Meet the new result on the new boss

A new article by David Maume digs deeper on the question of women as supervisors.

Matt Huffman and I have been trying to figure out whether the trend toward more women in management bodes well for all women in the workplace. Specifically, we’ve asked whether female managers reduce the gender gap in pay, and (with Jessica Pearlman) whether they reduce gender segregation among their workers. So far our results suggest women in charge do reduce gender inequality, though our analysis of pay gaps was based on indirect evidence — and found the inequality-reducing effect occurred only when women were in high-status managerial jobs.

Maume’s results are not consistent with our findings, but his approach is different, focusing instead of subjective reports of supervisor support and advancement potential. He finds that men with female supervisors report receiving more career support, and have more positive views about their chances of advancement, than men who work for male supervisors. But women report no such benefits. The analysis used the 2002 National Study of the Changing Workforce, a phone survey of about 1,500 workers.

He reports:

…men who report to female supervisors get significantly more career support, in contrast to the insignificant female supervisor effect among women. These results support the strong version of the [female managers as] cog in the machine hypothesis suggesting that female supervisors pay more attention to male than female subordinates, as a way of conforming to organizational expectations to advance men’s career prospects.

His conclusion is cautionary:

The results are consistent with much research showing that workplaces are pervasively male-oriented in their customs, policies, and structures, and that female bosses are no different from male bosses in reacting to organizational preferences to invest in men’s careers more so than women’s. Additional research is needed on the organizational mechanisms fostering or impeding women’s ascendance to supervisory positions in order to assess progress toward the goal of affording men and women equal opportunity to exercise managerial authority. Yet, irrespective of what future studies of managerial attainment show, those who expect that female bosses will dramatically change the nature of superior-subordinate relations are likely to be disappointed.

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