boss to work for. But Weiner wasn’t the only male boss to get approval. The survey results showed that, overall, male managers were preferred, with only two women, (Victoria’s Secret CEO Sharen Turney at number 35,  and Yahoo CEO Marissa Meyer at 50) appearing on the list. Certainly the list would be skewed against female numbers, since there is a vast discrepancy between ratios of the genders in top management roles — only 4.6% of public companies have female CEOs, for example. However the survey results saw women win only 1% of the approval slots.

Research has also shown that for younger employees, a man’s way is the preferred way, with employees between the ages of 18 and 34 particularly tending to prefer a male manager. “A full one-third of people today still have a preference for a male boss, and this is especially prevalent amongst younger employees,” said Kari Reston, founder of Boredom to Boardroom

Statistics from a  Gallup poll in 2013 showed that in a survey of 2,059 adults, 35% preferred a male boss with 23% preferring females. The remaining number either had no boss or didn’t have a preference. Gallup says 23% is so far the highest ratio for female manager preference in surveys conducted since 1953.

However the Gallup research found female employees more often preferred male management, with 40% saying they’d favour having a male boss, and only 27% preferring a female boss. What’s behind this result, and is it evidence that some of the unpalatable stereotypes about women bosses are true? Could they really be micromanaging, gossiping, passive aggressive, grudge holders?

According to a report by CNN, that’s exactly the case. The report cited New York based college educatorJoy Lipkin as saying being managed by a male is beter than by a woman.

“Men are more straight forward,’ she said, ‘Women hold grudges and seek vengeance against their subordinates. That’s been my experience.

Lipkin’s opinion may mirror that of many other workers, but it is by no means universal. Former federal prosecutor Karen Shaer believes either gender makes a good boss, and her preference remains relatively neutral.

“I’m looking for someone who’s a good communicator, who’s going to be someone who is a good teacher, as well as be supportive, someone who is open to giving opportunities for growth and development and that can be provided by a man or a woman,” Shaer told CNN.

Susan Niernberg, Vice President for Catalyst, puts the disparity down to stereotypes. Double standards are to blame, she says, with men being seen as strong and assertive whilst women are seen as bossy and emotional.

“Because the stereotype is in the water, and there are fewer women leaders than men, you may remember the woman who treated you badly and say, ‘Oh yeah, I remember her’. And it reinforces the stereotype,” Niernberg states.

The statistics, opinions and stereotypes are concerning, but of even more concern is that when you combine them, it seems any campaign to encourage more women up to executive roles is going to be difficult to achieve —  although that  just gives us even more reason to take up the challenge.

About Lauren Robinson

A Journalist at The Business Woman, Lauren has a solid passion for the world of writing. Previously working with Fairfax Regional Media and Bauer Media Group Lauren loves beauty, entertainment, lifestyle and human-interest stories.

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