The impact of female bosses on women workers: a look at the research

Sheryl Sandberg is all the rage these days. I’ve read her book and my feelings about it are mixed, albeit more positive than negative. I’ll have much more to say later once I’ve finished writing my review, but for now, I’d like to point to this illuminating post by Mike Konczal. Konczal digs into recent studies that investigate one of Sandberg’s major arguments, which is that more female leadership will lead to better treatment for all women.

The research Konczal cites suggests that women leaders do indeed seem to have a positive impact on women’s status with firms. The one exception appears to be at the most elite levels, but that may be caused by tokenism and systemic discrimination rather than the elite women themselves.

My guess is that the main reason that women at elite levels don’t appear to benefit women as a whole is that so few women make it that far. One or a few women usually can’t do much to reverse a sexist dynamic; in most cases you need to reach a critical mass to start seeing significant results — 30 percent is often the number cited. Sadly, we are very far from that; women make up only 16.6% of corporate board officers at Fortune 500 companies and 4% of Fortune 500 CEO’s. Clearly, we have our work cut out for us.

Kathleen Geier

Kathleen Geier is a writer and public policy researcher who lives in Chicago. She blogs at Inequality Matters. Find her on Twitter: @Kathy_Gee