96% of women report having experienced gender bias in the workplace. These are women performing at all levels of business, from employee to CEO, and things don’t seem to be improving for them.
In a survey done by Fast Company of 300 female founders, more than half the women said they faced some kind of bias or harassment. 60% said investors and bankers discriminated against them, more than 50% said the same of vendors or suppliers. But it’s not just investors and the like who are treating women unfairly, as 26% of female founders claim to have experienced bias from their own employees.
Christina Stembel, owner of a San Francisco-based florist startup, says she often receives unsolicited feedback: “I have male employees who regularly tell me what they think I’m doing incorrectly and where I should spend the company’s money in better ways, without any knowledge of our financial statements. I truly do not believe that those same manufacturing-level team members would feel as free to give so much advice and feedback—again, unsolicited—to a male CEO.”
Other kinds of bias include an expectation to be nurtured by female bosses. “Exhibiting nurturing characteristics is very important for a female leader,” says the founder and CEO of a fashion startup. “It’s required. I think with men, it’s just nice to have.”
This notion is confirmed in a UCLA Study of 60,470 men and women that looked into the reasons why some people prefer female CEOs. According to the study, “the most prevalent rationale for preferring female bosses was their compassion and understanding. Participants indicated female managers were more ‘supportive,’ ‘nurturing,’ ‘personable,’ ‘understanding,’ ‘empathetic’ and ‘better listeners’ than men.”
The study also found that a cross-sex bias was prevalent among many workers—men tend to like female bosses more and women tend to like male bosses. This is an odd finding, but not wholly unsurprising considering that male employees feel more comfortable criticizing female bosses. It’s possible that men enjoy situations where they are more free to express their opinions to leaders.