A new survey finds Americans would rather have a man as a boss over a women, but the results also showed attitudes are slowly changing for the better.
The data comes from Gallup’s annual work and education poll, which took place this August. Gallup asked respondents “If you were taking a new job and had your choice of a boss, would you prefer to work for a man or a woman?” to which 33% favored a male boss, 20% preferred a female boss, and 46% said that they had no preference.
The fact that so many preferred a male boss to a female (or that there was any gender preference at all) will likely focus attention on the need for increased equality in the workplace. But these results actually offer some good news, since this most recent survey also shows that attitudes have evolved considerably over time. This year’s results represent a modest change from last year, when 35% said they preferred a man, 23% wanted a woman, and 41% told the surveyor it made no difference. And when you look back to when the question was posed for the first time in 1953, you see a serious shift: 66% of respondents at that time favored a male boss, compared to 5% who preferred a woman and 25% who said it made no difference.
So while gender mattered to most in 1953, today nearly half of people do not consider it an important factor. And meanwhile, the percentage of people who’d prefer a female boss has quadrupled.
Back to this year’s survey, women were more likely to prefer a female boss than men: A quarter of women surveyed said they would choose a female boss over a male vs. only 14% of men. However, women were also more likely to prefer having a man as a boss than men. Female respondents favored a male boss to a female, 39% to 25%, compared to male respondents preferred a male boss by a margin of 26% to 14%. Men were also more likely to say their bosses gender made no difference.
Members of different age groups and political parties also produce slightly different results from the general population. Past studies have shown young people are somewhat more likely to want a female boss. This year’s survey found Republicans more likely to prefer a male boss to a female boss (42% to 16%, a slightly wider margin than last year) and Democrats more split on the issue (29% preferred a man, 25% preferred a woman).
Finally, Gallup notes, employees who currently have a female boss are more likely than those with a male boss to prefer a female boss in the future. “This could mean that as more women enter management, preference for female bosses could continue to rise,” the release speculates.