Just because you have a female manager doesn’t mean you’ll get better pay

Oxford researchers investigated whether or not female managers promoted greater gender equity in organizations and the results were surprising.

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The more women in management, the better, goes current thinking. But new research published in European Sociological Review shows that having more women in management doesn’t necessarily benefit the women who work for them, nor does it help even out the pay gap.

In the study, called “Are Female Managers Agents of Change or Cogs in the Machine?” Oxford researchers investigated whether or not female managers promoted greater gender equity in organizations and whether both female and males’ earnings were affected by having a female manager or a male manager. Researchers found little to no effect on pay for female or male employees with a female manager.


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“There are very good reasons to believe women should benefit from having a female manager, so we were surprised to find that this is not the case,” said the paper’s lead author, Margriet van Hek, in a release. “I believe the next step is to dig deeper into the mechanisms of how this occurs.”

For the study, researchers used manager-employee linked data from nine European countries to test their hypotheses across industries such as manufacturing, health, higher education, transportation, financial services, and telecommunication.

Despite the “widespread presence of women in organizations,” there’s still a gender pay gap. Women in the sample earned about 7% less than men, no matter which gender their direct supervisor was and regardless of how many female managers were in their organization.

While other studies have shown that women in management have been motivated to fight gender inequality in their organizations, this study appears to contradict that.

Of course, there are some simple reasons why women in management aren’t able to do more to help the women under them: they may be in lower management where they lack the power to change much of anything, especially issues of pay. Then there’s the”queen bee theory” – they may not be driven to change the pay gap, perhaps because of a need to align themselves with the status quo.

In a more hopeful interpretation, maybe it shows that female managers treat everyone fairly.


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Sheila McClear|is a reporter for Ladders and can be reached at smcclear@theladders.com.