Americans Prefer Male Bosses (Fun Fact: Women Are Better Managers)

Nov 11, 2013 | Updated Nov 11, 2013

Even though the evidence is piling up that women tend to be better managers, a larger share of Americans continue to say they'd rather be managed by men, according to a new Gallup poll.

The poll, published Monday, found than one-third of Americans say they’d prefer a male boss, while about 23 percent say they’d prefer a female manager. (Among Republicans, that gap is even larger, with 40 percent preferring a male boss, and only 16 percent a female one.)

The preference for men may be explained in part by the fact that workers are less likely to encounter female managers; 54 percent of workers have a male boss, while just 30 percent say they work for a woman, according to Gallup.

That's a problem, especially since women tend to be better at the management styles that get the most out of workers.

The most effective leaders are those that combine stereotypically male and female qualities to become bosses that are both assertive and motivational enough to inspire workers to go beyond what is asked of them. It’s a learned behavior, and research shows that women tend to be better than their male colleagues at acquiring the skills they lack in order to become that type of leader.

Americans do view female bosses much more favorably than they did decades ago, when Gallup first started asking the question. But the relatively high share of Americans who say they’d rather not have a woman as a boss illustrates the barriers female workers still face getting to the top of the corporate ladder.

That some Americans are still primed to view women as less effective leaders was clear during the recent debate over Federal Reserve chair nominee Janet Yellen. Pundits repeatedly described Yellen as lacking the “gravitas” and forcefulness necessary to head the Fed, which many read as code for “not male enough.”

Even when women have all the "gravitas" necessary, it can sometimes backfire. Research shows when women behave act assertive and decisive -- two traits of a stereotypical leader -- they’re often viewed more negatively than their male colleagues.

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