Could it be the case that women managers are too often linked with the Anna Wintour approach, a partially media-constructed image of bitchiness, office politics and Prada handbags at dawn?
If this perception carries weight, it is perhaps a measure of the relative dearth of female bosses in real life. Without enough powerful female role models for aspiring women entrepreneurs/would-be leaders, the risk is that the negative perceptions of women in business might surface as archetypes.
One in three females prefers a male boss, with just 6 per cent of women preferring to work under female leadership, and 59 per cent with no preference, according to a survey of 800 women conducted by officebroker.com.
The given reasons to favour male leaders include less office politics, more relaxed working conditions and an improved focus on goals and objectives.
Thankfully, there is an increasing number of women holding senior roles in companies, which in time will hopefully widen the profile of women in positions of power and show that female bosses aren’t all exaggeratedly bloodthirsty plutocrats.
This said, at the small business level, it’s still the case that a remarkable proportion of people starting a company are male. An Ernst & Young diversity survey this year found that just 16 per cent of the 1,000 working women questioned wanted to start their own business.
It’s possible, therefore, that many women see reporting to a man as somewhat of a default position, a situation that is comfortable in its familiarity. Statistically, their boss is more likely to be a man than a woman. So does womens’ preference for male bosses reflect that most of these women are generally happy with their male bosses, or might it be skewed by those unhappy with their female bosses? Does the level of contentment with your boss hinge on gender to a degree that is actually meaningful?
Some respondents cited in the survey seem to think so. One says, ‘You know exactly where you stand with a male boss. Disagreements are aired openly, and office conflicts are left where they belong – in the office.’
Conversely, another cites “testosterone-fuelled office politics” as a reason to favour a female boss, perhaps the equally unproductive antithesis of the aforementioned ‘bitchy female boss’ persona.
Interestingly, the vast majority of the women polled (85 per cent) express a desire to hold management positions at some point in their career. Maybe this just tells us that they have greater faith in each of themselves to be a good leader than they do in other women.