Students put age before gender when it comes to workplace woes

With the gradual increase of women in the boardrooms, TSR members talk female bosses, but put age before gender as the bigger issue when it comes to workplace tensions.

Following Lord Davies’s inquiry and threat of government sanctions, some British firms claimed the lack of women picking STEM subjects presented the main obstacle to increasing the female presence on their board.

Almost one year on, the Guardian has reported a ‘record number of women in UK boardrooms‘. Research by the Professional Boards Forum has revealed that:

  • 14.9% of UK directors at Britain’s 100 largest public companies are women‘(12.5% in 2010);
  • Nearly 100 more women were appointed to the boards of FTSE 100 and 250-listed firms in the last year.’
  • 15 companies have now reached the government’s goal of 25% women directors‘, (according to the monthly BoardWatch report);
  • Around 27% of board appointments since 1 March last year have been women, below Davies’s target of 33%.’
  • Just 9.2% of directors on FTSE 250 firms are women, up from 7.8% in 2010.’

At the end of 2011, the Football Association, which had been similarly criticised for its ‘exclusively white, middle-class, middle-aged and all-male board’, appointed its first female director, Heather Rabbatts.

‘The longer we make gender an issue, the longer it’ll be an issue.’

On The Student Room, members have been discussing ‘How do men feel about working under a female boss?‘ The thread received both male and female responses, the majority of which rejected the role of gender in evaluating the performance of a superior outright.

‘if I had a boss who behaved in a certain way (good or bad), I’d probably feel the same about them regardless of gender.’

Despite focus in recent years on the absence of women on the board, the thread attracted responses from the other side of the coin: men working in female-dominated professions. Once again there was no gender divide, only a biological one.

‘I’ve never noticed any difference. At times I can feel a bit isolated when staff-room discussions become about maternity leave and pregnancy in general.’

It was also suggested that age presents more of a challenge in circumstances where the senior position is held by an individual younger than those working under their authority.

‘My male work mates complain more when they have a male boss that’s 5 years younger then them, they think our female boss is sound. It also depends on how the boss treats us though.’

‘I’m a manager in an office environment, and being only 20 I think some people have more of an issue with [me] being over 10 years older than them than my sex.’

Nonetheless, there were some gender-based generalisations with regards to both female bosses and male reactions:

  • Female Bosses

‘…in my experience and in the experience of a lot of other men I have spoken to, we have found men to be better managers as they are calmer under pressure and able to bottle up their emotions more and perhaps more decisive…’

‘Typically women are more organised, a lot more focused, too…’

‘I find women bosses easier to influence than male bosses though, if I want to get something done.’

  • Male Reactions

‘…the only men who would have a problem with a female boss are the ones that are jealous of their position, or threatened by the competition of the higher positions.’

Those that made it up on their own were always among the best in the industry I’ve seen, aggressive go-getters who would stop at nothing.’

  • Career woman or working mum?

‘…the UK is extremely sexist… if a girl said she was going to do engineering at uni… everyone would be surprised… she would most likely be the only woman on that course because women are shunned away from maths based subjects to do arts, and guys are shunned from arts to do sciences… if a girl said she did not want a career, she would be condemned, just as if she was to say she wanted a career over a family. Sadly women can’t win in the UK.’

On the whole, the responses were quite positive, and despite the generalisations, the majority view was that

‘Ultimately, people are individuals and a good boss is a good boss irrespective of age, nationality, sexuality or gender.’

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