News and Trends

People Still Prefer Male Bosses – But That's Not the Whole Story

In an ideal world, managerial positions would be filled by the most qualified people for the job, regardless of gender -- and a recent survey suggests more people feel that way than ever.

Thirty-three percent of people, if given the choice, said they would prefer a male boss while 20 percent said they'd prefer a female boss, according to Gallup's latest annual poll on work and education. While that gap has continued to narrow over the years, the most encouraging news is that the majority of people (46 percent) said it doesn't make a difference to them, a response that has been on the rise since 2002.

Related: To Build Your Strongest Team, Don't Hire Your Clones

Our views on bosses have come a long way. When Gallup first started asking these questions 61 years ago, the results were heavily skewed toward men: In 1953, 66 percent of Americans preferred a boss who was a man, 5 percent preferred a woman, and 25 percent said it didn’t make a difference.      

Today, 51 percent of Americans surveyed have a male boss and 33 percent have a female boss, Gallup found.

Related: Getting Diversity and Inclusion Right in Your Company

Political leanings also appeared to be a factor in these opinions. Gallup found that Americans who identify as Republicans prefer male bosses (42 percent) to female bosses (16 percent) and Democrats are more evenly split, with 29 percent for male bosses and 25 percent for female bosses.

Gallup also found that while both men and women prefer male bosses -- with women (39 percent) slightly more so than men (26 percent) -- ultimately, employees who are currently working under a female boss were more likely to want a female boss in the future, signaling a positive outlook as more women take on positions of authority in the workplace.  

Related: It’s Time to Close the Workplace Gender Gap

Edition: November 2016

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