Gender gap at work reflects political views of boss

March 1, 2016 by Greta Guest

Why are some male managers surrounded by a diverse group of subordinates while others only hire other men?

An organization's level of may reflect its managers' political ideology, according to a nationwide study of male law partners by University of Michigan professor Seth Carnahan.

"In general, women are much less likely to be promoted, and much more likely to leave their firms. We found that this gender gap gets smaller when male bosses are more liberal, but it gets larger when male bosses are more conservative," said Carnahan, an assistant professor of strategy at Michigan's Ross School of Business.

Carnahan said previous research suggests that more diverse organizations may perform better, and he wondered why some organizations had higher rates of .

He and co-author Brad Greenwood of Temple University analyzed data on political donations and large American law firms and found that underlying political beliefs impacted who partners select as subordinates.

The findings also suggest that liberal male law partners are more likely than moderate partners to serve on diversity committees and to select female associates for their client teams, while conservatives are less likely to do so.

Conservatives tend to believe society is better served when there is a traditional division of labor in the household where men are money earners and women take care of the kids, he said. A conservative manager may be more likely to believe that their female subordinates will eventually leave to take care of children so they may be reluctant to invest in them.

On the other side of the spectrum, he said that liberal managers may use their jobs to push for gender equality, which they see as socially important.

"It is important to emphasize that we don't know the right level of diversity for each office, each organization. Our results should not be interpreted as 'anti-conservative' or 'pro-liberal'," Carnahan said.

When companies are evaluating the selection and personnel decisions of managers in an organization, it's helpful to know their .

"They are probably not consciously discriminating against women, but their beliefs could influence their willingness to invest in female subordinates," Carnahan said. "And this could happen on both sides of the spectrum. You could have conservative managers who don't promote women enough and you can have liberal managers who promote women more than they otherwise should."

Explore further: Female managers do not reduce the gender wage gap, study finds

More information: Seth Carnahan et al. Managerss Political Ideology and Gender Inequality within Organizations, SSRN Electronic Journal (2016). DOI: 10.2139/ssrn.2721979

Related Stories

Female managers do not reduce the gender wage gap, study finds

June 18, 2015

Working women are "leaning in" and supporting more females in leadership roles, but a new study finds that having a female manager doesn't necessarily equate to higher salaries for female employees. In fact, women can sometimes ...

Men may feel more threatened by female bosses, research finds

July 10, 2015

Men may feel threatened by female supervisors and act more assertively toward them than male bosses, which could disrupt the workplace with struggles over power dynamics, according to new research published in the Personality ...

Recommended for you

1 comment

Adjust slider to filter visible comments by rank

Display comments: newest first

BobSage
not rated yet Mar 01, 2016
My guess is that it is being socially liberally that is the key to women's success in a workplace. Libertarians are conservative economically and liberal on social issues. Conservatives are conservative on both.

I am a libertarian who owns a business. My CEO is a woman and we have equal pay and opportunity for women. You won't find someone more conservative economically than I am. On social issues, I believe in letting people do what they want.

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.