A recent Fortune article recommends that women who want a promotion should find a boss whose wife has a career (isn’t that a funny question to ask during your interview for a job – What does your wife do?). It based its generalization on a 6 year study about marriage structure and resistance to the gender revolution in the workplacein the US and the UK.
What was found was that if the male boss is in a “traditional” family where the wife stays at home or a “neo-traditional” one where the wife works part-time, he is more likely to view the presence of women in a workplace unfavorably and more frequently deny the promotion of even the most qualified female executives. While there wasn’t blatant behavior, and the traditional family male bosses believed they saw females as equal, in controlled experiments they were more likely to choose males for promotions.
A Gallup survey that is now a few years old found that women prefer male bosses at an even greater rate than men prefer male bosses. It was found that 34% of men preferred a male boss while 10% preferred a female boss, while 40% of women preferred a male boss and 26% preferred a female boss (the rest had no gender preference). These same type of results have been found in more informal MBA classroom surveys as well, as well as a UK article that states 2/3 of females like having a man in-charge in the office. The reasons given? Male bosses are authoritative, straight-talking and better at making decisions, as well as being less likely to show mood swings at work or bring their problems from home.
In both directions of the boss/employee relationship, the behaviors and preferences aren’t surprising. People have to go back and forth between their home life and their work life, and beliefs/practices will carry over from one to the other. And historically, men have been in more leadership roles, so what we think of as a leader will often have masculine traits associated with it. But this does create an interesting problem – even driven women who want more opportunities to lead have a preference for being led by men. Added to that are the behaviors and things that females are rewarded for growing up – being a ‘good girl’, as I wrote about before – and it’s no wonder increasing female leadership is a challenge.
So would you prefer a male over a female boss? Why? Share your thoughts in the comments form below.