Male Bosses vs. Female Bosses

By SMW Staff

Even as women increasingly move up the corporate ladder, both men and women still prefer working for male bosses over females, according to recent studies. But what exactly accounts for this mindset?

Surveys and Society

Americans are twice as likely to prefer male bosses over females, according to a 2006 Gallup survey. And while most men say it doesn’t matter whether their boss is a woman or a man, women are more likely to prefer a male boss.

This bias on the part of female employees isn’t surprising, since women are more likely to feel that aligning themselves with male colleagues will increase their chances of moving up the corporate ladder. After all, men are still in charge at most workplaces, so statistically, this makes sense.

Interestingly, both male and female employees view their woman bosses as less decisive, more emotional (and therefore less rational) and less authoritative in general, surveys reveal.

Other reasons for the preference play into some common stereotypes, such as the tyrannical female boss immortalized by Meryl Streep in The Devil Wears Prada.

Female bosses, some say, fall into one of two categories: b*tches or bimbos. The image of the mythical office dragon lady may be more common than we think, according to the Gender Issues in the Workplace Survey by career publisher Vault Inc.

“Despite the significant strides made towards fostering equality in the workplace, our study indicates that gender stereotypes—some of them pernicious—still persist,” says Mark Oldman, co-founder and co-president of Vault.

Stereotypes Persist

Some common stereotypes are alive and well, such as the perception that women bosses take things too personally, are less organized and too demanding, the report indicates. “Men are generally more decisive, quicker and focused in their decisions,” according to one female respondent. “Women approach work with more emotion than men.”

And just as women who negotiate for more money risk being disliked, women supervisors who give their subordinates a negative evaluation are viewed as less competent than a male boss who gives a similarly critical review, according to research conducted at Ontario’s University of Waterloo.

So why does this happen?

Stereotypes rear their ugly heads when people are challenged, according to psychologist Ziva Kunda, Ph.D., who conducted the study.

“As…women gain in power, they’ll more often find themselves having to deliver bad news, and will be seen more through the lens of negative stereotypes,” she says.