In 1953, Gallup started tracking whether Americans preferred having a male or female boss. Unsurprisingly, Americans preferred a man for a long, long time. But now for the first time since the ‘50s, the majority of Americans don’t have a preference about their boss’ gender, according to the most recent Gallup poll findings.
Gallup conducted a series of telephone interviews in early November of this year, using a random sample of 1,028 U.S. adults over 18 years old. They found that 55 percent of Americans have no preference about the gender of their boss. Interestingly, within that percentage, more men (68 percent) responded having no preference than women (44 percent).
Gallup last asked this question in 2014, and a press release announcing the findings notes that since then, there has been a “universal decline in support for male bosses among all subgroups.” And while women have historically been more likely than men to report wanting a male boss, that trend seems to be waning: only 27 percent of women reported a preference for a male boss, a 12-point drop from 2014.
There are a few interesting findings having to do with age and political affiliation: Americans younger than 35 prefer a female boss, and half of people within that age group don’t have a preference at all. Democrats have a small preference for a female boss, while Republicans were more likely to prefer a male boss.
Obviously, 2017 looks a lot different than the days of Mad Men. But even in the 1980s, male bosses had a significant advantage over female bosses, something that was still true in 2014.
Of course, recent events can help inform these findings, something the press release addresses. “The abrupt shift since 2014 in the percentage of Americans preferring a male boss suggests the public may be reacting to the seemingly endless stream of sexual harassment allegations against men in workplaces across many industries, from Hollywood to Capitol Hill.”
And the recent survey took place in the thick of the continuous reports outing powerful men for sexual harassment. But the findings could also reflect broader societal shifts, indicating that at least at the ground level, we’re starting to move beyond ideas about whether someone gets to be in charge based solely on their gender identity.
These findings are promising, but there’s still a long way to go, to put it mildly, especially considering how hard it is for women to be promoted to top management roles and to stay at the top once they’re there. But hopefully this shift towards placing less importance on the boss’ gender will help companies and employees acknowledge the social and economic benefits that can come from having women in charge, like how companies with women in leadership positions are more profitable and that a whopping $28 trillion could be added to the global economy by 2025 were women to “participate in the world of work identically to men,” as a McKinsey Global Institute report found. Not to mention female managers are better at keeping their employees engaged.
Read more about the findings here.