Why some women hate being managers

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It’s a modern-day truism that women are grossly under-represented in management positions. The most common causes are well known and hard to deny. Most frequently they include discrimination, bias and work/life incompatibility, with the latter particularly a symptom of societal norms that impose unequal household burdens on females. And now, according to fresh research, one more factor can be added to the list: many women simply hate being managers.

Women often encounter a boys' club when appointed to a management position.

Women often encounter a boys’ club when appointed to a management position.

Photo: Louise Kennerley

It’s an odd finding when you consider that, generally, managers are much happier than employees. For starters, they have more autonomy and are usually tasked with intellectually stimulating responsibilities. They also, by virtue of their higher position, have greater power and authority, and they get to work on more interesting and important projects. So why, then, do women enjoy these benefits less than men?

According to the study, which was run in Britain by Middlesex University, there are several reasons. One is that it can be quite unnerving to be the only female in a boys’ club. Another is that ingrained prejudices compel a large chunk of the workforce to favour men as bosses. That subsequently becomes exhausting for women, many of whom end up feeling they have little choice but to act in ways that are starkly different to their preferred style. It can also take more effort for women to be promoted and, once they’re elevated to a level of seniority, they tend to be less supported by their bosses and peers.

Each one of those is a legitimate reason why women eventually attain the post to which they’ve aspired for so long only to rapidly realise it’s somewhat of an anti-climax.

To draw her conclusions, the researcher analysed data collected over a period of 10 years. Comprising more than 13,000 individuals, she found “the impact of a managerial position is positive for men but not for women” and also that, in contrast to women, men continue to experience a strengthening of job satisfaction in subsequent years. Especially in the 12 months that follow.