How common are supervisors managing subordinates of the opposite sex? How does supervisor gender influence subordinates’ job attitudes? Are there natural advantages for managers supervising subordinates of the same sex—or the opposite sex? This online report presents findings of a study that examined gender congruence affecting the workplace and opens up avenues for discussion among managers and employees.
A. Who do you report to at your company?
Other things held constant, the chances that a typical employee reports to a supervisor of the opposite sex is 50/50. This shows that managers supervising subordinates of the opposite sex has become a fact of organizational life that cannot be ignored.
B. Supervisor gender by industry type
Employees reporting to male supervisors are still commonplace in traditionally male-dominated industries namely Construction and Electricity, gas, and water supply. The same is also true in the sector of MICE and Cultural, arts and creative business. In each of these industries that we mentioned, there were at least three times many more employees who indicated that their supervisor was male. On the other hand, reporting to female supervisors has become more common in Retails, Education, and Hotels and resorts.
C. Supervisor gender across management level
In this study we found that supervisory duties were shared fairly equally across gender for entry-level and mid-level positions. However, it was less common to see women taking the lead at the top of the hierarchy.
D. The influence of supervisor gender on employees’ job attitudes
D.1. Job stress
Employees of both genders agreed that it was more stressful working under female supervisors. Male workers’ stress level was even higher than their female counterparts in this regard.
D.2. Treatment and recognition
Employees of both genders opined that male supervisors were able to foster workplace fairness by treating them all equally. Female supervisors, however, received less favorable evaluation from their male subordinates even though they were rated much more favorably by their female subordinates. This finding suggests that male subordinates generally feel unfairly treated or less recognized when working under a female boss. In contrast, female subordinates feel significantly better treated and recognized under a female boss. This further suggests that it remains a lingering challenge for female managers/ supervisors to be seen by their male subordinates as recognizing and treating everyone equally and fairly.
D.3. Job satisfaction and intent to stay
Interestingly, supervisor gender seemed to play a role in affecting employees’ job satisfaction. When reporting to male supervisors, male workers exhibited a relatively higher level of job satisfaction than their female counterparts. With female supervisors, however, male workers showed a steep drop in job satisfaction meanwhile that of female workers mildly increased.
Perhaps this explains why male workers expressed much stronger desire to stay with the organization when their supervisor was male (see Figure 7). The same was also true for female workers working under female supervisors.
Taken together, it seems to suggest that employee-supervisor gender congruence (i.e., that supervisor and subordinate are of the same gender) somehow influences workers’ level of commitment and their willingness to remain employed (Hewitt, 2004).
E. Employee-supervisor gender congruence effect
The hypothesis that employee-supervisor gender congruence influences employees’ job attitudes has gained further support when we detected employees showing a higher level of intent-to-stay when being managed by supervisors of the same gender. In the case where employees were supervised by someone of the opposite sex, their intention to stay weakened.
Likewise, under the same-gender pairing scenario, we noticed that employees had expressed relatively higher levels of job satisfaction in terms of job pay, job security, work environment, and treatment and recognition.
- This study detected varying degrees of gender bias among Macao’s labor force. Employees’ job attitudes were found to change in relation to their supervisor’s gender. More precisely, employees seemed to prefer having a supervisor of the same gender rather than being supervised by someone of the opposite sex.
- In this regard, when employee-supervisor genders are congruence (i.e., the same), employees expressed more willingness to stay with the employer and they were also more satisfied in their jobs.
- The findings pertaining to this study is only indicative and more studies confirming these results are needed before they are generalized to the wider population. Nevertheless, this study reveals that gender-related issues are a relevant issue in Macao’s organizations and should be addressed. The results of this study open up avenues for managers and employees to share their thoughts and ideas in order to make their organizations a gender-friendly place to work for.
Analysis in this special focus report is based on data collected in June 2017 via both field and online survey (n=856). For further information regarding the MHRM project, methodology employed and a profile of the study's respondent characteristics, please visit here.