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An exploration of unspoken bias: women who work for women

Renee Warning (University of Central Oklahoma, Edmond, Oklahoma, USA)
F. Robert Buchanan (School of Management, University of Central Oklahoma, Edmond, Oklahoma, USA)

Gender in Management

ISSN: 1754-2413

Article publication date: 13 March 2009




The purpose of this paper is to inquire whether gender plays a role in the supervisory preference of female workers, and to establish a starting‐point in the identification of any bias that is discovered.


A field experiment of 226 adults of both genders was used to test the hypotheses. It combined a video vignette with a survey that employed a dispositional index followed by attitudinal measures.


Descriptive statistics, analysis of variance, and regression analyses were used to highlight the biases that were discovered. Females believed that other women are good managers, but the female workers did not actually want to work for them. The results may have some basis in females' perceptions of female managers as being high in dominance. The female manager was also seen as being emotional. More specifically, the female manager was seen as being more nervous and more aggressive than a male manager. It was also discovered that female preference for male supervisors increased with greater numbers of years in the workforce.

Research limitations/implications

This is an exploratory study. Workers surveyed were enrolled in a large metropolitan US university. Subsequent studies need to include a broader sample, particularly including workers from earlier generations. Extensive additional research is essential.


The findings lend credence to strong but seldom discussed anecdotal undercurrents of women's unwillingness to work for other women. Although female managers have been studied to a limited degree, there has been no empirical research on the female subordinate relationship. The study makes an entry into this important question of whether women have a prejudice against working for other women. The practitioner/policymaker implications are substantial.



Warning, R. and Buchanan, F.R. (2009), "An exploration of unspoken bias: women who work for women", Gender in Management, Vol. 24 No. 2, pp. 131-145.



Emerald Group Publishing Limited

Copyright © 2009, Emerald Group Publishing Limited

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