If your boss is a real sexist asshole, it’s probably because he doesn’t have a good perception of the women in his life. According to The Daily Mail, a new study shows that male employers see the women in their offices through a “lens defined by the nature of their close relationships with women in their private lives."
The research, published in Administrative Science Quarterly, found that female relatives and partners deeply influenced the way that male bosses hired, promoted, and paid. Sometimes, the bias works out in favor of female employees. Research shows that if a boss’s oldest child is a daughter, he will pay his staff more, give women the biggest raises, and be more likely to treat male and female colleagues as equals.”
If he has sons, though, both male and female employees will be paid less. If his wife is a stay-at-home mom, it’s likely that his “worldview, albeit unconscious, is that working women are less competent and female-run organizations less effective.” This research doesn’t exactly come as a shock to women who have been in the working world for years.
Women have consistently been paid less, promoted more infrequently, and generally treated as inferior in the workplace since the days of Mad Men. Things have of course improved throughout the years, but these subtle biases mean that women still have to work harder than men for recognition and advancement.
It’s also disconcerting that men view their stay-at-home wives as somehow “less competent” than they are, and that they would extend these opinions to women who haven’t made the choice to be at-home mothers. To me, that’s the most sad thing of all – that men treat would treat their female employees worse because they view their wives and sisters as inferior.
It’s true that men shouldn’t be making business decisions based on their personal lives, but it’s obvious that they do. And it’s not like this is exactly a problem that is easy to solve — how would you legislate away biases that are so broad and applied so unevenly, and how could you even prove that they exist?
Unfortunately for women, these findings mean that even though legislative achievements have made things better for women in the workplace, we still have a really, really long way to go. Most likely, it will take a significant increase in the number of women in leadership positions at companies to even make a dent in this very serious, but often ignored, problem.