Women don't always do so well when they go to work for a female manager

Sheryl Sandberg, chief operating officer at Facebook. Paul Morigi/Getty Images for FORTUNE

Appointing more women to management roles can sometimes have a negative effect on others who go to work for them.

The latest research shows women take an earnings hit compared to their male colleagues when they go to work for a female manager.

The study by the University of California’s Berkeley’s Haas School of Business examined how the salaries of both male and females changed when they switched from reporting to a male manager to a female manager and vice versa.

In Australia, the gender pay gap continues to widen, and is now standing at a 20-year high.

Previous research indicted female managers are agents of change who act to reduce the gender wage gap.

But this latest study found no support for that theory.

In fact, low-performing women who switched to working for a high-performing female supervisor were worse off financially than their male colleagues making a similar move.

Sameer B. Srivastava, an assistant professor, says this effect can occur when people see themselves as part of a valuable group but worry that others won’t see them that way.

“A high-performing woman might, for example, worry about being devalued because of her association with a low-performing female subordinate,” he says. “This might lead her to undervalue the subordinate’s contributions.”

The researchers analysed 1,701 full-time employees who worked for a leading firm in the information services industry between 2005 and 2009.

The authors say it may be wishful thinking to assume that the gender wage gap will automatically close as more and more women take management positions.

The study, “Agents of Change or Cogs in the Machine? Re-examining the Influence of Female Managers on the Gender Wage Gap”, is published in the American Journal of Sociology.

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