Conservative Male Bosses Are Less Likely To Promote Women, Finds New Study, But Let's Not Pretend This Is Shocking
There are a lot of ways in which institutionalized sexism has nothing to do with individuals being sexist and instead has to do with systems and patterns that create additional barriers for women. But sometimes, it really is as simple as the fact that some people are sexist: New research finds that in the nation's top law firms, conservative men are less likely to promote women. And, of course, conservative men also tend to hold some fairly regressive attitudes about women's role in society. I wonder if the two things are related.
In a new report from researchers at the University of Michigan and Temple University, the authors note that although there's a lot of evidence about the relationship between political ideology and views about women, there's not much research suggesting how those views might play out in the workplace. But if you were hoping that the impact might prove to be negligible in the real world, you hoped in vain. Researchers looked at data from the top 200 law firms in the United States and found that men who donated to the Republican party are far less likely to promote women than men who give money to the Democrats.
In fact, one of the authors summarized for The Washington Post, "The gender gap in promotions is almost twice as large when your bosses are conservative, compared to when your bosses are predominately liberal."
And that's pretty bad, considering women are already less likely to be promoted than their male colleagues are, even under bosses classed as moderates. But when women are working under primarily conservative male bosses, the gender gap in promotion rates increases by a whopping 80 percent.
So what does all this mean? Well, there could be some explanations for why conservative managers seem so reluctant to promote women besides the fact that they're just sexist; however, researchers have already controlled for a wide variety of other possible factors, such as legal specialties and geography. So even though this isn't enough to say that conservative bosses are consciously discriminating against women, it does seem that conservative views of gender are having real world consequences for women's careers.
Past surveys have shown that people who identify as politically conservative are more likely to favor "traditional" roles for women, such as "to look after the home and family.” And it seems that whether men who hold such beliefs are aware of it or not, their attitudes might be causing them to discriminate against the women working under them. Whether it's happening on purpose or not, it really doesn't matter — the point is that women are being denied opportunities unfairly.
Like I said, sometimes sexism is about impersonal systems and problems of policy and all sorts of complex, hard to articulate issues. Sometimes, though, it's just about good old fashioned personal bias.
It's also worth noting that this report only looked at the problems faced by women in general. One can only imagine, given the rather unprogressive views on race many conservatives hold, what the problem looks like if you focus specifically on women of color.
Isn't it great to live in such an enlightened time?