Monday, March 24, 2014

Americans Don't Like Female Bosses?

Bryce Covert talks about this:

In its annual report of the Highest Rated CEOs of 2014, based on employee feedback gathered during the last year, just two women appear on Glassdoor’s list, and they don’t break into the top 30. The top 10 are all white men. 
Sharen Turney, CEO of Victoria’s Secret, is ranked at number 35 with an 85 percent approval rating. The only other woman, Yahoo CEO Marissa Mayer, ranks second to last (there are 51 on the list due to an error that originally left someone out) with a 79 percent rating, only beating GE’s Jeffrey R. Immelt.

Part of the problem is clearly that there are so few female CEOs to begin with. They make up less than 15 percent of executive officers at Fortune 500 companies and haven’t made any significant progress in four years.

Covert then talks about two studies which shows that people prefer male bosses, among those who express a preference, though the percentage expressing no gender preferences in their bosses is actually pretty big and growing.  From a 2013 piece by her:

Among those who have a preference, American workers prefer working for a male boss over a female boss by 12 percentage points, with 35 percent voicing a preference for working for a man, according to a new Gallup survey. The preference shows up among both men and women, and perhaps surprisingly, women are even more likely to have a preference at all, and when they do are more likely to choose working for a man.
The good news is that 23 percent of Americans say they’d prefer to work for a woman, the highest ever recorded since workers were first polled on the question in 1953 and up from just 5 percent. In 1953, two-thirds of Americans preferred working for a man. The number of those who have no preference is also up to 41 percent from just a quarter in the ’50s.
Reality also shows that most people work for a male boss, with over half saying they currently work for a man and just 30 percent for a woman. But those who do work for a woman are just as likely to prefer a female boss to a male one, “one of the few subgroups of the population that does not tilt in the ‘male boss’ direction,” the report notes. On the other hand, among those who work for a man, the preference for a male boss wins out 35 to 17 percent. The report notes that this difference may be in part because those who prefer to work for one gender seek those situations out, but it could also be that working for a woman changes an employee’s perceptions.

The other study Covert mentions seems to show a stronger preference for men in leadership roles:

A new report finds that while both men and women say there are not enough women in positions of power in the workplace, a majority of respondents still preferred to cast men in prominent jobs.
An online study conducted by Harris Poll found that both sexes preferred having men as president of the United States, Fortune 500 senior executives and personal financial advisers.

But that study is based on self-selection, so we cannot use it to generalize to all Americans:

Harris Poll conducted the study online in January among 2,047 adults ages 18 and older. Respondents were selected from among those who have agreed to participate in online questions. There is no estimate of sampling error because the sample is based on people agreed to participate.

What's fascinating about the most recent piece by Bryce is the bit about people of color:

People of color fared a bit better on Glassdoor’s list. Four men of color make it into the top 50 — Joe Echevarria of Deliotte, Carlos A Rodriguez of ADP, Frank D’Souza of Cognizant, and Ken Chenault of American Express — with three in the top 25. This is impressive given that African-Americans make up just 1.2 percent of Fortune 500 CEOs, Asians make up 1.8 percent, and Hispanics make up 1.6 percent.

Note that all those people of color are actually men of color.  Echevarria and Rodriquez are Latinos, D'Souza is Indian-American and Chenault is African-American.  If we apply the race or ethnicity lens to the two women mentioned in this story, they will come across as white and non-Hispanic, and then we would have to conclude that they are faring well in these rankings.

Which means that the stories we tell about gender and the stories we tell about race and ethnicity interact in odd ways, especially if we regard high representation figures as "winning" in some sense, because the group memberships in the two types of stories are different.  For instance, women of all races and ethnic groups are clearly not winning, but white men and perhaps Latinos, too, are winning.

A better approach would be to look at the population percentages of the various gender, race and ethnicity groups, then to see if the groups are represented in those percentages among, say, Fortune 500 CEOs, and then to compare the latter percentages to the rankings in lists of this kind.  That would let us analyze, say, African-American women separately from African-American men or from white women.

That's because attitudes towards race and sex do no appear to work the same way here.  There's something about being female which elicits different reactions from various survey respondents.