Career Testing
Career Testing
Career Testing
version 6, draft 6

Do Men Make Better Bosses?

Recently, during the hoopla around Germany’s decision to introduce quotas for women on company boards, Germany’s Christian Democratic Union parliamentary leader, Volker Kauder, made himself look a tad sexist when he chose to call the family and women’s affairs minister, “whiny”. The point is that Herr Kauder is not alone.

Most workers would rather work for a man

A 2010 survey of male and female employees conducted by and reported in The Telegraph, found that out of 3,000 employees, two-thirds of them would prefer to have a male boss than a female boss.  Three- quarters of the men responded that they would prefer to work for a male boss, with the figure for female respondents being lower at 63%.  Some of the reasons cited for why men make better bosses than women are that men have “no time of the month”,  “are easier to reason with”, “are less likely to suffer from mood swings” and are “more reasonable” .  

A CNN article by the author BJ Gallagher offers similar perceptions. In her article entitled “How to Tell a Male Boss From a Female Boss”, Gallagher lists a variety of perceptions about female bosses, which include the following:

  • Female bosses are pushy.
  • Female bosses are picky.
  • Female bosses can’t control their emotions.

Have things changed since then? Well, a 2014 Gallup survey finds that employees still prefer a male boss than a female one. It is noteworthy that when Gallup first asked the question of whether employees preferred male or female bosses, in 1953, most (66%) preferred male bosses. Today, the answer remains the same .

Perpetuating a gendered status quo

Several studies have shown that certain behaviours in women are treated differently when they are observed in men. A British Journal of Management study found that women are inclined to reject women bosses who manage ‘like men’-  in other words, who do not conform to a preferred construct; whereas women are more accepting of the same ‘traditional management behaviours’ in men. So are women complicit in perpetuating stereotypes? Certainly, the view that women are less tolerant of errant behaviour in women than they are of similar behaviours in men has support. 

Vicky Oliver, author of ‘Bad Bosses, Crazy Co-workers and Other Office Idiots’, additionally offers the role of perception: men who behave badly are perceived as “powerful” or “protected” and are more likely to find allies amongst those working under them; women who behave badly, on the other hand, will typically be spoken about in a negative manner by those who are lower than them in the company’s pecking order .

Where do we go from here?

It would appear that gender biases play a central role in perceptions about the effectiveness of men and women bosses, and many of us have ‘bought into’ the stereotypes. Perhaps the Germans are on to something. Legal interventions such as quotas may well prompt cultural changes: with significantly more female representation in leadership positions, stereotypes about women may gradually be eroded by the positive and well documented contributions that women bring to the workplace. Indeed, there are signs that this might be the case. The other change that is needed, is for women to be more supportive of each other – we sabotage our progress when we should not.

What do you think? Please comment.


Main article image via Job Cluster

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