Do We Prefer Male Bosses?

by Cathy Vandewater | January 17, 2012

The answer to that question is a very tentative "no," followed by a "maybe."

Of 60,470 people surveyed for a recent study, 54% claimed to have no preference for the gender of their boss, manager, or supervisor.

The remaining 46%, however, were a bit more divided: they preferred male to female bosses with more than a 2 to 1 ratio—with 33% stating they would prefer male bosses, 13% preferring female bosses.

An interesting factor to take into account though: the majority of those studied (68%) were working under a male boss at the time of the study. This may indicate that comfort level is a big part of preferences, when it comes to working under men or women.

By gender, of the women who preferred male bosses, 84% were already working under one, and 85% had never worked under a woman before. When asked to explain their reasoning for preferring male bosses, 74% reported "disliking" female managers, and 23% said they found female bosses less competent.

Among men who preferred bosses of their own gender, 74% were currently reporting to a man—with 86% having never worked under a woman before. Their top reasons for preferring male bosses: 28% believed female managers were less competent, and 50% simply didn't like them.

The negative reasoning behind "preferring" one gender over another supports a familiarity theory: in general, rather than actively wanting to work under men, those studied were simply adverse to working under women.  

On the flip side, those who preferred working for women reported actively enjoying certain aspects of the relationship, with 43% of women and 38% of men citing beliefs that women managers were more compassionate and understanding. 30% of women and 27% of men wrote that female managers were more "competent."

On the creepy (though amusing) side, 4% of men who preferred female bosses reasoned that they were "sexier/prettier," and 3% found them "easier to manipulate." (Unsurprisingly, 0% of women reported this effect).

We may still have a ways to go on this issue, but take heart, female leaders: as women continue to flood the workforce, comfort levels with leaders of both genders can only go up.

Read More:
The study

--Cathy Vandewater, Vault.com

Filed Under: Workplace Issues


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