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Gender and relationship differences in the perceptions of male and female leadership

Izabela I. Szymanska (Department of Management/Marketing, Sagniaw Valley State University, University Center, Michigan, USA)
Beth A. Rubin (Department of Sociology, Organizational Science, Public Policy and Management, University of North Carolina at Charlotte, Charlotte, North Carolina, USA)

Gender in Management

ISSN: 1754-2413

Article publication date: 30 April 2018

Issue publication date: 24 May 2018




This research aims to investigate the differences in evaluations of job performance between male and female managers by those managers’ immediate bosses and peers.


Drawing on gender structure theory, along with ideas about status characteristics, the authors use hierarchical regression to test the hypotheses that male and female bosses and peers deferentially evaluate the male and female manager’s global job performance. The authors hypothesize significant two-way interactions (gender of the manager by gender of evaluator) in predicting a manager’s job performance.


The results suggest that while male peers rate female managers’ job performance significantly lower than that of male managers, female peers do not discriminate between genders in their performance evaluations. Also, managers’ bosses were found not to discriminate between genders of their subordinates.

Research limitations/implications

The limitations of this study have to do primarily with the data. While the data are rich on some dimensions, they are weak on others, especially with regard to the detail about the jobs the respondents did, detailed level of familiarity with the evaluated managers, as well as racial background. The data also do not provide information on the different facets of job performance, the evaluation of which could potentially be impacted by managerial gender; this study is focused exclusively on global job performance.

Practical implications

The authors discuss various theoretical explanations of this pattern of results, as well as its possible influence on female managers’ careers. Although the effect size of the negative bias that male peers exhibit toward female managers is relatively small, it may be argued that lower performance assessments can accumulate over years in multiple job evaluations, negatively affecting the career of female leaders.


The evaluations supplied by different organizational members gain importance with the increased use of 360-degree feedback instruments not just for developmental but also for the job performance appraisal purposes. While the job evaluations of managers’ bosses have been investigated in the past with regard to the possible gender bias, this study provides the first known to the authors’, evidence. Also, this study points to a direct bias in performance assessments, rather than a potentially more subtle, non-performance-based bias that affects the disparities in wages and promotions of female managers. Thus, this study helps to fill a significant gap in the literature on organizations and it may have practical implications for the advancement of female managers. In addition to this contribution, this study also provides data that may be useful in resolving the ongoing debate whether female bosses act more as cogs in the machine or as change agents in organizations.



Szymanska, I.I. and Rubin, B.A. (2018), "Gender and relationship differences in the perceptions of male and female leadership", Gender in Management, Vol. 33 No. 4, pp. 254-281.



Emerald Publishing Limited

Copyright © 2018, Emerald Publishing Limited

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