40% of American women prefer male bosses

Still unsure about women at the top.
Still unsure about women at the top.
Image: Reuters/Robert Galbraith
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Despite all the efforts to advance more women into leadership jobs, women still would rather have a male boss—at least until they’ve worked for one.

American workers still favor a male boss over a female one, 35% to 23%, and women are far more inclined to say men are better supervisors, a new Gallup survey found.

The poll asked 2,059 adults if they were taking a new job and had the choice of a boss, would they prefer to work for a man or woman. A majority of men (51%) said they have no preference, while 40% of women said they’d chose a man.

“It is a trend thick with irony: The very women who have complained for decades about unequal treatment now perpetuate many of the same problems by turning on their own,” researcher Peggy Drexler PhD wrote in an essay for the Wall Street Journal titled, “The Tyrranny of the Queen Bee.” Some women bosses, Drexler suggests, are the “high school mean girls all grown up: women with something to prove and a precarious sense of security.”

The fact that so many people say they have no preference (40%) indicates “an acceptance of equality” and would make a choice based on the individual’s character, said Frank Newport, Gallup’s editor-in-chief.

Newport noted one “fascinating finding:” Younger workers, those 18- to 34-years-old, have almost the same preferences as older workers for male bosses.

Today, only 30% of workers report to a woman, but nearly one-quarter of Americans would choose to work for a woman, which is the highest level reported in the six decades that Gallup has asked this question. Those who already work for a woman manager are much more likely to favor women managers. Gallup suggested that if more US workers actually report to a woman, it could lead to more workers appreciating and wanting a female boss in the future.