More American and British men and women prefer male bosses to female bosses

We know that when the proportion of women on corporate boards is increased financial performance can be expected to decline, but are there other outcomes which might partly compensate for this assault on meritocracy? For example, will the working environment become more pleasant and supportive for men, or women? Proponents of more women in the senior reaches of business often claim that women are more ‘consensual’ or ‘collaborative’ than men, or as I prefer to think of it, hopelessly indecisive.

What might one of these consensual geniuses do when a topic arises unexpectedly at a board meeting? Perhaps take a ‘comfort break’ during which she’ll attempt to forge a ‘consensus’ among whoever is around to ‘collaborate’ with at the time? So long as boards are happy with female directors taking two-hour-long comfort breaks, I see no problem. Of course board meetings could then last all week, but that’s surely a small price to pay to keep up the charade of often poorly qualified female directors appearing competent.

Our thanks to M for sending us links to two intriguing documents on employees’ preferences with respect to the genders of their bosses. The first is from the Gallup organisation in the United States, a report titled, ‘Americans Still Prefer a Male Boss’, which draws on a survey conducted in August 2013. Gallup has been asking questions in this area since 1953, 60 years ago. The report:

Intriguingly, a higher proportion of women (40%) than men (29%) prefer a male boss. Key findings from the study:


29% prefer a male boss

18% prefer a female boss

51% have no preference


40% prefer a male boss

27% prefer a female boss

32% have no preference

Young Americans showed the same preference for male bosses as older Americans. Also from the report:


Although four in 10 Americans do not have a preference for a male or a female boss, those who do would rather work for a man than a woman – as they have since Gallup began asking this question in 1953.

The minority of working Americans who have a female boss break even in their preferences for the gender of their boss, suggesting that if the percentage of Americans who work for a woman increases, so might the percentage who would rather work for a woman. However, young Americans’ preferences are in line with the average, which suggests that the aging of today’s workforce may not in and of itself produce changes in these attitudes in the years ahead.

The fact that even in 2013 women are more likely to prefer a male boss over a female boss will come as no surprise to anyone who’s read Steve Moxon’s The Woman Racket (2008). One of Moxon’s key theses is that men are innately comfortable with rules-based competition – one of the reasons why so many more men than women engage in competitive sports, or watch them – and with a male dominance hierarchy based upon power, or its modern proxy, money. The female dominance hierarchy, by contrast, is based upon youth and attractiveness, so women tend to be less comfortable than men with the male dominance hierarchy which remains the basis of the vast majority of commercially successful organisations.

Many times over the course of my 30+ year-long business career women complained to me about their treatment at the hands of female bosses who generally had a small ‘in group’ they favoured in numerous ways. The situation was made worse by women being promoted beyond their abilities, in an effort to get more women into the senior reaches of organisations. In my experience men were rarely promoted beyond their abilities in this way, but if they were, they soon realised they had a problem, admitted it, and a solution found. Women in the same situation would struggle on in an effort to save face, they could become unpleasant to deal with, and end up with depression, stress-related absences from work, substance abuse issues…

Crossing the pond, we turn to a short but interesting article in the Daily Telegraph, published in 2010, ‘Workers Prefer Male Bosses’:

From the article:

Two thirds of employees agree they would rather work for a man than a woman. Female bosses were accused of being moody and incapable of leaving their personal lives at home. A third of those polled claimed women in charge are ‘loose cannons’ – ready to stab colleagues in the back at any time, and who constantly feel threatened by other people in positions of authority. By contrast, both male and female workers believe male bosses were less likely to get involved in office politics, were easier to reason with and rarely suffered from mood swings.

Men are also said to be more straight-talking than women and rarely talk about others behind their backs, it emerged.

The article ends with the following:                       

Ten reasons why men are considered the best bosses

1. Straight talking

2. Less likely to get involved in office politics

3. Easier to reason with

4. Less likely to bitch about others

5. Less likely to suffer from mood swings

6. Able to leave their private life at home

7. No time of the month

8. More likely to share common interests

9. Don’t feel threatened if others are good at their jobs

10. More reasonable

Who could argue with any of the 10 reasons? So there we have it. When organisations drive up the proportion of bosses who are women, not only can they expect to see financial performance decline, but also a less happy workforce. It’s a lose/lose situation, engineered to keep a small number of privileged women in positions of power for which they’re poorly qualified. So why do the government, the business sector, employers’ organisations and professional bodies all relentlessly pursue this insane direction of travel? Things may have to get a lot worse before people in positions of influence come to their collective senses.

One thought on “More American and British men and women prefer male bosses to female bosses

  1. This is so true. I used to work in Education in Britain where parimary schools are 99% dominated by women. This means a lot of management positions are now also held by women, including the deputy heads and head teachers. In the 2 years I was a supply teaching assistant I met very few women right at the top who were what I would call Excellent and those who were were generally disliked by most of the women under them who envied them.

    In my time at one school we had 3 female heads in short succession. The first had been there a few years when I started going there and could be quite snidey and passive-aggressive. As the school slid into special measures she suddenly became ‘ill’ and disappeared for 8 months, never to be seen again. A measure taken to protect her status as a decent head, so she could move on to another school later.

    Her temporary replacement was absolutely fantastic, but she admitted herself she didn’t want to be a head. She was a classroom teacher with a great deal of experience who hated management and found it bitchy and stressful. Which perhaps was why she was so good. And also why it took a long time for the other women in the school to warm to her. She was also very fit and cycled to work many days and wore nice outfits which most women her age could not have pulled off, further fueling jealousy amongst the women.

    She recommended me for promotion to lunchtime duty supervisor, quietly telling me that no one else would be as good in the role and I should go for it. I applied and got the position just after she left. Unfortunately, her replacement had no experience in management as was a perfect example of what this article talks about.

    She was insecure, she backstabbed everyone, talking behind their backs… she was intimidated by everything and wouldn’t be challenged or questioned, later she’d single out people who had spoken against her ideas and grill them for 30 minutes in her office. She founf meetings with heads from other schools difficult because they were all ‘quite intense’ and ‘intimidating’ people, especially male heads. She refused to ask for help. She was operating beyond her practical or emotional capabilities. She used to run into her office during lunchtimes sobbing that everyone hated her. She and the other office staff lied that I had been given my promotion and took it away from me without telling me. I found out when my job was re-advertised. They pretended I had never even applied for it, to my face. They then got rid of me, even though I was covering for someone on a 9 month rolling contract and they didn’t inform me I was going. Eventually I got it out of her that she just found me too intimidating for asking basic questions about health and safety like why the new children’s medical records and allergy information hadn’t been added to the correct folder and why staff were being forced to do this task in their own time and unpaid.

    When I worked at the BBC years before that, I likewise found female managers were bad at meetings, which would last 2 hours and I could only recall learning what they’d been up to on their weekends. No one knew what work they had to do that week. When I once covered for our manager and chaired the meeting it lasted just 20 minutes and although we still had a laugh, the others all said they knew for the first time exactly what they had to do that week and they were happy. When I tried to set up the next meeting, the manager I covered for was furious and cancelled it and then grilled me for undermining her.

    I could give plenty more examples but we all know someone like this. It’s not sexism or gender bias, it’s simply accepting that we are different and have different strengths and weaknesses and we should work with that rather than against it.

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