Women hold female bosses to higher emotional standard than male bosses - study

Female managers are viewed negatively if they don't focus on building relationships with their staff, Massey University ...
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Female managers are viewed negatively if they don't focus on building relationships with their staff, Massey University research has shown.

Women expect more flexibility, emotional understanding and support from female bosses than they do from male bosses, a new study has found.

And female bosses who do not focus on relationship building can be seen "very negatively" by their female staff.

The research, by Massey University PhD graduate Jane Hurst, showed men in managerial roles were not held to the same standards by the women who work for them.

Massey University PhD graduate Jane Hurst said female managers needed to be supported to meet the expectations of their ...
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Massey University PhD graduate Jane Hurst said female managers needed to be supported to meet the expectations of their staff.

That placed female managers in a "double bind", Hurst said.

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"Women probably don't expect a man to be as focused on relationships. If male bosses are, they exceed our expectations; if they aren't, they're just acting how we expect them to."

Hurst, who is based at the Massey campus in Auckland, conducted her research through a series of workshops where women were asked to explore their expectations of female and male managers.

"At first they said there was no difference – I think we are all led to believe that everyone is treated equally," she said.

"But when I began scratching beneath the surface, it became apparent that they did expect their female managers to be more aware of the complexities of their lives and to offer more flexibility to accommodate those complexities.

"It shows that underneath the veneer of what's socially accepted – that we are all treated the same – we still hold gendered stereotypes and expectations that we are probably not even aware of."

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Hurst also found that most women who had experienced a bad relationship with a female colleague had either left their jobs or taken a backwards or sideways career step as a result.

Many had also had their confidence dented due to a run-in with a female colleague.

Hurst said her research showed it was important for workers to be aware of the expectations they held.

People also needed to assess whether those expectations were realistic in any given situation, she said.

"This level of self-awareness can only occur if there is an environment where women are encouraged to communicate.

"There also needs to be a trusted mechanism that provides staff with advice when there is conflict, someone to talk to without it becoming part of a formal process."

Businesses also needed to support their female managers to meet the expectations of their female staff, Hurst said.

That included giving female managers a say on policies, like parental leave or flexible working conditions, that allowed female staff to have a greater work-life balance.

"It's not going to have much impact if women in senior positions just have to abide by policies that don't support their female staff."

 - Stuff

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