Are female managers bad for women employees?

New York, June 19 (IANS) Having a female manager does not necessarily equate to higher salaries for female employees, says a new study co-authored by an Indian-origin researcher.

In fact, women can sometimes take an earnings hit relative to their male colleagues when they go to work for a female manager, the findings showed.

The study examined how the salaries of both male and female employees changed when they switched from reporting to a male manager to reporting to a female manager (and vice versa).

The researchers found that a sub-set of switchers — low performing women who switched to working for a high performing female supervisor — fared worse financially, not better, than their male colleagues making a comparable switch.

This effect can occur when people see themselves as part of a valuable group but worry that others won’t see them that way.

“A high performing woman might, for example, worry about being devalued because of her association with a low performing female subordinate,” explained Sameer Srivastava, assistant professor at the University of California Berkeley’s Haas School of Business in the US.

“This might lead her to undervalue the subordinate’s contributions,” Srivastava noted.

For the study, the researchers analysed 1,701 full-time employees in the US who worked for a leading firm in the information services industry between 2005 and 2009.

The authors concluded that it may be wishful thinking to assume that the gender wage gap will automatically close as more and more women take management positions.

Instead, they argued that, for fundamental change to occur, the increasing number of women managers must be matched by an organisational culture that is keen on gender equality, fostering initiatives to reduce tokenism, and encouraging women to positively identify with their gender in the workplace.

The study is forthcoming in the American Journal of Sociology.

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