Does Gender Bias Against Female Leaders Persist?

[Quantitative and qualitative data from a large-scale survey]

The present study of 60,470 women and men examined evaluations of participants’ current managers as well as their preferences for male and female managers, in general. A cross-sex bias emerged in the ratings of one’s current boss, where men judged their female bosses more favorably and women judged male bosses more favorably. The quality of relationships between subordinates and managers were the same for competent male and female managers. A small majority (54%) of participants claimed to have no preference for the gender of their boss, but the remaining participants reported preferring male over female bosses by more than a 2:1 ratio. Qualitative analysis of the participants’ justifications for this preference are presented, and results are discussed within the framework of role congruity theory.

To read the survey in its entirety: http://m.hum.sagepub.com/content/64/12/1555.abstract?sid=ab886a07-1048-41d5-a51f-4564a3a0db0b

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Article Notes

  • Kim M Elsesser is a research scholar at the Center for the Study of Women at the University of California, Los Angeles. In addition to her PhD in Psychology from UCLA, Elsesser holds graduate degrees in management and operations research from MIT. In her business career, she was a principal at Morgan Stanley where she co-managed a quantitative hedge fund. More recently she has consulted on large-scale national studies relating to gender and work, and her research interests include gender and leadership, gender discrimination, sexual harassment, cross-sex friendships and social support in the workplace. Her most recent work appears in Human Relations.

  • Janet Lever is Professor of Sociology at California State University, Los Angeles. For the past 40 years her research has focused on wide-ranging issues related to gender studies and human sexuality. Since the early 1980s Lever has collaborated with mass media both to popularize academic scholarship and to harness its power to create data for later scientific analysis. After leading teams of researchers that designed the three largest magazine sex surveys ever tabulated, she came to ELLE to lead a series of surveys hosted on both the health and the business sections of msnbc.com. Her Office Sex and Romance Survey (2002) and the Work and Power Survey reported on here are among the largest surveys on these workplace topics. As with the magazine surveys, each of these internet surveys has been reanalyzed for social science, management, health, and medical audiences.