Americans No Longer Prefer Male Boss to Female Boss
by Megan Brenan
55% of Americans have no preference about the gender of their boss
Men (68%) are more likely than women (44%) to lack preference
Women under 50 prefer a female boss; women 50 and older divided
WASHINGTON, D.C. -- For the first time since Gallup began measuring Americans'
preferences about the gender of their boss, a majority say their boss'
gender makes no difference to them. Those who do have a preference are
now evenly divided between male and female bosses, also a first in Gallup's
trend. The percentage of U.S. adults preferring a male boss is now 23%,
10 percentage points lower than the last reading in 2014 and 43 points
lower than the initial 1953 reading.
Currently, 55% of Americans volunteer that they would have no gender preference
for a boss if they were taking a new job. Roughly equal percentages, 23%
and 21%, say they would prefer a man or a woman, respectively. In the
1980s, male bosses held as much as a 34-point advantage over female bosses,
making the current (and statistically insignificant) two-point difference notable.
The most recent survey was conducted Nov. 2-8, about a month after multiple
women accused Hollywood producer Harvey Weinstein of sexual harassment.
In the weeks following the allegations against Weinstein, at least 20
other prominent men across a variety of industries have been accused of
The public's current break from its decades-long preference for male
bosses could be a sign that recent news events have had an effect, although
the shift could have occurred anytime within the past three years since
the question was last asked.
Women and Men Differ in Gender Preferences for a Boss
Women and men are both less likely to prefer a male boss and more likely
to not have any gender preference compared with 2014.
Since 1982, women have consistently been more likely than men to say they
prefer a male boss. While that general trend persists, a historically
low 27% of women now express a preference for a male boss, a 12-point
drop from 2014. While women's preference for a female boss has not
changed meaningfully over the past 17 years, there has instead been an
increase since then in the percentage of women who say their boss'
gender makes no difference. Currently, 28% prefer a female boss and 44%
do not have a preference.
For their part, men have become significantly less likely over time to
indicate a preference for a male boss -- and like women, men have become
more likely to say the gender of their boss makes no difference. The percentage
of men favoring a female boss hasn't changed in recent years.
Preferences Differ by Gender, Age and Party Identification
Since 2014 when Gallup last asked the gender preference question, there
has been a universal decline in support for male bosses among all subgroups,
although some have declined more than others. Some key differences between
Americans younger than 35 prefer a female boss over a male boss by 14 points,
while half say they have no preference. And although women overall are
divided in their gender preferences, women younger than 50 are more likely
to prefer a woman, while men younger than 50 are divided. Democrats tilt
slightly toward favoring a female boss, but Republicans favor a male boss
by 13 points. Those who are currently employed are more likely to say
their gender preference is the same as their current boss.
Preference for Gender of Boss, by Select Groups
If you were taking a new job and had your choice of a boss, would you prefer
to work for a man or a woman?
Prefer male boss
Prefer female boss
No difference (vol.)
Annual household income
Age and gender
Employed, with male boss
Employed, with female boss
Gallup, Nov. 2-8, 2017
While the public's acceptance of women as bosses (including those who
prefer a female boss or say they have no gender preference) has been at
the majority level since the early 1990s, change has been slow in workplaces.
The percentage of employed Americans who say they have a female boss has
not changed significantly since 2011. Currently, 32% of those working
full or part time say they have a female boss, and 52% have a male boss.
Since the early 1980s, the preferences among both men and women for a male
boss have each fallen by 50%. The abrupt shift since 2014 in the percentage
of Americans preferring a male boss suggests that the public may be reacting
to the seemingly endless stream of sexual harassment allegations against
men in workplaces across many industries, from Hollywood to Capitol Hill.
Just as the percentage of employed Americans working for a female boss
hasn't changed much in recent years, women remain scarce in upper
management levels. In June,
Fortune reported that 32 CEOs of Fortune 500 companies are women. While this marks
the highest proportion of female CEOs in the history of the Fortune 500,
there is clearly room for more women to enter top management tiers at
America's largest corporations. In fact,
Gallup research has found that workers with female bosses are more engaged than those
with male bosses.
As high-profile men accused of sexual harassment in the workplace resign
or are fired, employers might consider replacing them with women. Most
Americans no longer prefer male bosses.
Results for this Gallup poll are based on telephone interviews conducted
Nov. 2-8, 2017, with a random sample of 1,028 adults, aged 18 and older,
living in all 50 U.S. states and the District of Columbia. For results
based on the total sample of national adults, the margin of sampling error
is ±4 percentage points at the 95% confidence level. All reported
margins of sampling error include computed design effects for weighting.
Each sample of national adults includes a minimum quota of 70% cellphone
respondents and 30% landline respondents, with additional minimum quotas
by time zone within region. Landline and cellular telephone numbers are
selected using random-digit-dial methods.