Having Female Managers Doesn’t Always Mean Better Pay For Other Women, According To A New Study

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Securing equal pay for equal work for women and minorities is a major issue in our society. The reasons, both historic and systemic, as to why women often don’t get a fair shake when it comes to salary, are complex. Giving women more access to leadership roles at work in order to implement change is important, but according to a new study authored by Oxford researchers, female managers don’t always mean better pay for women. Because other studies do show how female leaders effect positive change in the workplace, the reasons as to why women aren’t always being paid better under female managers are complex.

For the purposes of the study, researchers took a look at how (and if) women managers help create greater gender equality in the workplace. They investigated both the impact of female managers on an organization as a whole, and also how they influenced those that they supervise. The study’s authors analyzed manager-employee linked information from nine European countries in order to test their hypotheses out. According to a recent press release on this research, women managers may not always have enough workplace power to implement pay policy changes for other women and minorities. Moreover, systemic sexism can create barriers to professional advancement, which may leave many women feeling as though they’re powerless to effect change — even if they occupy a management role at some level.

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However, even if they don’t always have the power to implement pay hikes at work, women managers tend to have significant qualities that make them powerful leaders, Melissa Lamson wrote for Inc. When it comes to inspiring employee engagement, collaboration, and relationship building, female managers often shine

According to the press release on the Oxford research, while it may appear that women in management positions don’t seem to contribute to pay equality as of yet, organizational barriers, in terms of workplace culture and policy, can significantly hinder women’s ability to create parity at work. “There are very good reasons to believe women should benefit from having a female manager, so we were surprised to find that this is not the case,” said the study's lead author, Margriet van Hek, in the press release. “I believe the next step is to dig deeper into the mechanisms of how this occurs.”

Recent decades have shown steady growth when it comes to women’s representation in the workplace. But systemic sexism is still firmly entrenched in many ways, and there’s no quick fix for this. This can mean that women don’t get access to creating pay policies that could help promote sweeping change, and the emotional exhaustion that can come with dealing with sexism at work is no small thing, either.

Gender-based barriers, and the discouragement resulting from workplace sexism, may mean that women managers aren’t able to provide better pay for their female employees, the study’s authors said in the press release. By delving further into understanding why women aren’t always empowered to create better conditions for their teams, more lasting and significant change may be possible moving forward.