Why Don’t Women Like Working for Women?

A professional of any gender identity who puts in the long hours at low positions does it with a goal in mind: Moving up in his or her career. So how would you feel to learn that people are less likely to want to work for you just based on that gender? In fact, women are more likely than both men and the population at large to say they’d rather work for a man over a woman.

According to November poll by Gallup, 40 percent of women said they prefer a male boss. Only 27 percent prefer a female boss, while 32 percent list no preference. For women age 18 to 34, 37 percent would choose a male boss. The methodology of the study asked those surveyed to choose which gender they would select if they were starting a new job and had their choice of a male or female boss. The number has fluctuated in the last twenty years, but in 2013 the percentage of people who would choose a male boss reached the same level as in 1995: 35 percent of the group chose a male boss, while only 24 percent chose a female manager.

Of women who currently work for a female boss, only 31 percent would choose a male boss. As that’s almost ten percent lower than the number of women overall who would choose a male boss, it seems like these choices don’t come from personal experience of working for a woman. Every woman a lot of stereotypes in the world, about everything from how she dresses to what she eats. What stereotypes are driving more women to say they’d rather work for a man than for a woman or have no preference?

As long as women keep choosing male bosses over female ones, we are perpetuating the idea that there is something different about working for a man and working for a woman. It’s one thing to have a bad experience with a boss who happens to be a woman. It’s another thing to believe on a broad scale that it’s better to work for any man than any woman, regardless of qualifications. It’s harmful to how all women are considered for any of us to have a distinctive gender preference for a manager.

Where do these stereotypes come from? We like to think that we leave the mean girls in high school, but clearly female rivalry doesn’t end there. It’s not realistic to expect every woman to like every other woman. But it’s also not realistic to believe any one thing is true about all women, including that they are not good managers. A modern woman wouldn’t say a job she was being considered for should go to a man just because of his gender. Likewise, it’s not helpful for us to say manager jobs – our future jobs – should go to a man for that reason, either.

The best thing we can do as professional women is to not believe the stereotypes society has collected about us. It may be true that other people believe women are unreliable, overly emotional, not suited to science, bad with money, distracting to men or are vindictive to other women. But we don’t have to believe those things about ourselves or each other. We can also not pass on these stereotypes to others because one woman was mean, one woman was an ineffective manager, or one man was an effective mentor. No one thing is true of all women. If you have a problem with your boss who happens to be a woman, don’t use that as a reason to resent all female bosses for the rest of your career.

Gender has nothing to do with how capable a person is at doing his or her job. If you believe about yourself that you could be president, CEO of an international corporation, an Oscar-winning director, or head of a Tyra Banks/Taylor Swift/Katy Perry-like entertainment conglomerate, then do your fellow female professionals a favor and believe it about them, too.

Filed Under