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Women Managers Lead to Smaller Gender Pay Gaps

New research suggests that women tend to enjoy more equal treatment and a bit more success when managed by women, but this certainly won't address many of the disadvantages they still face

For female front line employees it seems that having a woman as your boss can help bridge the gap between your pay and the higher salaries of your male colleagues. Higher up the corporate hierarchy the gender of your boss doesn’t seem to be as helpful, according to a study in the Academy of Management Journal.

Kathy Gurchiek described the findings for SHRM: “Women working as tellers in branches headed by women had base salaries about the same as those of their male colleagues, while female tellers in branches headed by men had base salaries about 7.5% less than male tellers, according to Mabel Abraham, Ph.D., assistant professor of management at Columbia University Business School in New York City. Prior to her career in academia, she worked in defined benefits consulting and risk management at Fidelity Investments.”

But Abraham, who conducted and authored the study, also found that, “Female bank managers’ efforts to address pay equity only went so far, however … Just low-ranking female bank tellers, the study found, benefited from their female boss’s actions[.] … Wages for women in other positions ranged from 4% to 13% less than those of men in the same job, whether the branch was headed by a man or a woman.”

Abraham concludes from these findings that when it comes to closing gender pay gaps among low-ranking employees, increasing the presence of women in management may be an effective means to do so, while formalizing pay practices is likely a more effective tool among higher-level employees or when there are no women in management positions.

Few Queen Bees, But Not Enough Women

Abraham’s finding that women tend to enjoy a bit more success in the workplace when they are managed by other women, in addition to being intuitive, also corresponds with other studies connecting the presence of women in senior management to the ability of other women in the organization to get promoted to high-status positions — contrary to the “queen bee” myth that women in power tend to hold other women back.

A study in India last year, for example, found that companies with women CEOs were substantially more likely to also have multiple women on their boards.

Unfortunately, other research has shown that women are less likely than men to get promoted, or to receive the challenging assignments and constructive feedback that helps them develop, and while women are not less likely than men to ask for raises, they are more likely to be turned down.

CEB research has also found that the stereotypical view of women as having lower aspirations than men is a myth, but ambitious women are often stunted in their professional development by a lack of women mentors and internal networks, as well as a lack of visibility into their long-term career opportunities.


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