At a dinner meeting for our monthly Leaders in Heels catch up, the topic of what it’s like working for female managers came up. Half of us who had worked for a female boss in the past in different jobs had really bad experiences.
“I quit my job in one month because my manager expected me to work late nights everyday… like she did at the expense of maintaining a family life”. She told me that was the only way to get ahead.
“I worked in a team of seven women and every other day emotions ran high, and I believe this affected my productivity despite my being determined to stay out of it”. I also witnessed a lot of energy go into undermining each other’s work and positions within the team.
“I prefer working with men, they are often always direct with me if I did something they didn’t like. Unlike my female manager who seems to be holding grudges”.
“I once worked in a team of 13 women, out of which 11 hated the head of department – it was a really bitchy and toxic place where battles were fought daily”.
Are these words used to describe the majority of female managers? Uncaring, mean and sometimes underhanded? This is definitely not a blanket statement. I’m sure that there are some wonderful and professional women in organisations who are leading happy female employees (I know some personally). But most often than not, one hears horror stories of both genders talking about what it’s like having a female boss.
I’ve had male friends complain about working for a female boss saying they are often temperamental. One said, “Each morning I dreaded going into her office, if she happened to be in a bad mood, she was impossible to deal with!” A recent Gallup poll found that about 60 percent of Americans have a gender preference when it comes to who they’ll report to at work. The majority of the group surveyed would rather work for a man than a woman.
Jealousy, Insecurity and Competition
A story published in News.com.au in September, quoted a female sexologist and relationships expert as saying women are harsher critics of other women than men. The chances of you working with or meeting another woman who doesn’t like you or even your occupation is high. Three factors were seen to be the driving force behind this criticism – jealousy, insecurity and competition. You are less likely to get a “pat on the back” from a female boss because they may be insecure about themselves and happier when their female colleague fails.
Movies are often a direct reflection of what’s happening in a society. Meryl Streep and Emily Blunt in The Devil wears Prada set up Anne Hathaway to fail at every opportunity(she was seen as a misfit with her plaid skirts and sweaters). Not only was the staff of Runway magazine nasty (majority of staff were female) right down to their Jimmy Choos but the corporate culture was toxic.
This was a corporate environment that was predominately female but no support or help was forthcoming to Anne (Andy) from any of her other female colleagues – least of all Emily Blunt. Nigel the Art Director was the one sympathetic male figure who helped her. The fact that he was male is not lost on anyone! But did we focus more on seeing the nastiness on display and were in awe of Miranda Priestly? Simultaneously, Andy was equally disdainful of her female colleagues and boss with their liking for high fashion and skinny lattes. She considered high fashion to be useless and disliked it only accepting the job because she was desperate.
Glass door not ceiling
It has also been highlighted in numerous articles that women in executive positions are less likely to want junior female colleagues to attain the same position and power. Reason? If they did it the hard way, why should other women have it easier? This is the situation even after researchers are suggesting that perhaps it’s time we talk of glass doors and not ceilings. Even a small increase in the number of women who have achieved a managerial position dramatically increases other women’s chances of being hired or promoted into that position. Kasia Gospos, founder of Leaders in Heels says, “I truly believe that women need to be fully supportive of each other so that we are united in our purpose to attain gender equality, we need to be each other’s cheering squads!”
She continues, “Our sisterhood is deemed to be our biggest strength – my girlfriends are my biggest allies when it comes to talking about what’s worrying me and finding solutions. Why then are we leaving the idea of forming friendships to help other females get ahead in the corporate world at the company door? If your girlfriends are your biggest strength in your personal life then why can’t female colleagues be an asset in the working world?”
Perhaps only when we put aside our own insecurities will we truly be able to achieve gender equality in leadership roles. Here’s hoping comments like “My manager is such a ^$%@$ because she’s a woman” will cease to be made.
Have you worked for a female boss? Was it a good or bad experience?