It cannot be said that women are making no progress rising in the leadership ranks of business. Abigail Johnson’s ascension to the top of Fidelity Investments this week provides just the latest example. She joins Ginni Rometty of IBM Corp., Mary Barra of General Motors Co., Indra Nooyi of PepsiCo and Ursula Burns of Xerox Corp. among others in chief executive positions at some of the most notable U.S. companies.
Yet statistics indicate that this progress continues to be painfully slow. According to research by Catalyst Inc., the share of executive officer positions at Fortune 500 companies has just inched upward over the past five years, climbing from 13.5 percent in 2009 to 14.6 percent last year.
Currently, women account for only 5 percent of the Fortune 1000 CEOs and 8 percent of top earners. This, despite the fact their overall share of the U.S. labor market is 47 percent.
No single reason explains the lack of gender parity in upper management. Some blame the mommy track; others say it’s still an old boys’ club at the top of many companies.
That’s surely part of the picture, but not all of it. A new Gallup poll points to another factor that seldom is mentioned: Americans are more likely to prefer a male boss.
The results of Gallup’s annual work and education poll, released Tuesday, show that a plurality of Americans—46 percent—say it makes no difference. But among the others, 33 percent say they prefer to work for a man, while 22 percent would opt to work for a woman.
Even more striking is the fact that the largest group of women, 39 percent, prefer a male boss. By contrast, 26 percent of men would prefer a male superior.
Notes Gallup: “While bestselling books like ‘Lean In’ by Sheryl Sandberg push women to achieve their goals and focus on their careers, Americans’ views about wanting female bosses haven’t changed since (we) began asking about them regularly in the 1980s.”
The polling organization does see one sign of positive cultural change—employees who currently work for a female boss are more likely to prefer women in leadership positions. So their ranks may grow, albeit slowly.
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