How many times have you heard a co-worker or friend say “My boss is a woman, and she’s the absolute worst.” Or “I’ve never had a female boss who has supported me.” Or even “Why are women managers so difficult to work with?” Maybe you’ve even felt or expressed similar sentiments yourself.
Let’s think about this all-too-common narrative. In those scenarios, if the woman was instead a man, yet behaved similarly, would he be considered a bad boss? Unsupportive? Difficult to work with? And even if he was, I’m not sure that he would be referenced as a male boss. In fact, it’s likely that gender wouldn’t even be part of the conversation—certainly not in the way that it is for women managers.
Now, in no way am I saying that women can’t be bad bosses. They absolutely can be! I’ve had female bosses who weren’t great and I’ve had female bosses who were the best. The same holds true for my male bosses.
But, if we consider statistics, according to Harvard Business Review research, women outscored men on 17 of the 19 capabilities that differentiate excellent leaders from average or poor ones. Additionally, a Gallup report based on over four decades of research found that female managers not only tend to be more engaged themselves at work, but also are better at engaging others, thereby making them more likely than men to contribute to their company’s current and future success.
So then why does the bad female boss myth persist? In a system that has long oppressed women, this is simply another example of “keeping us in our place.” Society does not yet allow for the positive narrative of the great female boss and rather thrives on the tired story of the bad one.
If you pride yourself on being part of the sisterhood or consider yourself an ally, then be an agent of change and refocus the narrative. Remember, don’t hate the player, hate the game.
You can find this and other pulse pieces by AWE Founder & CEO Meiko Takayama on our LinkedIn page.