Female managers are more engaged, and their employees are, too

Four ways to ensure the correct people are taking on managerial roles

Employees who work for a female manager are more likely to be engaged than their peers who report to men—yet just one in three U.S. workers has a woman for a boss, according to a new Gallup report.

For "State of the American Manager: Analytics and Advice for Leaders," researchers studied 2.5 million manager-led teams across 195 countries to measure the engagement of 27 million employees.

They found that 41% of female managers are engaged compared with just 35% of male managers. And this trend of more female than male engagement held true across every age group of managers, according to the study.

"If female managers, on average, are more engaged than male managers, it stands to reason that they are likely to contribute more to their organization's current and future success," write Kimberly Fitch and Sangeeta Agrawal for Gallup.

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Often, mangers' engagement levels translate to their reports. Employees with a female manager are six percentage points more engaged on average than individuals who have a male manager. On average, 33% of people who work for female managers say they are engaged, versus only 27% of people who work for a male manager.

Women working for women have the highest engagement level, 35%, compared with the lowest, 25%, men who work for men.

Employees who have female managers are more likely to say someone at work encourages their development, checks in on their progress, provides regular feedback, and recognizes their good work.

This is possibly because gender bias still exists in the workforce, write Fitch and Agrawal. "Female managers might be somewhat more adept and purposeful in using their natural talents to engage their teams because they need to exceed expectations to advance in their organization," they say.

To ensure the appropriate people fill managerial roles, companies should keep four findings in mind, according to Gallup's Amy Adkins.

1. Promote based on talent, the best performance predictor. "Smart businesses place talent at the core of their human capital strategy, weaving it into every aspect of how they align, attract, recruit, asses, hire, onboard and develop managers," Adkins says.

2. Make sure they fit the role. Do not just promote individuals to managers because they succeeded in their previous role or have been with the company for a long time. "A great front-line employee is not necessarily going to be a great manager, and a great manager is not necessarily going to be a great leader," she writes. Instead, create career paths that develop different skills.

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3. Do not tie salaries to position titles. "Top performers deserve the highest pay, whether they are in manager or front line roles," Adkins says. There is nothing wrong with allowing employees to earn more than their managers—and it may discourage individuals not suited for manager positions from applying.

4. Keep developing managers. Companies should provide tools and support to help managers continue to grow their strengths. "Development is not dependent on tenure, and managers at all stages of their career should have opportunities to learn and grow," Adkins writes (Adkins, Gallup Business Journal, 5/12; Fitch/Agrawl, Gallup Business Journal, 5/7).

The takeaway: Female managers are more likely to be engaged—and have engaged employees—than their male peers.

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