What You Need to Know When Your Boss Is a Woman
Ever since I’ve legally been allowed to work, I have been employed, and coincidentally, many of my bosses during this time have been women. Contrary to what social stereotypes would have you believe about female bosses, none of these women have been bossy or emotional. Strong and assertive, yes, but no more than any male head I’ve ever worked under, and surely these are leadership traits anyone would need to manage a company, regardless of gender. Yet according to a recent survey of U.S. adults, 39% of women wanted to be led by a man, and a study published in the journal Society for Personality and Social Psychology this year found men feel threatened by female bosses and struggle with “power dynamics.” Why? Given the rise of female CEOs, I thought it was time to set the record straight and reveal a few things I’ve learned while working for a female boss. And in the meantime, I hope this also inspires someone to write a similar advice column on “how to work for a man.”
All the female bosses I’ve been employed under have been powerful, highly accomplished women in their own right and deserve respect. They’ve worked incredibly hard to break through the glass ceiling and reach the top position of their industry, with less pay along the way. Women are still waiting for the wage gap to close. In fact, there isn’t one country in the whole world where a woman earns more than a man for the same job. According to the 2014 World Economic Forum report, the U.S. is ranked 65th in the world, which means American women currently “earn about two-thirds of what men earn for similar work.” So instead of holding women back with old-fashioned stereotypes, we should remember the passion, dedication, and challenges she’s endured to get there, and show some consideration. The only real difference between a female and a male boss is she has more office wardrobe options.
When a female boss interviews you, it’s based on merit, not gender. In both my previous roles where I’ve worked for a female manager, editor, or CEO—current position included—each of them has had equal male-to-female ratios. Women could be found at all levels of the business hierarchy, and each company had a collaborative approach to everything, with mutual respect from all employees. A successful company requires eager employees who want to be there and are keen to contribute, regardless of gender.
When it comes to your workload, all that matters is that you get it done. It doesn’t matter where you were when it was completed—at the work desk, from your home office—as long as you priorly arranged it with her, of course. The last two companies I’ve worked for under female leaders have both had a very flexible approach to hours, and a heightened understanding of the impact outside commitments can have on your professional life. Women understand that having a family is a part of life, and it certainly shouldn’t hinder your career prospects. If I ever needed to leave early because my son was suddenly sick at school, my boss willingly gave me leave, knowing I would make up the hours later or at home. Employees were also able to arrange their hours around the times they felt more productive. If you’re a morning person, you could arrange to come in earlier and leave earlier. As long as she can see your work commitments are fulfilled, why should it matter where you did it?
The women I’ve worked for are tough but fair, they’re straight talkers but understanding, and they exude confidence but aren’t self-centered. Referring to women as bossy can actually be pretty damaging, not just to the reputation of those who lead, but for employees whose heads are filled with ideas of what female managers should be like. Thanks to a Facebook CEO Sheryl Sandberg’s “Ban Bossy” campaign, the culture in which “men are bosses, but women are bossy” is gradually changing to one that encourages girls to lead.
Women who work with and for other women are incredibly supportive and fair. This doesn’t mean their direction or critique is sugarcoated—not at all. When they give feedback, it’s usually pretty direct, not unlike any other boss with limited time and a busy schedule. But one difference I’ve found is that their critique usually doubles as guidance, and is interpreted by employees as a means to help you improve and grow in your role. (Check out these tips for handling criticism at work.)
So, in summary, while there is definitely a sisterhood at female-led companies, when it comes to your working relationship with your boss, female or male, the same boss-to-employee level of professionalism applies. Your female CEO is not your best friend, just as your male VP is not your buddy.
Brighten up your home office with our favorite accessories, below.
Do you think women lead differently than men? Share it in the comments.
Opening photo: Vogue