Why female bosses don’t always help pay equality

female-leaderEarlier this summer I wrote about a new site that aimed to be like a TripAdvisor for gender equality in the workplace.  The site, called InHerSight, follows in the footsteps of a number of platforms that aim to take users beyond the marketing spin of an organization and give you a glimpse into the reality of working life, at least that as told by current and former employees.

The platform provides anonymous reviews from current and former employees (of both sexes) so that potential employees can learn about things such as the policies in place at the organization, its culture and any other potential pitfalls.

Suffice to say, over the last few years there has been a great deal of debate as to how our workplaces can become more equal environments, with one popular suggestion being that as more women make it to managerial level, they will help and support those beneath the to obtain similar status.

Alas, a recent study from Haas Business School suggests that isn’t really happening.

It reveals that having a female manager isn’t a guarantee of better salaries for female employees.  Indeed, some female employees suffer a drop in earnings (relative to their male peers) when working for a female boss.

How your boss influences your salary

The study looked at how the salary of employees changed when their boss changed from male to female (and vice versa).

Previous studies have suggested that the presence of female bosses is generally a good thing in terms of the gender pay gap, this latest study didn’t find any evidence to support this.

Indeed, low performing women fared worse when their new boss was a high performing female.  The authors suggest that this can often happen when people see themselves as part of a valuable group, but are concerned that others don’t see them the same way.

“A high-performing woman might, for example, worry about being devalued because of her association with a low-performing female subordinate,” the authors say. “This might lead her to undervalue the subordinate’s contributions.”

Keeping things real

The authors suggest that the hopes that the rise of women into managerial positions will automatically shrink the gender pay gap may be wishful thinking.

For the changes to occur, they suggest, will require a fundamental change to the cultures of our organizations so that gender equality is fundamental to how our companies operate, with such an environment encouraging female employees to positively identify with their gender whilst at work.

Suffice to say, such a change may take some time to materialize, but the authors very much believe that for a better, more equal future, it is the kind of change that is required.

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One thought on “Why female bosses don’t always help pay equality

  1. I've long thought this to be honest. There's so much myth around the gender pay gap, and I think the uncertainty around what it is and what causes it is a major stumbling block to actually overcoming it.

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