Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Does the Boss's Gender Matter? Gallup Results for 2013.

Gallup has come out with the newest version of a survey it has conducted since 1953.  This is a questionnaire about the gender of boss people prefer.   The options are to prefer a male boss, a female boss or not to have a preference.

This graph (click it to enlarge)  shows the overall development since 1953:

Note the fairly clear change between 1974 and 1980.  That's the second wave effect, I think.

The 2013 survey tells us that the plurality (40%) don't have a preference to the gender of their boss.  Thirty-five percent prefer a male boss and 23% a female boss. 

But here's the interesting aspect of the findings:  Women express a higher preference for a male boss than men do.  While 29% of men would prefer a male boss in a hypothetical situation where they could choose their boss by gender, 40% of women would prefer a man as the boss in that situation.  (Eighteen percent of men and 27% of women would pick a female boss, the rest have no preference.)

Given the fairly large preference expressed by women for a male boss, I wanted to understand where it comes from.  For example, are older women more likely to have this preference than younger women?

The 2013 survey summary doesn't present data by both gender and age, but the same survey in 2011 did.  Here is the relevant table (click it to enlarge):

As I suspected, it is older women who have the greatest preference for a male boss, perhaps due to the cultural messages they received while growing up.   Younger women in 2011 showed a much reduced preference for a male boss and are slightly more likely to prefer a female boss than a male one.

Analyzing data of this sort is complicated by the fact that male bosses are more common than female bosses and there are probably quite a few people who have never had a female boss.  Thus, they are asked to make a choice about something for which they have insufficient information.  The Gallup survey speculates that the " no preference" category might get more common as female bosses become more common.