What Women Want: Male Bosses

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More than half of all Americans have a preference when it comes to whether their boss is a man or a woman, according to a new Gallup poll.

And women are especially guilty…wait for it…of favoring male bosses.

Yep. About 40 percent of women surveyed said they’d prefer a male boss, while less than 30 percent of men said the same thing.



The survey doesn’t give a clear answer, but as Joan Williams, a law professor at U.C. Hastings, told Forbes, it might have to do with the fact that men are more likely to wield power than women.


People, especially women, who have faced more struggles in reaching managerial positions than men, want to work for a powerful boss who can help them climb the career ladder.

Research actually shows that a “hybrid” style of leadership, one that combines characteristics traditionally associated with men and those traditionally associated with women, works best and that women are better at it.

Overall, around 40 percent of everyone surveyed said they don’t care either way, 35 percent said they’d rather work for a man, and a record high 23 percent said they would prefer a female boss.

Clearly, there’s still work to be done when people state a preference - for a male or female boss - when they have the option of selecting the better manager, period.


However, people aren’t quite as sexist as they used to be. When Gallup did the same poll in 1953, two-thirds of those surveyed said they’d rather work for a man and just five percent said they’d choose a female boss.

Progress hasn’t been universal, though.

While you’d think younger people would be more open to working for the best manager regardless of their gender, the survey revealed the opposite. People between 18 and 34 were just as likely as those over 55 to prefer a male boss.


Gallup suggests that things might be headed in a more egalitarian direction. People who currently work for a woman break even when it comes to whether they’d rather work for a man or a woman. It follows then, that if more people work for women, the percentage who want to work for a woman might also increase.

Still, as we said above, while that’s probably better than everyone wanting to work for a man, shouldn’t we be aiming for no preference at all?


Emily DeRuy is a Washington, D.C.-based associate editor, covering education, reproductive rights, and inequality. A San Francisco native, she enjoys Giants baseball and misses Philz terribly.