Several years ago I hired a female employee who seemed thrilled with the idea that she would finally be working for a woman. In retrospect, I should have taken that as a warning sign. She had an unrealistic expectation that the relationship would be perfect because of my double x chromosomes. Not surprisingly, our working relationship didn't last.
Choosing a boss based on gender seems to me--and many others--as ridiculous as choosing a car based on its color but many do. And for the last 60 years, Gallup has documented American's changing preferences in regard to the boss's gender. While in 1953, 66 percent of Americans polled preferred a male boss, today only 33 percent claimed to.
It's progress, but the sentiment still exists, with more women than men expressing their desire to work for a dude. Here are four reasons why some think that working for man is preferable and how to counter those ideas.
Reason 1: Male Bosses are Familiar
"The dominant model has been that there are more men as managers and leaders of organizations...That's changing, but the knee-jerk reaction when we think of "boss" is a male image," said Kathy Caprino, women's career success coach and president of Ellia Communications, Inc.
Solution: More Female Role Models
"The reality is that there are great male bosses and terrible ones, just as there are great female bosses and terrible ones. We need more role models of women who are leaders--with varying styles, communication approaches, demeanors, and visions--for us as a society to come to the point where we have no preference about gender in our managers--that we just want the best boss we can get," said Ms. Caprino.
2. Outdated Generalizations Die Hard
"Men are still seen as more credible and easier to work for--whatever that means," said Becky Sheetz-Runkle, speaker and author of Sun Tzu for Women. She added that when an employee has a bad experience with a female boss, they are quick to announce that they'll never work for another woman.
Solution: Embrace Diversity
"I've noted personal biases diminish the more I've had a chance to engage with someone of another culture. Experience is the best antidote. It sounds too simple to be true, but there is often wisdom in simplicity," said Ms. Sheetz-Runkle.
3. The Language of Leadership is Outdated
"CEOs need to be made of aware of how they describe male and female leaders, at town halls, in the press and at public events," explained Holly Sraeel, CEO of digital media consultancy New York Ventures and founder of SourceMedia's Most Powerful Women in Banking and Finance Community. Descriptors such as how women look or adjectives that make them appear less than powerful can have a negative impact.
Solution: Think About How You Describe Female Leaders
"People need to change the language they use to capture the essence of female and male leaders and, whenever the opportunity presents itself, challenge others to do the same. Language matters," said Ms. Sraeel.
4. Female Bosses Are Held to higher standard:
"Women expect a female boss to be friendly and caring. They expect a woman boss to be interested in them personally. They bristle when a woman boss acts authoritative or orders them to do things without sugar coating the request," said Katherine Crowley, a psychotherapist and co-authors of Mean Girls at Work.
Solution: Redefine Female Leadership
"Each woman needs to define and own her specific management and leadership style. Women are often afraid of offending or coming across too aggressively," said Ms. Crowley. "It takes time and practice to become the boss you want to be," she added.
The notion of women as business leaders needs to be normalized, so that when we think "boss" we don't imagine a man. This requires a change not only in business culture but among individuals, so that it doesn't take another 60 years before Gallup can tell us that we all finally don't care about our boss's gender.