The relational expectations of women managing women

Jane Hurst (School of Management, Massey University, Albany, New Zealand)
Sarah Leberman (Office of the Assistant Vice-Chancellor Research, Academic & Enterprise, Massey University, Manawatu, New Zealand)
Margot Edwards (School of Management, Massey University, Albany, New Zealand)

Gender in Management

ISSN: 1754-2413

Publication date: 6 March 2017



The purpose of this paper is to examine the expectations women have of their women managers and/or women employees and to suggest personal and organizational strategies to strengthen those relationships.


Building on a first phase of research using narrative inquiry into the lived experiences of women managing and/or being managed by women, workshops were held with 13 participants to explore their relationship expectations of women managers and/or employees.


While the participants initially believed they expected the same things of a manager or employee irrespective of gender, a closer examination revealed gender-based expectations. Women expect a higher degree of emotional understanding and support from a woman manager, than they would from a man. They also expect a woman manager to see them as an equal, take a holistic view of them as people, understand the complexities of their lives and provide flexibility to accommodate those complexities.

Research limitations/implications

This is an exploratory study in an under-researched area. Extensive further research is warranted.

Practical implications

Understanding the expectations women have of their women managers enables the development of both personal and organizational strategies aimed at strengthening those relationships.


These findings begin a dialogue on the often-unspoken and unrecognized gender-based expectations women have of their relationships with women managers and/or women employees. Although considerable research exists on gender stereotypes in the workplace, little research exists on these gender-based relational expectations.



Hurst, J., Leberman, S. and Edwards, M. (2017), "The relational expectations of women managing women", Gender in Management, Vol. 32 No. 1, pp. 19-33.

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