The Role of Gender in Supervisory Relationships

With the increased focus on diversity, equity, and inclusion (DE&I), there is an increasing number of women in the workplace. In fact, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics under the U.S. Department of Labor, women’s labor force participation is continuing to reach new highs. This has consequently led to greater gender diversity and gender dissimilarity. Gender dissimilarity has previously been studied with research suggesting that the more dissimilar employees are from their colleagues, the more likely it is that they are to feel excluded from others.

With the increasing number of women in the workplace, there is also naturally an increase of women in leadership positions–oftentimes leading male direct reports. However, the effects of such gender dissimilarity between managers and direct reports had not been studied–until recently.

A group of researchers launched a three-part study to examine how similar their manager’s values were to their own, their general satisfaction with their manager, and their general beliefs regarding gender equality within the workplace.

The results of the research highlighted how gender dissimilarity between managers and direct reports can have detrimental impacts–but only under certain circumstances. In particular, employees who have a different gender than their manager (e.g., female manager/male direct report or vice versa) perceive a difference in values. This perceived difference in values leads to greater dissatisfaction with their manager. Interestingly, this finding was only the case for those employees who had a lower level of belief in gender equality. Conversely, when employees had a higher level of belief in gender equality, gender dissimilarity did not make a difference.

This research highlights the importance of believing in gender equality. As a key takeaway, organizations should strive to create a more inclusive work environment by facilitating close relationships. This can be accomplished through tailored DE&I interventions. In turn, this is likely to lead to more understanding of genders, and consequently, more acceptance.


Adamovic, M., & Molines, M. (2023). What if the supervisor has a different gender? the roles of value fit, identification, and beliefs in gender equality. Scandinavian Journal of Management, 39(1).