Male managers command less authority in “female” jobs

Ekaterina Minaeva / Shutterstock
Ekaterina Minaeva / Shutterstock

Customers afford less authority to male managers in jobs more typically associated with women, but the same cannot be said for the reverse.

When men occupy male-stereotyped roles, they experience higher levels of authority. In female-stereotyped roles, they experience significantly less. By comparison, women experience similar levels of authority in male- and female-stereotyped roles.

Professor Laura Doering of the Desautels Faculty of Management at McGill University and Professor Sarah Thébaud of the University of California Santa Barbara, evaluated the repayments of clients at a “microfinance bank”, a financing model used for people unable to access mainstream banks.

They began by looking at missed payments when clients were paired with male or female managers. Doering said: “Overall, clients were more likely to miss payments with female managers than male managers. This finding is consistent with previous research showing that people tend to afford more authority to male managers.”

The researchers then examined clients’ repayments when they were arbitrarily switched to managers of the same or a different gender than their first manager. Clients who initially linked the role of loan manager to women were more likely to miss payments to their second manager.

“The gender of a client’s first loan manager could lead them to stereotype the job as either masculine or feminine, which helps us to understand the way they behave with their second manager,” explained Doering. “We found that clients who were originally paired with female managers continued to miss more payments even after being transferred to a second manager, regardless of that manager’s gender.

“This suggests that once individuals associate a job with a particular gender, it can influence how they behave towards the next person who fills the role.”

The researchers also found that male managers experience different levels of authority when they fill male- or female-type roles. Men enjoyed high levels of authority when filling a role previously filled by another man, but low levels of authority when filling a role previously occupied by a woman. For female managers, the gender-type of the role had little effect on their authority.

“This finding suggests that men may experience an authority penalty when they work in jobs associated with women, and may also help explain why men have resisted entering female-typed jobs,” said Doering.

One Response to Male managers command less authority in “female” jobs

  1. Ian Wilder 18 May 2017 at 10:30 am #

    I am not sure how valid this research might be in a wider employment context. As a male HR manager in a profession in which the majority of practitioners are female – I have often been in meetings of HR staff as the sole male – I have never felt that my customers (the managers and staff in the organisation) afford me less authority (or respect) than they might do if I was female. I am respected for my expertise and the way in which I relate to colleagues. Gender is not an issue.

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