February 25, 2015 Practice Points

Why Women Don't Want a Female Boss

By Heather K. Murphy

In a recent Daily Worth article entitled “Why Women Don’t Want a Female Boss,” Anna Akbari explores the reasons behind women’s negative attitude toward those of their same, oft-described as gentler, sex. Akbari introduces the article with the bold statement: “Women are the worst.” This instantly calls upon the reader to react, and then asks the reader to reflect on what their reaction was to that statement. Did you nod in agreement? Or did the statement get “your feminist juices flowing?” This article wants to get us thinking about why women can be so hard on other women in the workforce.

The article discusses some studies that support the observation that a large number of women do not want to work for or with other women. For example, a recent Gallup study showed that not only do both genders prefer a male boss but also that “more women have this preference than men (39 percent to 26 percent).” This is one of two studies mentioned in the article. The other study highlights the fact that women regularly hire and fairly compensate men over women.

The author seems to have begun her own research into these statistics after a recent move of her own from New York to San Francisco. This move allowed her personal experience with the regional differences of female-to-female interaction. Akbari noticed a big change in her interactions with other females after she left New York. She wondered just what is it that makes women so tough on each other? Why does it differ across different regions? Are there other factors involved?

The article acknowledges that it is bringing a topic to the forefront that people are often afraid to bring up because they do not want to be labeled as “women-haters” or anti-feminist. Despite a hesitation to bring it up, the author was provided with numerous examples from former students and colleagues from regions nationwide when they were asked about experiences with female bosses and colleagues in the workforce. The article explains that the mentoring the females expected from other females was often lacking and suggests that this might lead to the vicious cycle of women not wanting to work with other women.

In conclusion, Akbari calls on females to reflect on the interactions they have had with other females and to stop abusing and/or avoiding each other. She reminds us that men do not experience this same-sex tension and we would be better off as a whole if we as women could learn not only to lean in, but to lean on, each other—for mentorship and support in the workplace.

Keywords: gender bias, female bosses, female colleagues, woman lawyers, gender gap

Heather K. Murphy works at Bressler, Amery & Ross, P.C. in New York, New York

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