Study: Men Subconsciously Threatened by Female Managers
We’re hearing more and more men say they support gender equality, and many of those men genuinely mean it. But if that’s true, why aren’t women feeling the effects of all that support in the workplace?The answer could be that their implicit biases haven’t caught up to their explicit beliefs.A study published last week in Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin found that male employees treat female managers differently than male managers—and not in a good way.Men in the study were more assertive with female managers. They pushed for much higher starting salaries in negotiations if the manager was a woman, and they were less generous about sharing their team bonuses with female managers as opposed to male managers. They also acted more aggressively if their female manager was described as “competent and ambitious.” (They went easier on female managers described as “effective.”)A word association test revealed that men were implicitly threatened by women in positions of power over them, whether they stated those feelings out loud or not.The study authors suggest that asking men to change this behavior might not get us anywhere, given the “strong societal norms surrounding masculinity.” We disagree.This study provides more evidence of what Sheryl Sandberg has been saying for years: that women pay a penalty just for showing up to their jobs and succeeding. In these situations, there’s nothing women can or should need to adjust to elicit better responses from their male employees; then men are the ones who have to change. And we believe there are enough men out there with their hearts in the right place for us to make it happen.