Do female managers act in ways that narrow, preserve or even widen the gender wage gap?
That was the essential question for Sameer B. Srivastava, an assistant professor, and Eliot L. Sherman, a doctoral student, both of the Haas School of Business at the University of California, Berkeley, and their answer might just surprise you:
“We find conditional support for the cogs-in-the-machine perspective: In the subsample of high performing supervisors and low performing employees, women who switched from a male to a female supervisor had a lower salary in the following year than men who made the same switch. “
Their research, “Agents of Change or Cogs in the Machine? Re-examining the Influence of Female Managers on the Gender Wage Gap,” is featured in the latest issue of the American Journal of Sociology.
The study examined how the salaries of both male and female employees changed when they switched from reporting to a male manager to reporting to a female manager (and vice versa).
Previous research suggested that female managers can be “agents of change” who act in ways that reduce the gender wage gap, but this study didn’t support that supposition.
In fact, a subset of switchers—low-performing women who switched to working for a high-performing female supervisor—fared worse financially, not better, than their male colleagues making a comparable switch.
“A high-performing woman might, for example, worry about being devalued because of her association with a low-performing female subordinate,” says Srivastava. “This effect can occur when people see themselves as part of a valuable group but worry that others won’t see them that way. This might lead her to undervalue the subordinate’s contributions.”
Srivastava and Sherman analyzed 1,701 full-time employees in the U.S. who worked for a leading firm in the information services industry between 2005 and 2009. The researchers had access to complete employment data: salary, reporting structure, annual performance evaluations, and demographic information. For example, the average age of employees was 43; average length of employment was 8.85 years; and merit increases ranged from 3 percent to 5 percent.
The authors conclude that it may be wishful thinking to assume that the gender wage gap will automatically close as more and more women take management positions.
For fundamental change to actually occur, the authors say, the increasing number of women managers must be matched by an organizational culture that is committed to gender equality, fostering initiatives to reduce tokenism, and encouraging women to positively identify with their gender in the workplace.
So, HR leaders, I pose this question to you: Is your organization training its female managers to become agents of change or just cogs in the machine?Twitter It!