One of the stereotypes I frequently hear is that working for a male boss is preferable to working for a female boss.
But is that sentiment widely shared?
Statistically speaking, both men and women prefer working for male bosses, though the percentage who do has declined over the years. Interestingly, according to Gallup, women have historically been more likely than men to prefer a male boss. (As you’ll note, the greater percentage of men report being indifferent on the matter, though more still prefer a male to a female boss). Here are the most recent results from the 2014 survey:
So why is that more people—women in particular—still prefer to stay away from female bosses?
Some attribute it to what’s called “Queen Bee Syndrome.” The term was developed in the 1970s to characterize a type of woman who rises in a male-dominated workplace through, in part, actively keeping down other women. As Katie Hopkins, a woman who has worked under many women, testified to the Daily Mail:
“Women in business are definitely Queen Bees and will defend their territory fiercely to remain in power,” she says. “We don’t like being threatened, and on many occasions I’ve seen women bring in examples of other women’s work to show their boss that their colleague isn’t performing well in the hope she will be promoted in her place.
“It’s happened several times to me. I’ve had work copied, I’ve had another woman launch a campaign to stop me getting promoted. It’s the sort of aggressive behaviour you’d expect from some of the pushier men, but in my experience it happens more with women.”
Though women are the foremost victims of Queen Bee Syndrome, men can also occasionally find themselves in the crosshairs of the alpha female.
Relatedly, as G.K. Chesterton implied almost one hundred years ago in a famous essay titled “The Emancipation of Domesticity,” women can be difficult to work for because they become more engaged with, or attached to, their jobs. According to a recent survey, this is true: women today are more likely to feel “actively engaged” in their work than men.
According to Chesterton—in language most would not be caught dead using today—women approach work with the same passion and possessiveness with which they approached tending a home in times past. And he thought that was a bad thing; he thought it was more proper to maintain a healthy emotional distance from work:
“[Woman] has, on the whole, been more conscious than man that she is only one half of humanity; but she has expressed it (if one may say so of a lady) by getting her teeth into the two or three things which she thinks she stands for. I would observe here in parentheses that much of the recent official trouble about women has arisen from the fact that they transfer to things of doubt and reason [such as work] that sacred stubbornness only proper to the primary things which a women was set to guard. One’s own children, one’s own altar, out to be a matter of principle—or, if you like, a matter of prejudice. On the other hand, who wrote Junius’s Letters ought not to be a principle or a prejudice, it ought to be a matter of free and almost indifferent inquiry. But make an energetic modern girl secretary to a league to show that George III wrote Junius, and in three months she will believe it too, out of mere loyalty to her employers. Modern women defend their office with all the fierceness of domesticity. They fight for desk and typewriter as for hearth and home, and develop a sort of wolfish wifehood on behalf of the invisible head of the firm. That is why they do office work so well; and that is why they ought not to do it.”
Anyways, these are just a couple of theories floating around out there. I’d be curious to hear if, in your experience, the statistical preferences have a basis in reality. Do you think it’s preferable to work for men rather than women?
Dan is a former Senior Fellow at Intellectual Takeout. He received his B.A. in Philosophy and Catholic Studies from the University of St. Thomas (MN), and his M.A. and Ph.D. in Systematic Theology from Duquesne University in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. You can find his academic work at Academia.edu.