Women Bosses: Still A Way To Go

by Michael Haberman on December 1, 2008 · 0 comments


This past year women have made major strides moving into positions of power in business, politics and the military. The Army has its first female four-star general, we had several female presidential candidates, we are getting another female Secretary of State and women show up in many power positions in the entertainment business both on the screen and off. And for the first time we have women from three different generations all in the workplace at the same time.

Things couldn’t be better for women. Or could they? According to an article in the online version of Marie Claire it turns out that many younger women hate working for older women. In an article, entitled The Pink Ceiling, author Meredith Bryan discusses the difficulties many younger women have working for older women bosses. These include:

  • Older women bosses who are hopelessly fixated on sexism in the office
  • Women bosses who are tyrants and who see their female charges as competition (called the Queen Bee Syndrome)
  • They feel judged by “set in their ways” bosses who insist “This is how I had to work to get here”
  • Unprofessionalism from bosses who blur the personal and professional lines by “making friends” and being too personal. Women bosses give less feedback and constructive criticism than to male bosses.

Many of the younger women interviewed preferred to work for male bosses.

Bryan does hold out hope that this will get better as time goes by and more women make it into the upper company ranks. She states that currently records show that only 15% of executive postions are held by women.

I have often seen that women managers can be tougher in general than many male managers and I have seen them less tolerant of womens issues, sort of the “I have done it and made it” line of thought. But I think some of the things Bryan talks about are also generational issues as much as they are female boss issues. And like the one commenter to the article said, I don’t think the glass ceiling or sexism has gone away entirely in the workplace, but it has reduced and many younger women have not had to deal with the issue yet. Hopefully many won’t have to.

Human Resources is certainly a good test case for younger women dealing with older women bosses since the vast majority of the profession is female. So how about some comments from some of you and tell us about your experiences, either as a younger woman working for an older female boss, or as the boss dealing with younger women subordinates?

BTW, I want to thank a reader and student who pointed me to this article. I don’t normally read Marie Claire , unless I have to sit while waiting for a haircut or doctor’s appointment. Unfortunately I missed this one. And yes I do read womens magazines, as should all men occassionally, it is a good way to stay up on what might be important to the women in our lives.

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{ 4 comments… read them below or add one }

HR Wench December 1, 2008 at 7:24 pm

Michael – I think you’re very correct that many of these issues are generational, not necessarily due to sex.

You would be surprised how many women abhor “women’s magazines”. If you’re interested in what the other half reads, check out a copy of Ms. 🙂

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jessica lee December 1, 2008 at 10:25 pm

good stuff, mike. i’ve worked for both men and women and i’m not sure i’ve yet experienced any of the issues the article cites that younger women may experience working for older women. if anything, i’ve had the exact opposite experience of being brought into a sisterhood of sorts.

i would suspect that women experiencing such might not be giving the respect due to their elders – and i use that term with the utmost respect, believe me. when i think about what some of my elder-women colleagues have seen and been through – and that they’ve been able to accomplish as much as they have? it’s absolutely amazing. some of them started their careers as “girl fridays,” as typists… and this was of course when title VII was barely enacted or not yet enacted, before FMLA or other leave related laws… it’s true progress! but when anyone in my younger set fails to recognize what our elders have been through? sure, i would imagine they begin experiencing some of the issues in the article.

maybe that oversimplifies the whole matter… but respect just seems to go such a long way, me thinks.

thanks for talking about this!

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talentedapps December 1, 2008 at 10:57 pm

I agree this sounds more generational than female to me. That said I’m wondering if I’m now an “older woman boss”, say it isn’t so!
My sincere thoughts on this topic are that there are going to be as many issues with female bosses as there are male, at least in the aggregate. Some will be good, some will be bad,

I think this is about poor management skills more than it is about gender.

– Meg

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Anonymous January 1, 2009 at 11:34 am

This is a great article. I’ve found that many single women or women without children (bosses) are very territorial and definately exibit the “Queen Bee Syndrome”. They are reluctant to helping married women or should I say women that are not financially dependent on their job, advancement opportunities. Queen Bee Bosses also use their authority to manipulate and threaten the success/advancement of their employees. Yes, it’s incredibly unethical, but when employees withness unfair treatment of their colleagues from nasty supervisors and get away with it, what can we do? I would much prefer a male boss.

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