Study: Your boss’s politics may be hurting your pay

Who did your boss vote for in the last election? It just may be affecting your paycheck, according to new research.

new study in the Academy of Management Journal finds that a supervisor’s political ideology has a direct effect on the gap between earnings by women and men within a company.

To test this link, Pennsylvania State University researchers looked at six years of internal billings records from a large U.S. law firm, taking performance-based bonuses and cross-referencing them with publicly available political-donation records.

Women can lose more than $15,000 in earnings

What they found confirms that a boss’s political leaning do guide decision-making. The more that a supervisor donated to Democratic or Republican campaigns, the more they would be considered a liberal or a conservative for the purposes of the study.

Senior associates working for liberal partners experienced no significant gender gap in pay.

But female senior associates with conservative bosses were a different story. The gap in pay between women and men for workers with conservative supervisors increased to $15,468.

What’s more, the gender of the bosses didn’t seem to make a difference. As the researchers note, “the ideology effect exists regardless of supervisor gender.”

Liberal values vs. conservative values

The researchers suggest that the difference in pay is because conservatives and liberals think differently about “how rewards should be distributed in society.”

When it comes to allocating a reward like a bonus, the study states that liberal supervisors are “guided by a value system that rejects inequality and embraces change,” so they would be more mindful of systemic bias, “giving the benefit of the doubt to a female worker who has had to overcome systemic barriers to perform at equal levels.”

Meanwhile, conservatives lean toward an opposite view. According to the study, conservatives tend to view “any gender differences as products of a legitimate system that rewards individuals based on human capital and motivational differences.” Under this thinking, if you didn’t get that networking opportunity, it’s not because of structural barriers keeping you out, it’s because you didn’t network hard enough.

What you should know

Think tanks, journalists, and advocacy groups have pointed at a lack of flexibility in the workplace, unfair salary disclosure tactics, talent pipeline problems, and sexism that penalizes women’s assertiveness as reasons for why the gender pay gap stubbornly continues to exist.

But this isn’t the first study to show the effects of supervisor political ideology on your career. Another study of the nation’s top 200 law firms found that the more money that male bosses donate to Republicans, the less likely women are to make partner in that office.

So next time you’re on a job hunt, there’s now one more question to add to your mental checklist: Is this boss a liberal or a conservative? As a woman, it may behoove you to find out.