A woman at the helm does not necessarily translate to gender equality in the workplace. This is according to a study conducted by a doctoral student at the Massachusetts Institute of Technolog (MIT). Mabel Abraham, the study author, analyzed the staffing and wage patterns in big U.S. banks where control over employee wages, hiring, and promotions were placed in the hands of managers— 44 percent of which were women.
Ms. Abraham’s findings challenge the long-held assumption that women bosses would make the workplace more egalitarian. For instance, she found that a wage gap still exists regardless of whether the boss was female or male. Women employees only received 83 percent of the average wage of their male counterparts.
There were also more women in positions which paid lower while more men disproportionately occupied the higher-paying ones, leading Abraham to state that a glass ceiling exists.
Her study showed that women tellers and representatives made up 82 percent and 83 percent of the workforce, respectively. As one goes up the hierarchy, their numbers grew smaller and smaller, with only 73 percent of women working as officers, 44 percent as relationship managers, and only 38 percent in executive teams.
One redeeming finding for female bosses in Abraham’s study is that they were more amenable to flexible work arrangements compared to male managers. However, she is quick to point out that while “this suggests that women are more tolerant and supportive of flexible work arrangements” it does not necessarily mean that they are “specifically helping other women.”
Carol Natukunda, writing for Sunday Vision, calls it the Queen Bee Syndrome. She cites a 2009 study published in the journal Social Science Research which found that “men who report to a female manager get much more mentoring and support than their female counterparts.” Worse, the Queen Bee Syndrome hinders women from succeeding. The researchers, writes Natukunda, found that “female bosses are more inclined to obstruct them, but strive to blend in as much as possible with their male counterparts.”
Natukunda also includes other related surveys in her story, such as the one done in Canada in 2008, which found that women with female supervisors “suffered more depression, insomnia, headaches and heartburn” than those who had male bosses. A British survey done in 2010 also found that a majority of women (two-thirds) preferred male bosses because “they are straight-talking, less likely to talk about staff behind their backs and not prone to mood swings.”
Does this mean that the workplace is better off with fewer female managers? The women that Natukunda interviewed do not believe so. In fact, they say that if women put their personal biases aside, they will still make “better managers than men.”
Category: News In Review