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Bosses: Male or Female? Does Gender Matter?

Posted: December 3, 2012

Do women prefer women or male bosses? Or is gender and leadership an irrelevant question today?

A few weeks ago, a reader sent me this comment after reading a piece that I wrote for Women’s Web on how the marital status of a woman is still the subject of much debate and discussion as far as the job market is concerned.

This reader said that his wife was in the process of hiring household help and that one question she would ask without fail was whether the woman was married or not. Surprised, he asked her what difference it made and she replied that, ‘If she is unmarried, she will spend most of her time attending to calls from her lover or would be soon married off.’

While on the surface this seemed to be a common enough sentiment, it got me thinking.

Are we women, actually the biggest obstacles to other women? Do we make it harder for other women to succeed in the work place, no matter what the nature of the job is? And as employees, do women prefer men or women as bosses?

I’ve mostly worked with female bosses and I’ve always found them to be mentor like. The couple of male bosses that I have had were not exactly bad either. So finding it hard to write an article on the same from my personal experience, I decided to crowd-source my research.

So on Twitter and Facebook , I posted this question and waited for the responses to come in.

“Do women prefer male bosses or female bosses? Does gender matter?”

While, I was looking at responses from women, the first few came in from men via Twitter and they were all on the same page.

‘Women prefer men as bosses,’ all of them responded.
And when I asked them why they thought so, most of them said that there was a perception that female bosses tended to be tougher and that men were more sympathetic and considerate towards their female employees.

However, the responses from the women were overwhelmingly contradictory to what the men thought.
Most of the women who pitched in by sharing their personal stories and experiences categorically stated that gender did not matter and that it depended on the bosses’ individual style and personality. Most of them also said that as long as the bosses respected their work and them, it hardly mattered whether their boss was male or female. There were also those who said that they had often found female bosses to better leaders overall and even mentors.

But then there was also a small minority of women who responded saying that they had had better experiences while working with a male boss.

‘Female bosses can be petty and bitchy,’ they said. ‘Male bosses have always worked better for me,’ another said.

Now, according to this very recent survey done in the United Kingdom, only 6% of 800 female workers said that they want to work with a female boss.

A 2009 study claimed that most women prefer working for men as well, as men are less prone to moods.  However there are studies that claim the exact opposite as well and that most employees prefer to work under female bosses.

There are either hardly any studies done on this topic in India and the sub-continent or if done, they are not accessible to people like me who have been trawling the Internet for data of any kind on the same. However based on the responses I received, I would say that in theory at least, gender does not matter to most working women as long as they are led well and the work they do is respected.

I would love to hear from the working women out there on whether they have any gender preferences as far as their bosses are concerned and why.

Your turn, ladies.

Image: Shutterstock

Shweta Ganesh Kumar is a Writer and Travel columnist. Her fourth book and first collection

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