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Female and male bosses promote women at the same rate

Thursday, August 16, 2012  
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Having women in managerial roles does not remedy gender inequality in the workplace, according to "Women in Charge: The Impact of Female Managers on Gender Inequality,” a new research paper by an MIT doctoral student.

The amount a woman earns or the level of the job she holds is not improved by having a woman manager, according to the study, which examined data from 68 branches of a large U.S. bank.

MIT doctoral student Mabel Abraham gathered data from a large bank where 44 percent of branch managers were women and approximately three-fourths of the total staff at all branches were female. She studied five job positions in each branch, from tellers at the low end of the wage scale, to mid-level officers, to executives, according to a Forbes analysis of the study.

The women studied earned on average 83 percent as much as men, as women tended to hold positions at the low end of the pay scale, while men were disproportionately represented at the upper end. Specifically, women made up 82 percent of tellers and 83 percent of bank representatives, but only 38 percent of executives and 44 percent of relationship managers, Forbes reported. The pattern of gender inequality held true whether the branch manager was male or female.

Still, the study found one way female managers make a difference for workers: Women bosses are more willing to grant flexible work arrangements. Employees working for women managers were 2.25 times more likely to work part time as those reporting to male managers. However, men and women reaped this benefit more or less equally, Forbes reported.

"Because women fear that others will not perceive them as valuable members of the organization, they will be less apt to support other women within the organization,” Abraham speculated, citing other research. In short, managers may be afraid to promote and advocate for women because they don’t want to risk a negative judgment.

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