Women bosses not so likely to catfight with female underlings… sorry, boys

It was such a good myth, too. If you were an underachieving woman with a woman boss, you could claim she was jealous of you and keeping you down. And if you were a guy, you could blame women for keeping each other down and justify all over again male privilege as something men have earned through teamwork and getting the job done.

Jenn Hoffman, “fired” from The Apprentice by Donald Trump (who, I think, is a man) is using media attention to advance the idea of a “pink ceiling” in which women hurt each other more than men ever could: “Women can become very aggressive and judgmental about your weight, your hair, your dress, whether you have the latest Prada bag. Battle lines are drawn between who is friends with who and your friendships directly affect which projects you work on. Now I think women are holding back other women more than the old boys’ club mentality.”

She’s obviously not worked for any of my female bosses. While she does acknowledge that women in really really high positions can be great bosses, that’s overlooking a lot of great women bosses. All three of the ones I’ve worked for long were very secure in their positions, were eager to see other women advance and discover their abilities, and taught me a great deal by example of how to be confident in the workplace. One of them owned her own business, and the others were strictly mid-level management.

Conversely, I’ve had a male middle-management boss who tried to frame me for his own embezzlement; a CEO (how senior can you get?) who’d been verbally abusing people so long the whole office resembled a large herd of abused kids lashing out at each other and/or trying to curry favor with the abuser; and then, of course, several who were wonderful – including the guy who got to the bottom of the embezzling thing and cleared me.

But don’t take my word for it. Women’s ENews has more:

“When the Boss Is a Woman,” a 2006 survey of studies by the American Psychological Association, concludes in a summary analysis that “women are slightly more likely to be ‘transformational’ leaders, serving as role models, helping employees develop their skills and motivating them to be dedicated and creative.”

Last August, meanwhile, researchers who studied data representing 1.32 million U.S. workers in 1,318 industries reported for the first time that women benefit financially from working in industries in which women have reached the ranks of senior management. Sociologists Philip N. Cohen of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and Matt L. Huffman of the University of California, Irvine, found that while women generally earned 81 cents for every dollar earned by men, the number rose to 91 cents in industries in which women had reached the ranks of senior management.

“Our data certainly suggests that if you had more senior managers, the gap would close,” said Huffman. But Huffman said the small number of industries with large numbers of women in senior management makes it impossible to know for sure.

Another stereotype I’ve never understood seems to misidentify vicious women as strong, and strong women as “bitches”, enforcing the myth that the only way women know how to be strong is to be nasty. Again, this is not my experience. Confident bosses of both genders encourage and mentor their employees of both genders because that’s how to get the best work from people. But in my experience, men often label nasty vicious men as strong, and label strong women as nasty and vicious. it’s stupid, but that’s how stereotypes work.


  1. Purtek says

    in which women hurt each other more than men ever could

    I’m always incredibly frustrated by attitudes like this. They dismiss the relevance of feminism because women “hurt each other”, while they simultaneously completely fail to notice how much they are being informed by continued sexism and how much they are “speaking up” to give voice to what is really the dominant opinion as though it had been thus far kept silent.

    My personal anecdote: Today was my last day at a job with a terrible boss who also happened to be female. She was (is) a complete bully, very insecure, very angry, and very much needing to put other people down in order to prop herself up. All of the behaviours she displays could easily come from a male boss, but several people I’ve told about the specifics of the situation have immediately said things like “Women are the worst bosses!”. But as you say, the counterexamples of good female bosses don’t register–notice what confirms your bias, ignore the rest.

  2. Jennifer Kesler says

    But as you say, the counterexamples of good female bosses don’t register–notice what confirms your bias, ignore the rest.

    Exactly. I’d wager insecurity is at the root of what makes most bad bosses bad.

    Additionally, the issue of dismissing feminism because women hurt each other… by that reasoning, we should just dump the legal system because people still break laws.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *