Men and women both want male bosses, according to the study Gallup released yesterday. Gallup asked more than 1,000 Americans: “If you were taking a new job and had your choice of a boss, would you prefer to work for a man or a woman?”
46 percent didn’t care, which is cool. And according to the numbers, most of the apathetic 46 percent were men. But for those who did care, 60 percent said they wanted a dude boss. And notably, it was a higher percentage of women (39 percent) who said they would rather have a male boss. (Only a quarter of men said the same thing.)
What’s going on? Why don’t more women want to work for other women? The study doesn’t answer the question, but it’s an interesting data point in an era of emerging lady bosses (and its accompanying literary genre filled with new releases like Sophia Amoruso’s #GIRLBOSS, Tina Fey’s Bossypants, and Sheryl Sandberg’s Lean In). There are more female entrepreneurs than ever who are adamantly committed to helping other women rise to the top. While this year’s Fortune 500 list features a historically high number of female CEOS, the reality remains that this “high” is still 4.8%—weighing in at just 24 female CEOs. (And of the 24 females on the Fortune 500 list, only two appear to be women of color—Ursula Burns of Xerox and Indra Nooyi of PepsiCo.)
Why do people, especially women, seem to prefer the status quo to change? Is a male boss just more of a known entity and therefore safer?
My first faulty reflection was that sex can be stronger than sisterhood. Women are used to operating within a sexist environment which disadvantages them; some women are used to using sex as an advantage. Do women want male bosses to avoid relinquishing their opportunity to utilize sex appeal and feminine energy as assets (tools that despite seeming anti-feminist, have proved to be effective in the ways they manage male supervisors and colleagues)? I’m not talking about sex here. I’m talking about the suggestion of it.
Of course, this is an obnoxious question, and I don’t actually believe that women want to be hoes at work. Maybe it’s because women are worried about competing with other women. Standard workplace power structures maintain themselves by encouraging under-represented identities (people of color, women) to vie for authority from one another rather than working together to challenge office politics as a whole. Too many professional women know that they are the exception, not the rule. The scarcity of female leadership opportunities causes these women to internalize notions of girl-on-girl competition in order to ensure their own survival. But what about girl power? Girl Crushes? #WCW? I know women love other women, so why not as their superiors?
While men were most open to either a male or female boss, it’s reasonable to believe that some men picked women for diversity’s sake alone. In almost every business situation imaginable, it’s seems both necessary and profitable to engage with members of both sexes to ensure optimum consumer understanding and sensitivity.
For now, the Gallup study’s results are probably just a matter of people being afraid of the unknown. It does note that both men and women currently employed by a female boss were more likely to choose a female over a male. Perhaps with more experience, there will be more equality.