For all the laments and depressing statistics about severe under-representation of women CEOs and directors relative to the working female population, working women can be our own worst enemies. What do I mean? Women don’t seem to want female bosses!
According to this Gallup poll, over the past 60 years, the overall trend is towards more people not caring about a manager’s gender. In 1953, 75% of Americans did have a preference, and most people preferred male bosses. If you think about it for a second, its actually remarkable that 25% of people were completely indifferent to gender at that time. Or it shows that Mad Men has overly influenced the way I imagine the 1950’s as a time of apron-wearing housewives baking pies for their suitcase-toting, bread-winning husbands.
What do Americans prefer today? The majority of men are actually completely indifferent between male and female bosses. But there is bad and slightly baffling news: There are more women who prefer male bosses than those who prefer female bosses, or are indifferent between the two. See the numbers for yourself:
Even more dismaying is that the youngest demographic, 18-34 year old Millenials, have preferences that look almost identical to 55+ year olds, with a large percentage preferring male bosses.
I’m struggling to make sense of this data. Maybe the survey is not accurate, or maybe women have more unconscious bias (which I’ve written about before) than men.
I’ve been asking myself whether I honestly have a preference. I can say that if there is any reason for me to prefer a male boss, it is only because that’s a “known entity” for me. In other words, I’m more familiar with male bosses because while I’ve had both male and female managers, my experience with a female boss is pretty limited: I’ve only had one, and it was for less than a year. I had a good experience with her, but it was short and I remember being excited at the time for a different sort of experience. This is probably because I’ve worked in male-dominated industries and roles.
But are the other women who prefer male bosses in the same boat as me? Do they answer this way because they don’t know what the alternative is really like? Did they have a single bad experience that left them projecting stereotypes (e.g. “Queen Bee” or “too emotional”) onto other female leaders? Or are they answering this way for other reasons? Please share your stories if you have any thoughts.